Case: NATTRESS v. Lancaster County, Dist. Court, D. Nebraska 2015
What happened: Plaintiff was on trial, where he was a defendant on a sexual assault charge, and he won his trial. Instead of immediately releasing him upon the jury’s verdict of “not guilty,” security was going to take him back to jail for some kind of out-processing. During this time, plaintiff and the guards taking him back to jail had an altercation in the hallway and elevator of the county courthouse complex. Plaintiff alleges that the guards beat him up in retaliation for a gesture he made in the courtroom. The guards claimed that plaintiff resisted handcuffing and attacked them. There were 100 cameras in the courthouse, but only 32 recorded at any given time. The county alleged that none of the courthouse videos shows the altercation. Plaintiff was convicted of third degree assault against one of the guards.
Decision: By pleading guilty to the third degree assault charge, plaintiff lost his wrongful arrest claims under Heck doctrine. No qi for police on excessive force.
[T]he plaintiff argues that he only pled no contest to assault because video recordings of the force used to arrest him had not been retained, and he was threatened with the charge of being a habitual criminal. . . . Essentially, he implies that his guilty plea was coerced. But Heck holds that a § 1983 claim that would necessarily imply the invalidity of a conviction or sentence should be dismissed without prejudice unless the “conviction has already been invalidated.” . . . His allegation of a coerced plea does not change that.
Comment: Maybe it is time to reverse Heck because of the coerced guilty plea problem. This would be a good case for the Supreme Court because the assault charge here does look like it was brought to cover up the fact that the guards beat up their prisoner for no good reason.
Another comment: 32 cameras and no video. Please!
Recently, hidden camera video of a pot shop raid in Santa Ana, California made the national news because it showed the police doing and saying bad things. One thing that did not get criticized was the poor quality of the announcement the police made before breaking down the doors (on external door and one internal door). And now, a different pre-dor-bust announcement case from Hayward , California . . .
Case: Chavez v. City of Hayward, Dist. Court, ND California 2015
What happened: Fact dispute over whether police made decent announcement before busting the door in:
According to Troche, after listening on the landing outside the apartment for at least ten seconds, Troche instructed one of the officers to radio to their sergeants or supervisors that they were going to do a “knock and notice” before kicking in the door. (Troche Dep. 65-67.) Troche knocked on the door and announced, “Hayward Police.” He states that after the officers waited 10-15 seconds, he kicked the door in, simultaneously pulling out his firearm. By contrast, Plaintiff testified that he did not hear a knock on the door, but instead heard “Hayward PD” before the door was kicked in a “split second” later. (Chavez Dep. 156.) Apfeltzweig testified that she and Plaintiff were moving towards the front door to open it for the police but only got a few steps before the officers were inside, and that the police came in “one second” after yelling “Hayward PD.” (Apfeltzweig Dep. 114, 117-18, 120.)
Comment: Reading the whole opinion in the Chavez case, it is pretty easy to see who is telling the truth there.
Justice Alito points out that it is not clear pre-trial detainees have 4A rights in this dissent:
I would dismiss this case as improvidently granted. Before deciding what a pretrial detainee must show in order to prevail on a due process excessive force claim, we should decide whether a pretrial detainee can bring a Fourth Amendment claim based on the use of excessive force by a detention facility employee. We have not yet decided that question. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U. S. 386, 395, n. 10 (1989). If a pretrial detainee can bring such a claim, we need not and should not rely on substantive due process. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U. S. 266, 273 (1994) (plurality opinion); Graham, 490 U. S., at 395. It is settled that the test for an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment is objective, see id., at 397, so if a pretrial detainee can bring such a claim, it apparently would be indistinguishable from the substantive due process claim that the Court discusses.
I would not decide the due process issue presented in this case until the availability of a Fourth Amendment claim is settled, and I would therefore dismiss this case as improvidently granted.
Case: James v. City of Boise, Idaho: Supreme Court 2015
What happened: A dental appliance maker (the plaintiff in this civil suit) got kind of drunk when she was working on a denture and accidentally locked herself out of her sublet workspace. She broke a window to get back to her keys and workspace and resumed her work on the denture and on her 24 ounce can of Steel reserve malt liquor. As she was re-entering, a concerned neighbor spoke with her briefly and then called police. The police came out and saw her working on the denture and drinking the malt liquor through a window. When she went to the bathroom, the police entered the building with a K-9 unit. After the dental appliance maker did not respond to the police warnings that they would loose a police dog and it would bite, the police loosed the k-9 and it found the dental appliance maker on the toilet and bit her. The dental appliance maker sued.
Opinion: Whether or not loosing the k-9 was excessive force, QI protects the police in this civil suit.
Comment: This is not a particularly interesting case from a legal standpoint (although the concurrence is kind of interesting), but I recommend reading it for the off-beat facts. Seems like something out of a movie.