George v. Edholm

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 05-28-2014
  • Case #: 11-57075
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge Wardlaw and District Judge Lynn
  • Full Text Opinion

The actions of a private individual may be attributed to the state if there is a close enough connection between the challenged action and the state actor so that the behavior may be treated as if it was “of the State itself."

Two officers conducted a routine parole search of Clifford George’s residence. The officers found evidence of a parole-violation and took George to the Pomona City Jail where they discovered that he was hiding a baggie of narcotics in his rectum. The officers took George to a hospital and informed the doctor that George had injected drugs and likely had narcotics in his rectum that needed to be removed immediately. The doctor eventually removed the narcotics with long forceps, resulting in bleeding and severe discomfort for George. The district court granted summary judgment to the officers because the doctor was acting as a private citizen. George appealed the grant of summary judgment claiming that his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the plastic baggie was removed from his rectum by force and without his consent. The Ninth Circuit began its analysis by explaining that the actions of a private individual may be attributed to the state if there is a close enough connection between the challenged action and the state actor so that the behavior may be treated as if it was “of the State itself.” The panel stressed that a police officer may not skirt around the requirements of the Fourth Amendment by coercing or inducing a private actor to perform otherwise unconstitutional searches. The panel held that a reasonable jury could find that the doctor’s conduct could be connected and attributed to the officers who may have given inaccurate information about George’s medical condition. A jury could also find that the removal of the narcotics was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. REVERSED.

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