County of Los Angeles, CA v. Mendez,

Another U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the Ninth Circuit by the Justices who specifically identify the mistake of that Circuit in understanding the Fourth Amendment.

The Ninth Circuit had invented the “provocation rule” in criminal cases holding officers liable for conduct in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and searches.  In most cases the prohibition suppresses any evidence seized in violation. Federal law has a civil component in Section 42.1983 allowing civil suit for Fourth Amendment violation although the Section does not foreclose admission of evidence. The remedy  is damages.

Officers searching for a parolee entered a makeshift shack without announcing their  identity and lacking a search warrant. The inhabitant, reaching for his BB gun to kill rats caused the officers to fire and injure the man (Davis). Davis sued under 1983 alleging  unlawful entry; absence of search warrant; excessive force. The Ninth Circuit found the excessive force a “seizure” unlawful and the wrongful entry presence of a weapon provoked the officers and the absence of a search warrant resulted in an unlawful search.

The Supreme Court reviewed the role of excessive force as a “seizure” should be a separate claim and an item separate from the other two claims and under Ninth Circuit rules used the two other claims to rule.  The Supreme Court rejects that rule that focuses on the officers subjective intent in lieu of an “unreasonable” seizure.

This analysis is difficult to follow but the case reviews the analysis the Ninth Circuit  should use.




Leave a Reply