• Is This Thing On? U.S. Supreme Court Reiterates Long Standing Principle That Clearly Established Law Must Be Particularized to the Facts of the Case.
  • April 27, 2017 | Author: April L. Cressler
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Pittsburgh Office
  • A police officer, Officer White, arrived late to a scene and witnessed shots being fired by one of several armed individuals in a residence, later identified as the Pauly brothers, and ultimately shot and killed one of the brothers, Samuel, prior to shouting a warning. The surviving Pauly brother sued, and Officer White argued that the Pauly brothers could not establish that his use of force violated the Fourth Amendment as Samuel Pauly’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from deadly force, as evaluated under the circumstances of this case, was not clearly established. The District Court denied qualified immunity, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that a jury could have concluded that Officer White’s use of deadly force was not reasonable or that a reasonable officer in Officer White’s position would believe that a warning was required, despite the threat of serious harm, and that such a rule was clearly established at the time of Samuel Pauly’s death. The seemingly frustrated Supreme Court disagreed, stating the apparent misunderstanding of the “clearly established” analysis as the panel failed to identify a case where an officer faced with similar circumstances as those confronting Officer White was found to have violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court appears to be sending a message that too many police lawsuits are being permitted to move forward despite the societal importance of qualified immunity.