AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Defenses: Eleventh Amendment
Detectives who were monitoring
calls from a call center as part of an investigation of drug trafficking
believed that a woman they knew was the voice making calls directing customers
to drug distribution houses and obtained an arrest warrant for her based
on this and an allegation that she had been seen at the houses. All charges
against her were later dismissed after it was concluded by prosecutors
that the wrong person had been arrested. Municipal liability claims were
properly rejected as the plaintiff stated no basis for them other than
the mere employment of the detective who obtained the warrant. Claims against
the state and its employees in their official capacity were barred as they
were not "persons" for purposes of a federal civil rights lawsuit.
After the plaintiff abandoned her federal claims against the detective,
remaining state law claims including false arrest and imprisonment were
properly remanded to state court. Ball v. City of Indianapolis, 13-1901,
2014 U.S. App. Lexis 14234 (7th Cir.).
The Arkansas State Police were entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity on claims arising out of a state trooper's alleged use of excessive force in striking a motorist with a metal flashlight while arresting him following a high-speed pursuit. The individual trooper, however, was not entitled to qualified immunity on the excessive force claim. The plaintiff claimed that he was hit with the flashlight after he was already on the ground and complying with the trooper's orders, and the use of force took place outside the view of the trooper's dash camera. The factual discrepancies between the trooper's and motorist's versions of the incident had to be resolved by a jury. Coker v. Arkansas State Police, #12-3601, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 22420 (8th Cir.).
A Michigan Assistant Attorney General and two state special agents were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity on federal civil rights claims arising from their six-hour search of a man's business pursuant to a search warrant, during which time they found evidence that he had the financial ability to meet his child support obligations. This resulted in him subsequently pleading guilty to four felony charges for failing to pay child support to four women who had his children. Claims against the defendants in their official capacities were claims against the state barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Additionally, the Assistant Attorney General was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity on individual capacity claims, as authorizing the issuance of a search warrant in the course of a criminal investigation and prosecuting felony refusal to pay child support was part of her prosecutorial duties. Streater v. Cox, #08-1631, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 10597 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
Simply confiscating the cell phone from a hearing impaired arrestee during his brief 24-hour detention did not constitute disability discrimination by the county. The plaintiff failed to show that he was denied services or reasonable accommodation on the basis of his disability. The county sheriff, as an arm of the state under Georgia law, was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity on Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) claims, while no ADA claims were possible against individual officers, since the ADA only prohibits disability discrimination by a public entity. Rylee v. Chapman, #08-15036, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 5056 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).
A homeowner who claimed that state police, acted improperly, surrounded his house while his wife and dogs were inside, and repeatedly shot into the home could not pursue federal civil rights claims against the State of Maine or the state police because of their Eleventh Amendment immunity. Palm v. State of Maine, Civil No. 07-102, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 4975 (D. Maine).
There were genuine issues of fact as to whether a police officer's use of a taser twice against an arrestee was reasonable, when the arrestee claimed that he was not resisting and laying on the hood of a police car at the time. Additionally, prior to the officer's second use of the taser, a state trooper on the scene allegedly urged the officer, "Don't do it." Money damage claims against the State of Delaware and the state trooper in his official capacity were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Yarnall v. Mendez, No. 05-527, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 66639 (D. Del.).
In a civil rights lawsuit brought by an arrestee who was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, a city Board of Police Commissioners was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity because it was a local governmental entity and not an arm of the State of Missouri. Thomas v. St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, No. 05-2655, 447 Fed. 3rd 1082 (8th Cir. 2006). [N/R]
Puerto Rico Police Department and its officers, sued in their official capacity, were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity as the equivalent of a state in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by individuals who claimed that they were assaulted by officers assigned to their neighborhood because of drug activity there. Nieves Cruz v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, No. CIV. 05-1064, 425 F. Supp. 2d 188 (D. Puerto Rico 2006). [N/R]
Eleventh Amendment immunity did not apply to the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners in lawsuit over allegedly false arrest because it is not an arm of the state of Missouri, even though the Commissioners are appointed by the Governor. Federal appeals court expresses some doubt about this, but finds that it was bound by prior precedent, specifically the U.S. Supreme Court's analysis in Auer v. Robbins, #95-897, 519 U.S. 452 (1997). Thomas v. St. Louis Bd. of Police Comm'rs, No. 05-2655, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 12159 (8th Cir.). [N/R]
Female motorist's allegation that a state patrol officer, during a routine traffic stop, touched her outside of her pants near the vaginal area, and then placed his hand underneath her clothing, inserting at least one finger into her vagina, if true, was sufficient to state a federal civil rights claim for sexual battery and sexual assault against the officer individually. The Georgia State Patrol and Department of Public Safety, however, were state agencies not subject to a lawsuit for damages under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, and claims under state law were barred by sovereign immunity for losses resulting from assault, battery, or false imprisonment, based on an exception to a statute waiving sovereign immunity for certain injuries caused by governmental employees. Davis v. Standifer, No. A05A1292, 621 S.E.2d 852 (Ga. App. 2005). [N/R]
Immunity Florida sheriff did not act as an arm of the state in attempting to enforce a county dance hall ordinance against the owner of a private nightclub, and was therefore not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity against the club owner's federal civil rights lawsuit. Abusaid v. Hillsborough County Bd., No. 03-16243, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 6341 (11th Cir.). [2005 LR Jun]
Alabama sheriff had Eleventh Amendment immunity from federal civil rights lawsuit over alleged rape of burglary victim by deputy sheriff dispatched to assist her, as he acted, under state law, on behalf of the state, not the county. Sheriff also had absolute immunity from state law official capacity claims and discretionary function immunity from individual capacity claims for negligent hiring, supervision, or training of the deputy, under state law. McClure v. Houston County, Alabama, 306 F. Supp. 2d 1160 (M.D. Ala. 2003). [N/R]
California county sheriff acted on behalf of the state not the county, California Supreme Court rules, and therefore was entitled to absolute Eleventh Amendment immunity from liability on federal civil rights claims for damages. Plaintiffs could still pursue, however, their claims for unreasonable search and seizure under California state statute without a showing of any "intent to discriminate." Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, #S113301, 32 Cal. 4th 820; 87 P.3d 1 (Cal. 2004). [2004 LR Jun]
U.S. Supreme Court rules that states may be sued for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for acts of disability discrimination which allegedly interfere with the constitutional right of access to the courts, and that such claims are not barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Court does not provide a clear answer about whether similar lawsuits against governmental employees for damages are proper in other circumstances of alleged disability discrimination in the providing of public services or programs. Tennessee v. Lane, #02-1667, 2004 U.S. Lexis 3386. [2004 LR Jun]
Florida State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is an agency of the state and cannot be sued for damages under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. "Neither a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under Sec. 1983," the court noted, citing Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989). Dickinson v. Gonzalez, No. 3D00-927, 839 So. 2d 709 (Fla. App. 3d Dist. 2003). [N/R]
Deputy sheriff was acting on behalf of the state in the area of state courthouse security by serving criminal trespass notices on the plaintiff, following his courthouse protest, prohibiting him from entering all state court facilities or grounds. He therefore could not be held liable, in his official capacity, for purported violations of the plaintiff's First Amendment rights, since he was not acting on behalf of the county. Huminski v. Rutland County Sheriff's Department, 213 F. Supp. 2d 520 (D. Vt. 2002). [N/R]
Georgia sheriff was an agent of the county, rather than an agent of the state, under prior precedent, so that he was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit against him in his official capacity for alleged excessive use of force. Manders v. Lee, #01-13606, 285 F.3d 983 (11th Cir. 2002). [N/R]
County sheriff acted on behalf of the state in enforcing a state court injunction against the picketing of an abortion clinic and abortion doctor's home, and therefore was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from liability in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by activist. Gottfried v. Medical Planning Services Inc., No. 00-3488, 280 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2002). [N/R]
Estranged lover whose affair with female police officer married to state trooper ended "acrimoniously" could not seek damages against trooper in his official capacity, as this claim was barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plea for injunction to prevent trooper from "perjurious" testimony in future court proceedings was "too speculative" to support granting relief. Stack v. City of Hartford, 170 F. Supp. 2d 288 (D. Conn. 2001). [N/R]
332:115 Local court system in Pennsylvania which employed officer who allegedly improperly arrested plaintiff and used force against him was not a "person" for purposes of a federal civil rights lawsuit. Callahan v. City of Philadelphia, #99-1816, 207 F.3d 668 (3rd Cir. 2000).
332:116 Motorist whose lawsuit against the state of North Carolina and a state trooper in his official capacity were previously dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds could still file a second lawsuit, making identical claims, against the trooper in his individual capacity. Andrews v. J.M. Daw, #98-6329, 201 F.3d 521 (4th Cir. 2000).
316:58 California sheriffs are state officials rather than county policymakers, so California county could not be liable for sheriff's policies regarding release of prisoners from county jail which allegedly resulted in detainee who posted bail being kept in custody on warrant which sheriff's personnel knew or should have known did not apply to her. County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 860 (Cal. App. 1998).
313:3 Despite the presence, in terminated correctional officer's suit, of several claims against the State of Wisconsin barred by the Eleventh Amendment, correctional defendants could still properly remove the entire lawsuit from state to federal court, and the federal trial court had jurisdiction to consider and rule on remaining claims not barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections v. Schacht, #97-461, 118 S.Ct. 2047 (1998).
294:85 Lawsuit by motorist against NY Department of Motor Vehicles challenging constitutionality of requirement that he participate in Drinking and Driving Program in order to regain driving privileges after DUI conviction was barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity Mullin v. P&R Educational Services, Inc, 942 F.Supp. 110 (E.D.N.Y. 1996).
North Carolina had not waived its 11th Amendment immunity from suit in federal court; district court did not have jurisdiction over suit plaintiff brought against state to attempt to collect judgment obtained against highway patrol officer in his individual capacity in earlier lawsuit In Re Secretary of Dept of Crime Control, 7 F.3d 1140 (4th Cir. 1993).
Eleventh Amendment immunity barred federal civil rights lawsuit for damages against Mississippi Highway Patrol and against MHP officer in his official capacity, but did not bar such claims against the officer individually King v. Mississippi Highway Patrol, 827 F.Supp. 402 (S.D.Miss 1993).
Federal appeals court holds that civil rights claims brought against a state or state agency directly under Sec 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment are barred by Eleventh Amendment Santiago v. NYS Dept of Correctional Services, 945 F.2d 25 (2nd Cir. 1991).
County sheriff and his deputies, sued in their official capacity, were immune from damages under the Eleventh Amendment when any damages awarded would have been paid by the state Carr v. City of Florence, Ala, 916 F.2d 1521 (11th Cir. 1990).
Federal Court holds that District of Columbia should be treated as a municipality, rather than a state or territory, for purposes of federal civil rights law; DC can be sued for alleged deprivation of property in sting operation O'Callaghan v. District of Columbia, 741 F.Supp. 273 (DDC 1990).
State's indemnification of officer against judgment does not make a suit against the officer a suit against the state for purposes of immunity Harrington v. Schossow, 457 N.W.2d 583 (Iowa 1990).
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