Barnard v. Theobald

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 07-01-2013
  • Case #: 11-16655
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Carr for the Court; Circuit Judges Hawkins and M. Smith, Jr.
  • Full Text Opinion

Police Officers are not entitled to qualified immunity in excessive force cases when a jury finds the amount of force used was unreasonable, even when the Officers believe the victim is resisting.

On December 8, 2001, three Las Vegas Police Officers (“Officers”) arrived at the home of Charles Barnard with an arrest warrant for Barnard's brother. Barnard answered the door and explained that his brother was asleep inside the house. Officer Theobald began to handcuff Barnard, but tripped, and both men began to fall. Officer Radmanovich attempted to grab them, but tripped over Barnard’s legs and also fell to the ground. Officer Clark placed Barnard in a chokehold, and lifted him by his neck off the ground until Barnard was on his hands and knees. While Officer Clark straddled Bernard, Barnard was pepper sprayed twice in the face and then handcuffed. Officer Theobald and Officer Radmanovich kept their knees pressed into Barnard's back until his brother was arrested and secured. Barnard was held at the County Detention Center for three days after being charged with battery of, resisting, and obstructing a public officer. Between the time of the incident and the time of the trial, Barnard had nine spinal surgeries to relieve the pain suffered from the incident, but the symptoms continued. The district court issued judgment in favor of Barnard. The Officers appealed, claiming that they were entitled to qualified immunity and that the district court had incorrectly denied their motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Ninth Circuit held that, under the two-part test established by the Supreme Court in Pearson v. Callahan, the Officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because a jury found that even though the officers believed Barnard was resisting, the amount of force they used was unreasonable. However, the district court’s award of attorneys fees without ample explanation and the denial of Charles’s pre- and post-judgment interest was an abuse of discretion. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, VACATED, AND REMANDED.

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