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8th Circuit Hears Forced Catheterization Appeal From S.D.

8th Circuit Court

In 2017, six South Dakota plaintiffs sued law officers in three cities for forcing them to undergo catheterization to get evidence of drug use.

After a federal judge declined to grant summary judgment to the officials, five of the plaintiffs received settlements. But the sixth plaintiff was denied. He appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in his case on Wednesday, May 12.

Dirk Sparks was arrested in Pierre five years ago, after police responded to a domestic disturbance call and found evidence of drugs at the residence.

After arrest, Sparks was asked to submit to urinalysis, and when he adamantly refused, police officers obtained a search warrant for his blood and urine. The warrant did not mention catheterization.

Sparks was restrained at the hospital, with two officers holding his legs while a nurse inserted a catheter. Afterward Sparks reported having issues with incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and nightmares.

Five other South Dakota residents reported having the same type of experience. Their federal lawsuits eventually settled for awards totaling $440,000, with 320,000 of that for costs.

Sparks was not included in the payout. The federal judge found that his Fourth Amendment claims had been litigated during state prosecution.

Sparks now appeals that federal order.

Sparks’s lawyer is Jim Leach. He tells the appellate panel that Sixth Circuit Judge Mark Barnett never entered a written judgment that the catheterization was done legally.

 “All the circuit court had to do if it wanted to make it effective was to enter a written order. That’s the critical point under SD law that never happened.”

The defendants are the city of Pierre and Officer Matthew Shaver, represented by James Moore.

He says although Judge Barnett didn’t file an order, there is a transcript of an evidentiary hearing in which the judge engaged lawyers for both sides.

“All of that is evident in the record that he made, and at the conclusion of the hearing he found that there was no 4A violation here.”

Moore says Sparks could have appealed that outcome to the state Supreme Court, but he did not.

Moore says that Sparks, in his civil suit, is looking for a new forum for the same set of facts.

8th Circuit judges will deliberate and issue a ruling at a later date.