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Supreme Court Accepts First Amendment Retaliatory Arrest Case

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach is a double redux. The Supreme Court ruled on this case in 2013 on a maritime issue. The Court agreed to decide the issue this case presents in 2011, but ultimately failed to rule on it then.

What if a police officer arrests someone in retaliation for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment but the officer also had probable cause to arrest that person for a different, legitimate reason? In Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach the Supreme Court will decide whether that person may sue the police officer for violating his or her First Amendment rights. Continue reading

 

State and Local Governments Win Excessive Force Police Case

No matter the legal issue, excessive forces cases are difficult for state and local governments to win because they often involve injury or death (in this case of a totally innocent person). To win one unanimously likely says something about the problematic nature of the legal theory.

In County of Los Angeles v. Mendez the Supreme Court rejected the “provocation rule,” where police officers using reasonable force may be liable for violating the Fourth Amendment because they committed a separate Fourth Amendment violation that contributed to their need to use force. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reject the Ninth Circuit’s provocation rule.

Police officers entered the shack Mendez was living in without a warrant and unannounced. Mendez thought the officers were the property owner and picked up the BB gun he used to shoot rats so he could stand up. When the officers saw the gun, they shot him resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that the use of force in this case was reasonable. But it concluded the officers were liable per the provocation rule–the officers brought about the shooting by entering the shack without a warrant. (The Ninth Circuit granted the officers qualified immunity for failing to knock-and-announce themselves.) The Ninth Circuit also concluded that provocation rule aside, the officers were liable for causing the shooting because it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the officers would encounter an armed homeowner when they “barged into the shack unannounced.”  Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Define Contours of False Arrest Claims

What if a police officer arrests someone because the officer doesn’t believe the person is telling the truth and there is evidence the officer is right?

 In District of Columbia v. Wesby the Supreme Court will decide whether, when the owner of a vacant house informs police he has not authorized entry, an officer assessing probable cause to arrest those inside for trespassing may discredit the suspects’ claims of an innocent mental state.

 Facts similar to those in this case may not arise very often. But police officers must assess claims of innocence in numerous other instances (theft, assault, even homicide). 

 Police officers arrested a group of late-night partygoers for trespass. The party-goers gave police conflicting reasons for why they were at the house (birthday party v. bachelor party). Some said “Peaches” invited them to the house; others said they were invited by another guest. Police officers called Peaches who told them she gave the partygoers permission to use the house. But she admitted that she had no permission to use the house herself; she was in the process of renting it. The landlord confirmed by phone that Peaches hadn’t signed a lease. The partygoers were never charged with trespass.

 The partygoers sued the police officers for violating their Fourth Amendment right to be free from false arrest. To be guilty of trespass the partygoers had to have entered the house knowing they were doing so “against the will of the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge.” The partygoers claimed they did not know they lacked permission to be in the house. 

Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Takes Qualified Immunity Case Arising out of 9/11 Investigations

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide cases accusing federal government officials at the highest levels of mistreating people investigated for possible terrorist connections after 9/11.

All Supreme Court qualified immunity cases, including Ziglar v. Turkmen, Ashcroft v. Turkmen, and Hasty v. Turkmen, affect state and local governments. These cases raise issues that frequently come up in run-of-the-mill qualified immunity cases, in particular, whether the court defined the “established law” at a high level of generality instead of considering the specific facts of the case when deciding whether to grant or deny qualified immunity.

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Mesa v. Hernandez: A Qualified Immunity Quandary

Qualified immunity cases, generally speaking, could not be more straightforward for state and local governments. No matter how bad the facts of the case, one legal analysis is better.

Mesa v. Hernandez provides a qualified immunity quandary. If Agent Mesa wins his qualified immunity claim, other government officials in the future may lose their qualified immunity claims. 

  Continue reading

 

Prison Officials Granted Qualified Immunity in Inmate Suicide Case

We didn’t learn much in Taylor v. Barkes. But we could have.

Prison officials asked the Supreme Court to resolve a circuit split over whether supervisors can be liable for constitutional violations caused by their failure to supervise. Instead of requesting and holding oral argument before deciding the case, the Court summarily reversed the lower court in a per curiam (unauthored) opinion.  The Court “expess[ed] no view” on the vitality of supervisory liability instead concluding no clearly established constitutional right was implicated in this case.

The Court granted two prison officials qualified immunity related to an inmate’s suicide reasoning that no precedent at the time of the suicide established that an incarcerated person had a right to proper implementation of adequate suicide prevention protocols. So prison officials could not be liable for failing to supervise the contractor providing suicide screening. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Didn’t Decide Whether the ADA Applies to Disability Arrests

In a Supreme Court term not light on law enforcement cases City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan was the most important police case of the term. Alas, we will have to wait for another day for the Supreme Court to decide whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires police officers to accommodate suspects who are armed, violent, and mentally ill when bringing them into custody. The Court did held that the officers in this case were entitled to qualified immunity. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Catching up on recent published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • S. Kingstown Sch. Cmte v. Joanna S., No. 14-1177 (Dec. 9, 2014): The court ruled in Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”) case that settlement agreement relieved school committee of obligation to perform or fund evaluations, and remanded to determine whether Joanna S. is entitled to attorney’s fees.

Second Circuit

Fourth Circuit

Fifth Circuit Continue reading

 

Does the ADA Apply to Arrests?

The Fourth Amendment applies to arrests, no question about it.  What about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?  Specifically, do individuals with mental illnesses have to be accommodated under the ADA when being arrested?  The Ninth Circuit said yes and the Supreme Court has agreed to review its decision in City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan.Gavel

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.

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 argued 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. 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

Third Circuit

Sixth 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

Sixth Circuit

 

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

First Circuit

  • Showtime Entn’t v. Town of Mendon, No. 12-2121 (Oct. 8, 2014): The Town’s adult-business-entertainment bylaws unconstitutionally infringe on Showtime’s right to engage in a protected expressive activity; the regulations’ underinclusiveness indicates that Town does not have substantial interest in regulating adult businesses to curb secondary effects.

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

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

  • United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, No. 13-5181 (Sept. 18, 2014): The court found that: (i) private animal-welfare employee that contracted with City may not assert qualified immunity; (ii) officers may not assert qualified-immunity defense to “official capacity” suits; (iii) seizure of animals without prior hearing did not violate procedural due process; (iv) revocation of permit without hearing did violate due process; (v) that warrantless animal seizure did not violate Fourth Amendment because of exigent circumstances; and (vi) seizure of records without warrant violated clearly established Fourth-Amendment right and therefore officer was not entitled to qualified immunity.
  • Finn v. Warren County, No. 13-6629 (Sept. 16, 2014): In action alleging inadequte medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and state law claims including negligence after Finn died in his cell, the court reversed grant of summary judgment for officer, remanded for trial on negligence claim, and otherwise affirmed judgment below.

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Supreme Court and Local Governments: What Will the Court Accept Next?

While the Supreme Court’s next term officially begins on October 6, its “long conference” is September 29.  At this conference the Court will review a backlog of petitions that have been piling up over the summer.  SCOTUSblog complies a list of petitions that it thinks have a reasonable chance of being granted.  Eight of the petitions the Court will consider either during the “long conference” or at a later conference directly involve or impact local governments.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n

Public nuisance.  A Brighton, Michigan, ordinance presumes that an unsafe structure will be demolished as a public nuisance if the cost of repairing it exceeds its value.  The owner has no right to repair the structure.  Brighton property owners wanted to repair two unsafe structures even though Brighton estimated it would cost almost double the property value do so.  In Bonner v. City of Brighton, Michigan, the property owners claim the ordinance violates substantive and procedural due process.

Employment.  Under federal employment law to bring a discrimination claim a plaintiff must prove that an “adverse action” occurred, and to bring a retaliation claim a plaintiff must prove a “materially adverse action” occurred.  The question in Kalamazoo County Road Commission v. Deleon is whether either can be proven when an employer grants an employee’s request for a job transfer (and the new position turns out to be less desirable than the old position).  The International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) filed an amicus brief in this case. 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

Apologies that this edition is delayed. I was tied up with a significant filing for the past week. The courts were busy too. Here are the last two weeks’ published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • Penn v. Escorsio, No. 13-2309 (Aug. 22, 2014): The court affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage to corrections officers alleged to be deliberately indifferent to risk that detainee could commit suicide.  The court found that the issues presented on appeal were purely factual, and the court had no jurisdiction to decide them on interlocutory appeal.

Second Circuit Continue reading

 

IMLA Files Amicus Brief in Schultz v. Wescom

On Monday, IMLA filed its brief in Schultz v. Wescom, a petition stage Supreme Court case, which involves a question of whether a municipality/police officer may immediately appeal a decision by a district court to defer the issue of qualified immunity until NinthCircuitthe completion of discovery.  The Ninth Circuit held on appeal that there is no appellate jurisdiction of a rule 56(d) deferral for a limited time to conduct discovery as it does not amount to a denial of qualified immunity. The Circuit Courts are split on this question with the Seventh and Ninth Circuits holding that such a decision is not appealable on an interlocutory basis, while the majority of the other Circuit Courts hold that such a decision is immediately appealable.

IMLA’s brief argues that the purpose of qualified immunity is to shield officers from the costs of having to go through the litigation process, particularly costly discovery, and the Ninth and Seventh Circuits’ approach effectively denies police officers in those jurisdictions the benefits of qualified immunity and goes against Supreme Court precedent.  To read IMLA’s amicus brief in this case click here.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ken Lund (creative-commons license, no changes made).

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

Second Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

SCT stairs[Update: I added the Ninth Circuit’s Daubert decision. (7/31)]
Second Circuit

Carter v. Inc. Vill. of Ocean Beach, No. 13-815 (July 21, 2014): Affirming award of attorney’s fees to County defendants in case brought by former police officers alleging wrongful termination and defamation.

Cox v. Onondaga Sheriff’s Dept., No. 12-1526 (July 23, 2014): Affirming dismissal of complaint alleging Title VII retaliation for racial-harassment claims.

Reyes v. New York City Dept. of Ed., No. 13-158 (July 25, 2014): Finding that under IDEA, proposed IEP and school placement failed to provide student with free appropriate public education.

Fourth Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

Snyder v. Gaudet, No. 12-1422 (June 25, 2014) (In 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violation of equal protection because city applied zoning restriction differently to Snyder than to prior owner, granting qualified immunity to defendants because right was not clearly established): 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

Second 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

Fifth Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

Sixth Circuit

  • Robertson v. Lucas, No. 12-3877 (May 28, 2014) (in case arising out of corrupted drug-trade investigation, affirming award of qualified immunity on malicious prosecution and false arrest claims, and affirming dismissal of Monell claim against Richland County and City of Cleveland).

Continue reading

 

Unqualified Win in Qualified Immunity Cases

On Tuesday the Supreme Court issued two unanimous opinions granting law enforcement officers qualified immunity.highway stop  These ruling were unsurprising; the lower court errors in both cases were obvious.

In Plumhoff v. Rickard the Sixth Circuit did not so much as discuss the qualified immunity standard when denying qualified immunity.  In Wood v. Moss the Ninth Circuit viewed the qualified immunity question at a high level of generality causing dissenting Judge O’Scannlain to (accurately) warn:  “Our court’s track record in deciding qualified immunity cases is far from exemplary, and with this decision, I am concerned that our storied losing streak will continue.”

But at least Plumhoff v. Rickard contained a surprise. Continue reading

 

Tuesday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

  • Gericke v. Begin, No. 12-2326 (May 23, 2014) (affirming denial of qualified immunity for police officers on First-Amendment retaliatory prosecution claim where plaintiff was arrested after she attempted to film a traffic stop).

Eighth Circuit

  • Walton v. Dawson, No. 12-4000 (May 20, 2014) (affirming in part and reversing in part denial of qualified immunity in failure-to-train claims against officers arising out of jail-cell attack that occurred after officers did not lock cell doors).

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:Alexandria-court

First Circuit

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

Second Circuit

  • McColley v. County of Rensselaer, No. 12-2220 (Jan. 21, 2014) (affirming that whether officer and County were entitled to qualified immunity for alleged Fourth-Amendment violation arising out of search-warrant-application omissions turned on genuine issues of material fact, and concluding therefore that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction).

Fourth Circuit

  • Corr v. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, No. 13-1076 (Jan. 21, 2014) (finding that tolls paid by drivers on the Dulles Toll Road are user fees not taxes, and that their collection by airport authority does not violate Virginia Constitution and motorists’ due-process rights).

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 23, 2013, through December 27, 2013:

Seventh Circuit

Ninth Circuit

Eleventh Circuit

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Courts of Appeals

Here’s how local governments fared in the federal courts of appeals during the past week.

Eighth Circuit

Ninth Circuit