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SLLC Supreme Court Amicus Brief Urges Supreme Court to Pull the Plug on the Provocation Rule

Los Angeles County v. Mendez poses a simple question:  Should police officers be liable for the use of reasonable force (when they have done something they should not have).

In its amicus brief the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) asks the Supreme Court to reject the “provocation” rule, under which any time a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment and violence ensues, the officer will be personally liable for money damages for the resulting physical injuries.

 In Los Angeles County v. Mendez everyone agrees police officers used reasonable force when they shot Angel Mendez. As officers entered, unannounced, the shack where Mendez was staying they saw a silhouette of Mendez pointing what looked like a rifle at them.  Mendez kept a BB gun in his bed to shoot rats when they entered the shack. Mendez claimed that when the officers entered the shack he was in the process of moving the BB gun so he could sit up in bed. The officers shot Mendez. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Rules Against Jails in Excessive Force Case

In Kingsley v. Hendrickson the Supreme Court held 5-4 that to prove an excessive force claim a pretrial detainee must show that the officer’s force was objectively unreasonable, rejecting the subjectively unreasonable standard that is more deferential to law enforcement. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing for a subjective standard. As a result of this ruling it will be easier for pretrial detainees to bring successful excessive force claims against corrections officers.   Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Set Specifics of Excessive Force Standard for Pretrial Detainees

Since the 1980s (and arguably the 1970s) the Supreme Court has been clear:  a pretrial detainees’ right to be free from excessive force derives from the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.  But what does that mean exactly?  The Supreme Court will lay out the specifics in Kingsley v. Hendrickson.

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages for constitutional violations.  A legal standard more deferential to government officials means that successful pretrial detainee excessive force lawsuits will be less likely.  More significantly, different excessive force standards for pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates, who are often housed in the same facility, will be difficult for correctional officers to comply with.  After all, correctional officers must make split decisions regarding the use of force and may not know whether an incarcerated person is a pretrial detainee or has been convicted. Continue reading

 

Outer Limits of the ADA’s Applicability?: Must Police Officers Accommodate Mentally Ill Arrestees?

Per the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accommodating persons with disabilities is the norm.  Twenty-five years after the Act’s passage, the Supreme Court will decide whether it applies to police officers arresting a mentally ill suspect one who is armed and violent.

In City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan the Supreme Court will decide whether, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), police must accommodate a suspect’s mental illness when arresting him or her.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief argues no because no conclusive evidence indicates that accommodating mentally ill suspects reduces injuries or the use of force.  IMLA filed a separate amicus brief in this case making different arguments than those made in the SLLC’s brief.

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated.  When the officers reentered her room soon after leaving it, Sheehan stepped toward them with her knife raised and continued to hold it after the officers pepper sprayed and ultimately shot her.  Sheehan survived.

Title II of the ADA provides that individuals with a disability must be able to participate in the “services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” and that their disability must be reasonably accommodated.

Sheehan argues that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests and that the officers should have taken her mental illness into account when reentering her room.  Her proposed accommodations included:  respecting her comfort zone, engaging in non-threatening communications, and using the passage of time to defuse the situation.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with Sheehan that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests.  The ADA applies broadly to police “services, programs, or activities,” which the Ninth Circuit interpreted to mean “anything a public entity does,” including arresting people.  The court refused to dismiss Sheehan’s ADA claim against the city reasoning that whether her proposed accommodations are reasonable is a question of fact for a jury.

The Ninth Circuit also concluded that reentry into Sheehan’s room violated the Fourth Amendment because it was unreasonable.  Although Sheehan needed help, “the officers had no reason to believe that a delay in entering her room would cause her serious harm, especially when weighed against the high likelihood that a deadly confrontation would ensue if they forced a confrontation.”

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages in their individual capacity if they violate a person’s constitutional rights.  Qualified immunity protects government officials from such lawsuits where the law they violated isn’t “clearly established.”

The Ninth Circuit refused to grant the officers qualified immunity related to their reentry:  “If there was no pressing need to rush in, and every reason to expect that doing so would result in Sheehan’s death or serious injury, then any reasonable officer would have known that this use of force was excessive.”  The Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s qualified immunity ruling.

The SLLC’s amicus brief argues that the ADA should not apply to arrests.  While few police departments have the resources to adopt specialized approaches to responding to incidents involving the mentally ill, no conclusive evidence indicates that these approaches reduce the rate or severity of injuries to mentally ill suspects.  No one-size fits-all approach makes sense because police officers encounter a wide range of suspects with mental illnesses.  And even psychiatrists—much less police officers who aren’t mental health professionals—cannot predict with any reasonable degree of certainty whether an armed suspect with a mental illness will harm himself or herself or others in an emergency.  Finally, because the officers in this case could not predict whether Sheehan would harm herself or others if they did not reenter her room, they are entitled to qualified immunity.

Orry Korb, Danny Chou, Greta Hanson, and Melissa Kiniyalocts, County of Santa Clara, California wrote the SLLC’s amicus brief which was joined by the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the United States Conference of Mayors.

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Sixth Circuit

  • Cass v. City of Dayton, No. 13-4409 (Oct. 16, 2014): In 1983 action alleging that officer used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants because officer’s conduct was objectively reasonable and did not violate Fourth Amendment.

Seventh Circuit

Ninth Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Sixth Circuit

Eighth Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • Town of Johnston v. Fed. Housing Finance Agency, No. 13-2034 (Aug. 27, 2014): The court affirmed the dismissal of the municipalities’ claim that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed to pay taxes on property transfers; the court found that statutory exemptions from taxation applied. As the court put it: “Six other circuits have recently considered this attempt to shoe-horn a transfer tax into a real property tax, and they have unanimously rejected the argument.”

Second Circuit

Third Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Fourth Circuit

  • Cherry v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City, No. 13-1007 (Aug. 6, 2014): In case brought by active and retired Baltimore police officers and fire fighters who participate in City’s pension plan, reversing district court’s decision that the City had violated the Contract Clause and affirming that the City had not violated the Takings Clause by changing how it calcualtes pension benefits.

Fifth Circuit

  • Thompson v. Mercer, No. 13-10773 (Aug. 7, 2014): In 1983 action against officer who shot and killed individual who had stolen vehicle and led police on a two-hour, high-speed chase, affirming grant of qualified immunity to officer because use of deadly force was not a constitutional violation.
  • Sullo & Bobbitt v. Milner, No. 13-10869 (Aug. 6, 2014): In unpublished decision, affirming dismissal of case brought by attorneys claiming First-Amendment right to access misdemeanor court records within one day of their filing.

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:judicial bench

First Circuit

Merit Construction Alliance v. City of Quincy, No. 13-2189 (July 16, 2014): The court concluded that the district court: (1) properly determined that ERISA preempts a City ordinance mandating a specific apprentice-training program; and (2) erred by awarding attorney’s fees under ERISA’s fee-shifting statute.

Third Circuit

Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media Sch. Dist., No. 13-2192 (July 17, 2014): The court found that retaliation claims related to enforcement under the Indviduals with Disabilities in Education Act must be exhausted before a court may assert subject-matter jurisdiction. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:law books

Sixth Circuit

Hescott v. City of Saginaw, No. 13-2103 (July 2, 2014) (ruling that district court erred denying attorney’s fees to Hescotts in their successful 1983 action claiming that the City had unconstitutionally seized their personal effects by demolishing their property).

Seventh Circuit

Scherr v. City of Chicago, No. 13-1992 (July 2, 2014) (affirming that 1983 suit against officer based on alleged Fourth-Amendment violation was properly dismissed). Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:SCT pillars

Third Circuit

  • Rosano v. Township of Teaneck, No. 13-1263 (June 10, 2014) (in action by current and former police officers against Township alleging violation of Fair Labor Standards Act because it did not pay proper overtime and provide compensation for attending daily roll calls and putting on and taking off uniforms, affirming grant of summary judgment for Township).

Seventh Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:Alexandria-court

First Circuit

  • Jones v. City of Boston, No. 12-2280 (May 7, 2014) (in suit challenging police department’s drug-testing program as causing disparate impact based on race, reversing denial of summary judgment for plaintiffs on whether they had proved a prima facie case of disparate impact under Title VII).

Sixth Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:NinthCircuit

First Circuit

Third Circuit

  • Hallsey v. Pheiffer, No. 13-1549 (Apr. 24, 2014) (reversing district court’s summary judgment for officers on fabrication, malicious prosecution, and coercion claims, in case arising out of suit brought by individual wrongly imprisoned for 22 years).

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:SCT stairs

Second Circuit

Fourth Circuit

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:SCT pillars

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are published decisions involving local governments from the federal appellate courts from December 16, 2013, through December 20, 2013:

Sixth Circuit

Seventh Circuit

Eighth Circuit Continue reading