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CIVIL RIGHTS-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-ARREST-FOURTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS

June 23rd, 2015 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765 (2015).  Officers are entitled to qualified immunity because they did not violate any clearly established Fourth Amendment rights in arresting a woman who was suffering from a mental illness and became violent.  The officers had a justifiable reason to be concerned.  The Americans with Disabilities Act does not command a different result.  The court’s decision was not to decide whether the ADA applies to arrests is reinforced by the party’s failure to address the related question:  whether a public entity can be liable for damages under Title II for an arrest made by its police officers.  Only public entities are subject to Title II, and the parties agreed that such an entity can be held vicariously liable for money damages for the purposeful or deliberately indifferent conduct of its employees.  The court in this case would not decide whether that proposition is correct.  However the court did decide that there was qualified immunity.  Even if an officer acts contrary to training, that does not negate qualified immunity.  The question is whether a reasonable officer could have believed that his conduct was justified.  Plaintiff could not overcome summary judgment by an expert report.  In sum, we hold that qualified immunity applies because the officers had no “fair and clear warning of what the Constitution requires.”

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]