Maxwell v. County of San Diego

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 09-13-2012
  • Case #: 10-56671; 10-56706
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Farris for the Court; Circuit Judge Clifton; Dissent by Circuit Judge Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Law enforcement officials can be held liable for constitutional violations if they leave a victim in a more dangerous situation than that in which they found her and if the detention of witnesses is more than minimally intrusive.

This is a consolidation of appeals regarding the actions of law enforcement officials and paramedics after the shooting of a woman by her husband. The district court denied summary judgment as to the law enforcement officers but granted summary judgment on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. The Court concluded that the trial court properly denied summary judgment for the law enforcement officers. The Court agreed that the officers could be held liable for injury by a third party because of the danger exception that left the victim in a more dangerous situation than that in which they had found her by impeding access to medical care. The Court further concluded that when higher ranking officials are present and know of the violations, but do nothing to intervene or prevent the actions, those officials could be liable for the actions of subordinate officers. The Court also held that a dispute of material fact existed as to whether the detention of the witnesses, which lasted for over five hours even though the officers had solved the crime, was beyond the minimally intrusive standard and thus violated the Fourth Amendment. With regard to the tribal sovereign immunity, the Court determined that summary judgment was improper. The paramedics, who were part of the tribal fire department, were sued in their individual capacities. The Court concluded that tribal sovereignty would be improper, because the remedy would be against the individuals and not the tribe. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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