Chapter 21-Legal Liabilities Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 21-Legal Liabilities Deck (32)
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police are an attractive target because they

wield power and are public employees


police may be liable under state law and under federal law. Two types of liabilities may be subclassified into three general categories

1. civil liabilities
2. criminal liabilities
3. administrative liabilities


Plaintiffs usually prefer the

civil liabilities route for a number of reasons. Civil cases are easier to win, they result in a monetary award and do not need the intervention of the prosecutors office to file case


Supreme court on police civil liability decisons

1. Police Officers enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability when testifying,even if testimony is perjured.
2. inadequate police training can lead to liability under federal law, but only if it amounts to deliberate indifference
3. neither state nor state officials acting in their official capacity may be sued under federal law in state court
4. state officials sued in their individual capacity are liable for civil rights violations
5. municipality may be held liable for a sheriffs single negligent decision to hire an officer, but only if the hiring constitutes deliberate indifference, interpreted to mean that what happened was the plainly obvious consequence of the decision to hire the officer.


Municipality may be held liable in a 1983 lawsuit and cannot claim the good faith defense

Owen v City of Independence, 1980
city manager dismissed the chief of police without reason . Chief filed Title 42 USC 1983 lawsuit against city manager, membersof coucil alleging that he was discharged without notice of reasons and without a hearing, thereby, violating his constitutional right to procedural and substantive due process.


Owen case makes clear that municipality may be liable if a persons constitutional right has been violated,(in this case the right to due process prior to dismissal).

Because they were acting in accordance with provisions of city charter, the city manager and members of city council enjoyed a "good faith " defense but the city did not.


Court held that individual blameworthiness is no longer the acid test of liability, substituting in its place

the principle of "equitable loss-spreading" in addition to fault, as a fact in distributing the costs of official misconduct


In a Sectio 1983 civil action, police officers are entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability when testifying , even if testimony is perjured.

Briscoe v LaHue, 1983
Briscoe convicted in state court of burglary. He filed a Title 42 USC 1983 suit in the District Court alleging that LaHue, police officer, violated his right to due process by committing perjury.
officers enjoy absolute immunity from civil liab when testifying, even if its perjured.


in all other aspects of police work, an officer enjoys only qualified immunity (good faith)



In a Sect 1983 civil action, officers are entitled only to qualified immunity, not absolute immunity, when acting in an objectively reasonable manner in obtaining a search warrant that is ultimately found defective

Malley v Briggs, 1986
on basis of two monitored telephone calls pursuant to a court authorized wiretap, Rhode Island state trooper Malley prepared felony complaints charging Briggs and others with possession of marij.


In Malley case, if malice and lack of probable cause are proved, the officer enjoys no immunity at all. The officer is not liable anyway if he acted in an

objectively reasonable manner


inadequate police training may serve as the basis for municipal liability under Title 42 1983, but only if it amounts to "deliberate indifference",

City of Canton v Harris, 1989
Harris arrested and taken to police station in a patrol wagon. at station, Harris was found sitting on floor. when asked if she needed medical help, her reply was incoherent. Officers did not offer medical assistance. when released, family took her to hospital. City can be held liable.


Municipality can be held liable for failure to train. Court said yes, but subject to strict requirements.

1. failure to adequentely train reflects a "deliberate" or "conscious" choice by the municipality
2. inadequate training represents city policy
3. identified deficiency in the training program must be closely related to the ultimate injury


neither the state nor state officials, acting in their official capacity may be sued under 1983 in state court

Will v Michigan Dept of State Police, 1989
Will filed1983 lawsuit alleging that he was denied a promotion , violating his consitutional rights, because his brother had been a student activist and subject of a "red squad" file maintained by the dept.


11th Amend bars such suits unless the State has waived its immunity.

Will case


Will case sys state officials cannot be sued under 1983 in their official capacity because the 11th Amend exempts states from liability in such lawsuits, unless the liability is waived by the state. This decision extends state immunity to state public officials when sued in their official capacity.
following points need to be emphasized

1.officials can be sued in their personal capacity
2. State officials can be sued in their official or personal capacity in a state tort case because Will case only applies to 1983 cases.
3. municipal and county officials, (law enforcement) can be sued in either their public or private capacity under 1983. This is because 11th Amend grants immunity to states, not local gov.
4. State officials have immunityin 1983 case in federal courts. Will case states that they now have immunity in state courts. However, many states have waived sovereign immunity and therefore expose state officials to possible liability.


state officials sued in their individual capacity are liable for civil rights violations.

Hafer v Melo, 1991
Hafer was elected to post of Auditor General of Pennsylvania. Part of her campaign, she promised to fire 21 employees. after taking office, she fired 18 people, including Melo. Melo can be sued personally for damages under Title 42 USC 1983


City's failure to warn or train its employees about known hazards in the workplace does not violate the due process clause of the 14th Amend.

Collins v City of Harker Heights,1992
Collins, a sanitation worker, died of asphyxia after entering a manhole to unstop a sewer line.


one of the elements of a 1983 case is that there must have been a violation of a constitutional or federally protected right (other being that the offending person must have been acting under color of law).

Collins v City of Harker Heights


In Collins, Court said, such failure to warn or train about workplace hazards could still be the basis for a lawsuit as violative of due process rights, but only if

such omission is "arbitrary or conscience-shocking"


A county cannot be held liable under 1983 for a single hiring decision made by a county official.

Board of County Commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma v Brown, 1997
Brown and husband turn around after approaching a police checkpoint. Deputies pursued the vehicle for 4 miles at speeds of 100 miles per hour. When Browns stopped, Morrison pointed gun ordering occupants out,. When Brown did not respond , officer pulled brown from truck and swung her to ground causing severe injuries to Browns knees.


Municipalities and municipal officials can be assured, then, that as long as a hiring decision does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference that can be traced directly to the officers future actions involving a constitutional violation, the municipality is free from liability.

Brown case


whether a sheriff is an agent of the county or of the state is determined by the states constitution, laws or other regulations. In this case, Alabama law indicates that sheriffs are agents of the state and not of the county.

McMillian v Monroe County, Alabama,1997
McMillian was convicted of murder and sentenced to death based on cop-conspirator. His conviction was overturned after a ruling that those involved in the investigation had suppressed statements form co-conspirator that contradicted his trial testimoney and other evidence.


Supreme Court said in this case that a sheriff may be an agent of the county in some states and an agent of the state in other states; issue being determined by the state itself.

McMillian cae


in high-speed vehicle pursuit cases, liability in 1983 cases ensues only if the conduct of the officer "shocks the conscience". The lower standard of "deliberate indifference" does not apply.

Couny of Sacramento v Lewis, 1998
Lewis a passenger of motorcycle evading police at high speeds. chase lasted 75 seconds at speeds of excess 100 mph. m/c overturned and lewis was thrown from motorcycle and officer was unable to stop before hitting lewis, knocking him 70 feet down road. Lewis was dead at scene. Officer does not violate 14th Amend guarentee of substantive due process by causing death thur deliberate or reckless indifference to life in a highspeed auto chase.


Court in Lewis held: only "conduct that shocks the conscious" leads to liability under 1983 in high speed pursuit cases. Only a purpose to cause harm unrelated to the legitimate object of arrest will satisfy the element of arbitrary conduct shocking to the conscience, necessary for a due process violation

Lewis case


Plaintiffs must prove

that the officer acted with "a purpose to cause harm unrelated to the legitimate object of arrest


ruling on qualified immunity is not intertwined with a ruling on violation of a constitutional right and should be made early in the proceedings so that, if established, the cost and expense of trial are avoided.

Saucier v Katz, 2001
at military base, vice president was to speak. katz planned to protest the speech and brought a 4x3 sign. two military police officers who had already been warned about Katz, intercepted him and rushed him out of the area. katz taken to police station and then released. Katz claimed excessive force.


qualified immunity is established by the officer early, then the case should be dismissed and trial avoided. once established, immunized the officer from trial and civil liability under Sec 1983



wrongful failure by police to arrest a husband who violated a restraining order does not amount to a violation of a constitutional due process right under the 14th Amend and therefore does not result in civil liability under federal law.

Town of Castle Rock v Gonzales, 2005
Gonzales obtained a restraining order against her estranged husband pending a divorce. 3 weeks after order was issued, husband took his daughters from the front yard of their house without Gonzales awareness or permission. police notified and advised that there is nothing they could do. Gonzales again called the police asking to have officer check for her husband truck at amusement park, again police advised for Gonzales to wait. Later in morning, husband arrived at police station and fired shots. during exchange, husband was killed. police found husbands truck the bodies of his three daughters who he had killed.