excessive force

Unless something surprising happens, Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to take the bench before the Supreme Court hears the most recent challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on November 10. But before she is confirmed the Court will hear 10 cases in its October siting with only eight Justices on the bench.

At least four of those cases are of interest to states and local governments. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)...

The doctrine of qualified immunity protects state and local officials from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right. Some of the police reform bills Congress is considering eliminate qualified immunity for state and local police and correctional officers.

What does it mean for a state or local official to have qualified immunity and what would the impact be if it was eliminated?

The evolution of qualified immunity began in 1871 when Congress adopted 42 U.S.C. § 1983...

Excessive force is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In Torres v. Madrid the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed a Supreme Court amicus ...

The Supreme Court has held that excessive force violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The question in Torres v. Madrid is whether police have “seized” someone who they have used force against who has gotten away.   

In this case police officers approached Roxanne Torres thinking she may be the person they intended to arrest. At the time Torres was “tripping” from using meth for several days...

In a per curiam (unauthored) unanimous opinion in City of Escondido v. Emmons the Supreme Court granted one police officer qualified immunity and instructed the Ninth Circuit to decide again whether another officer should have been granted qualified immunity. As it has done many times before, the Supreme Court criticized the Ninth Circuit for defining the right at issue (here to be free from excessive force) at too high a level of generality.

In April 2013 police arrested Maggie Emmons’ husband at their apartment for domestic violence. A few weeks later, after Maggie’s husband had been released, police received a 911 call from Maggie’s roommate’s mother, Trina. While Trina was on the phone with her daughter she overheard Maggie and her daughter yelling at each other and Maggie’s daughter screaming for help.

When the officers knocked on the door no one answered but they were able to try to convince Maggie to open the door by talking to her through a side window. An unidentified male told Maggie to back away from the window. Officer Craig was the only officer standing outside the door when a man walked out of the apartment. Officer Craig told the man not to close the door but he did and he tried to brush past Officer Craig. Officer Craig stopped him, took him to the ground, and handcuffed him. The man was Maggie’s father, Marty Emmons. He sued Officer Craig and Sergeant Toth, another officer at the scene, for excessive force.

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