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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.”

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