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Speeding stop lawsuit goes forward

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that it does not have jurisdiction to declare that a South Dakota highway patrolman is exempt from a lawsuit over a speeding stop.

Trooper Cody Jansen argued in October that a federal court judge got it wrong when she said he wasn’t entitled to qualified immunity as a law enforcement officer.

On a night in June 2020, Trooper Jansen pulled over a van driven by Scheck Mulbah on I-90 just outside Sioux Falls.

Mulbah challenged the stop at a hearing before Federal District Judge Karen Schreier. There, Jansen testified that he had used his radar gun and clocked Mulbah traveling at 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. But Mulbah said other drivers were passing him, and he suggested Jansen’s radar could have latched on to a different vehicle.

Judge Schreier said the conflicting testimony raised a question of material fact that needed to be resolved at trial.

At oral arguments in October 2022, Mulbah was represented by Pete Heidepriem. Eighth Circuit Judge Jonathan Kobes asked Heidepriem what proof Mulbah had offered to support his claim that he wasn’t speeding.

KOBES: “What was the factual support that the district court based those inferences on? Wasn’t it just your client’s testimony?”

HEIDEPRIEM: “It was the testimony based on his recollection, and his specific recollection, of the night in question, …and that exactly was presented right next to the testimony—not any objective evidence—the testimony of the trooper who conducted the stop.”

During Heidepriem’s argument, Judge Steven Colloton questioned whether the Eighth Circuit has jurisdiction to find that the lower court made an unreasonable inference.

“You seem to be arguing for a rule of law here that’s going to be, whenever a speeder says, ‘I wasn’t speeding and I’m sure of it,’ and the trooper says, ‘Well, I clocked him on radar speeding,’ that case goes to trial to decide whether the trooper is telling the truth,” Colloton said.

The upshot, summarized in a four-page opinion written by Kobes, is that the appellate court does not have jurisdiction.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.
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