District of Columbia, et al. v. Wesby, et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: January 19, 2017
  • Case #: 15-1485
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 765 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Petitioners were entitled to qualified immunity because the applicable law regarding trespass was not clearly established and whether probable cause existed when Petitioners arrested Respondents for trespass after being informed by the homeowner that no one had permission to be on the property and if Petitioners could use that information to discredit the inconsistent explanations provided by Respondents?

Respondents were arrested by Petitioners, officers of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department after the police were notified by an individual of a loud party and possible illegal activity taking place in a neighboring home that had been vacant for months. Once the police entered the home, they discovered 21 individuals engaging in what appeared to be strip-club like activities. The police conducted interviews of the individuals who offered differing accounts as to why they were in the home. Several people said that a woman named “Peaches” invited them. The police contacted Peaches and eventually learned that she had not obtained permission from the homeowner to be in the home. The police then received confirmation from the homeowner that no one had permission to be in the home. Subsequently, one of Petitioners ordered that all individuals be arrested for trespass. After their arrest, 16 of the respondents filed suit under 42 USC § 1983 and various other causes of action on the basis that the police lacked probable cause needed to arrest Respondents. The District Court found that Petitioners lacked probable cause because there was not enough evidence gained from the investigation to suggest that the Respondents "knew or should have known that they were entering against the owner’s will." As a result the District Court granted summary judgment for Respondents on their §1983 and false arrest claims and denied Petitioners' defense of qualified immunity because the law on this issue was clearly established. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court on appeal. Petitioners appealed to the United States Supreme Court to decide whether Petitioners had probable cause to arrest Respondents for trespass in light of the property owner's statements that no one had permission to enter the home and if this permitted Petitioners to discredit Respondents' inconsistent claims of an innocent state of mind. Petitioners also ask the court to reverse the denial of sovereign immunity on the basis that the applicable law was not clearly established.  

 

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