Chism v. Washington State

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 08-25-2011
  • Case #: 10-35085
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge B. Fletcher; Circuit Judge Ikuta dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

Qualified immunity is not available to government employees in a § 1983 claim based on judicial deception when the plaintiff can substantially prove, that but for the dishonesty of the officers, the warrant would not have been issued.

Washington State Police Officers submitted an affidavit in support of a warrant to search the home and office of Todd Chism who was suspected of violating Washington State child pornography laws. However, after a thorough search, no child pornography was found, and criminal charges were never field. Todd Chism and his wife later sued the state and the officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of their constitutional rights through judicial deception. The district court granted the officers’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Chism’s appealed, and the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision. The Court held that government employees were not entitled to qualified immunity on judicial deception claims when it is sufficiently plead that they acted with intentional or reckless disregard for the truth in applying for the warrants. The Court further held that the claim sufficiently plead judicial deception. First, both affidavits contained material false statements and omissions, such as the misrepresentation that the Chism’s credit card was used to purchase the photos, when it was only used to pay hosting fees for the site, omissions of different computer locations not connected to Chism, and “nonsensical identifying information.” Second, the omissions and false statements made in the affidavit were all facts within the officer’s personal knowledge. Third, the misrepresentation and omissions were material to the probable cause determination by the magistrate judge, and a reasonable magistrate judge would not have issued the warrant if given a correct description of the evidence. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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