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Norfleet v. Renner

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 20, 2019

Daniel B. Norfleet, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Heather Renner, Defendant, Judy Farris, in her official and individual capacity, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: May 2, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:17-cv-01232-Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Robyn Beale Williams, FARRAR & BATES, L.L.P., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Olin J. Baker, BAKER LAW GROUP, Charlotte, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Robyn Beale Williams, Cassandra M. Crane, FARRAR & BATES, L.L.P., Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Olin J. Baker, Neil E. Barnes, BAKER LAW GROUP, Charlotte, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, SUTTON, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Judy Farris is a Tennessee judicial commissioner. She issued a warrant for Daniel Norfleet's arrest based on an affidavit from his probation officer saying that he had violated his probation. Norfleet went to jail for several months. A state court judge dismissed the warrant on the ground that Tennessee commissioners lack authority to issue such warrants. Norfleet sued Farris under § 1983, alleging that she violated his Fourth Amendment rights by issuing a defective arrest warrant. Farris moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that judicial immunity shielded her from the lawsuit. The district court denied the motion. We reverse.

         I.

         In January 2015, the Houston County Circuit Court in Tennessee placed Norfleet on supervised probation for a six-year term. With probation came restrictions, including that Norfleet "not behave in a manner that poses a threat to others or [him]self." R. 1-2 at 1.

         Norfleet's probation officer Heather Renner thought Norfleet violated that condition in September 2016. She prepared an affidavit to that effect and presented it to Farris, the judicial commissioner for Houston County. Farris issued a warrant for Norfleet's arrest. Police officers arrested Norfleet and took him to the Houston County jail. There he stayed until February 7, 2017, when a trial judge from the ...


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