Public Safety

The Supreme Court issued a unanimous per curiam (unauthored) opinion overturning a lower court’s denial of qualified immunity to a police officer in an excessive force case. White v. Pauly was decided without oral argument.

CSG Midwest
In 1980, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. Since then, state constitutions across the country have been amended to provide an even greater level of protections to this group of citizens.
Most recently, voters in North Dakota (62 percent to 38 percent) and South Dakota (60 percent to 40 percent) approved November ballot measures to amend their constitutions. These new provisions to protect crime victims are part of a national movement and are collectively known as “Marsy’s Law.”

The process for placing an adult under guardianship varies by state, but each branch of government plays a role in ensuring guardianship is a safe and effective mechanism for protecting individuals who can no longer make or communicate sound decisions about themselves and their property, or have become vulnerable to abuse, fraud or undue influence. Texas’ Guardianship Compliance Project was born out of this cooperative approach. The pilot project, which is funded by the Legislature and implemented by the Office of Court Administration, was launched in November 2015 to provide additional resources to courts handling guardianship cases. The goal of the project is to help courts make sound decisions in guardianship cases by reviewing current guardianships to identify reporting deficiencies, auditing annual accountings and reporting findings back to the court, and working with courts to develop best practices in managing guardianship cases.

It is undisputed that police officers used reasonable force when they shot Angel Mendez. As officers entered, unannounced, the shack where Mendez was living they saw a silhouette of Mendez pointing what looked like a rifle at them. Yet, the Ninth Circuit awarded him and his wife damages because the officers didn’t have a warrant to search the shack thereby “provoking” Mendez.

CSG Midwest
A U.S. circuit court has dismissed claims by several Ohio death-row inmates that a state law on capital punishment unconstitutionally conceals information from them. The November decision affirmed a lower court ruling that the prisoners had no standing because they couldn’t prove harm from the denial of information, The (Toledo) Blade reports.
CSG Midwest
Easing ex-prisoners back into civilian life helps reduce recidivism, and one step states can take is to ensure that just-released inmates have a valid state identification card. In a letter earlier this year to all 50 governors, the U.S. Department of Justice asked states to provide IDs for federal prisoners being released, and according to The Atlantic, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are among 17 states that have had preliminary talks with federal officials about taking that step.

On Tuesday, voters in California, Nevada, and Washington State approved measurers to tighten existing gun control laws, while voters in Maine narrowly rejected a measure that would have required background checks on private gun sales.

The Supreme Court keeps on accepting First Amendment cases—perhaps because among the current Court there is much agreement on the First Amendment, so being down a Justice doesn’t matter. This does not bode well for state and local governments, like North Carolina in this case. For better or worse, this case like Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, accepted in September, gives the Supreme Court a chance to refine its holding in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015).  

The issue in Packingham v. North Carolina is whether a North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing commercial social networking websites where the registered sex offender knows minors can create or maintain a profile, violates the First Amendment.

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.     

A number of “out-of-status” aliens were arrested and detained on immigration charges shortly after 9/11. They claim they were treated in a “discriminatory and punitive” manner while confined and detained long after it was clear they were never involved in terrorist activities. They have sued a number of high level federal government officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert Mueller, former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Ziglar, and two wardens and an assistant warden at the federal detention center where they were held.   

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. 

United States Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa, Jr., shot and killed Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican national, who was standing on the Mexico side of the U.S./Mexico border. At the time of the shooting Agent Mesa didn’t know that Hernandez was a Mexican citizen. 

The question of most interest to state and local governments in Mesa v. Hernandez is whether qualified immunity may be granted or denied based on facts – such as the victim’s legal status – unknown to the officer at the time of the incident.

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