Los Angeles County, CA, et al. v. Mendez, et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: December 2, 2016
  • Case #: 16-369
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 815 F.3d 1178 (9th Cir. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Ninth Circuit's "provocation" rule is invalid for conflicting with Graham v. Connor's test of police officer liability for use of force under 42 USC § 1983 and whether the reasonable use of force constitutes an intervening and superseding event that breaks the causation chain from an entry made in violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Petitioner Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was responsible for the shooting of Respondents while they were shot in a backyard shed that they lived in while the Sheriff's Department was searching for a parolee-at-large. Respondent Mendez was moving a BB-gun that looked like a rifle when Sheriff's Department employees, who were in the backyard without a warrant, opened the door. An officer saw the BB-gun and shot both Respondents. Respondents brought suit against Petitioners under 42 USC § 1983 under a theory of excessive force. The trial court failed to find that the Respondents' Fourth Amendment rights were violated as the result of excessive force, however; the trial court found that Petitioners were liable under the Ninth Circuit's "provocation" rule. The provocation rule allows a court to find a violation of constitutional rights for "an otherwise reasonable use of force where the officer intentionally or recklessly provoked a violent confrontation, and the provocation was itself an independent." The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling on the provocation rule. Petitioner now appeals, challenging the validity of the Ninth Circuit created provocation rule, as well as asserting that the reasonable use of force was an intervening and superseding event that broke the chain of causation from the unconstitutional entry. Petitioners argue that the provocation rule conflicts with the Supreme Court's holding in Graham, that relieves a law enforcement officer of civil liability under § 1983 once their use of force is determined reasonable under a totality of the circumstances test. Petitioners also argue that the use of reasonable force should be viewed as an intervening and superseding event that was not caused by an entry that violated the Fourth Amendment. 

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