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Mt. Pure, LLC v. Roberts

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 25, 2016

Mountain Pure, LLC; Angela Smith; Gerald Miller; Court Stacks; Kimberly Harbeson; Scott Morgan; Tracy Bush; Quinton Riley; Kadeena Depriest; William Morris, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Cynthia M. Roberts; Bobbi Spradlin; John Doe, 1-20, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted January 14, 2016

Page 929

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock.

For Mountain Pure, LLC, Angela Smith, Gerald Miller, Court Stacks, Kimberly Harbeson, Scott Morgan, Tracy Bush, Quinton Riley, Kadeena Depriest, William Morris, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Timothy Oliver Dudley, Dudley & Compton, Little Rock, AR; B. Michael Easley, Easley & Houseal, Forrest City, AR.

For Cynthia M. Roberts, Bobbi Spradlin, Defendants - Appellees: Richard M. Pence Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, Shannon S. Smith, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR.

Before MURPHY, SMITH, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 930

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Mountain Pure, LLC (Mountain Pure) and several of its employees brought this action against federal agents Cynthia Roberts and Bobbi Spradlin under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment rights. The district court[1] granted summary

Page 931

judgment for the agents after concluding that qualified immunity barred those claims, and Mountain Pure and its employees appeal. We affirm.

I.

Mountain Pure is a water bottling company in Arkansas which the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigated for suspicion that its owner John Stacks had submitted a fraudulent application for a SBA disaster relief loan after a tornado reportedly damaged the company's property. The government suspected that Stacks had sought reimbursement for equipment that was undamaged and had diverted loan proceeds to his other businesses. Case agent Cynthia Roberts for the SBA and agent Bobbi Spradlin for the IRS obtained a warrant to search Mountain Pure's bottling facility. The warrant authorized the seizure of " any and all business records," including billing invoices, ledgers, accounts receivable, accounts payable, shipping logs, and Quickbooks files; as well as " any and all purchasing records," including invoices, asset lists, purchase agreements, and lease agreements; " tax preparation records" ; and electronically stored files relating to Stacks' suspected fraud.

Thirty five federal and state law enforcement agents began their search of the bottling facility on January 18, 2012 at 8:45 a.m. The facility consisted of a bottling plant and office space totaling approximately 100,000 square feet. The agents drove to the plant in a convoy with their sirens sounding and lights flashing. Each federal agent wore a ballistic vest and carried a handgun and secondary weapon as required by SBA and IRS policies. During a protective sweep of the building, agents pushed Mountain Pure employees Tracy Bush and Scott Morgan against the wall, and one agent drew his weapon on vice president Court Stacks while entering his office. Neither Roberts nor Spradlin drew her fire armor instructed any agents to draw their weapons, instead leaving that decision to agent discretion. After finishing the protective sweep, the agents detained the employees in the facility's break room. The agents either confiscated the employees' cell phones or directed them to leave their phones in their offices, and they did not allow the employees ...


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