A New Direction for Qualified Immunity in Alleged Factual Disputes in Fourth Amendment Excessive Force Claims? – Supreme Court Foreshadows Potential Future Treatment

On April 24, 2017, the Supreme Court denied a petition filed challenging the Fifth Circuit’s affirmance of a case in which the district court granted summary judgment to a police officer on qualified immunity grounds in an excessive force case. Plaintiff was shot in the back and paralyzed after struggling with the police officer and reaching for his waistband during a traffic stop. District court granted summary judgment. Fifth Circuit affirmed. Supreme Court denied leave. Plaintiff had argued that the factual disputes were sufficient to get past the summary judgment stage.

Not necessarily a remarkable outcome in terms of appellate proceedings, but certainly worth considering the concurring and dissenting statement of the justices because it previews the general direction (with the addition of Gorsuch) that the court may be going and foreshadows a turning point, or a future correction in the summary judgment standard applied in factually based disputes over fourth amendment excessive force claims.

Federal courts have taken the view that just about any factual disputes alleged by the plaintiff avoids the immunity defense and forces the government to trial.

The concurring / dissenting statements in the denial of the petition, as well as the Fifth Circuit’s opinion (both attached) are certainly worth keeping in the pocket.

Read the Fifth Circuit’s opinion here: Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston

And the Supreme Court’s competing statements in denying the writ: 16-515-concurring-and-dissenting-from-cert-denial

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