Whether officers who brutally assaulted a person resulting in his death are entitled to qualified immunity, when the victim was not actively resisting, did not pose a physical threat, and was not fleeing, the specific requirements of the Fourth Amendment “objective reasonable” standard articulated by this Court in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). Furthermore, whether the Court of Appeals erred when it stated that there was no distinction between active and passive resistance in justifying the use of police violence.
- Qualified Immunity is a powerful thunderbolt for striking down lawsuits against government officials, including police officers, but the guidelines for hurling this cosmic energy can be as arbitrary as the moods of Zeus and Hera. In Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), the Court laid out a three part in police brutality cases: Qualified immunity might be granted where the person (1) actively resisted arrest; (2) posed a physical threat; or (3) fled arrest. In Stogner, the 5th Circuit more or less conceded that the victim's (Mr. Stogner's) conduct did not meet any of the three criteria, but nonetheless granted Officers Sturdivant and Mellerine qualified immunity. The 5th Circuit based its decision on the victim's resistance to handcuffing and his attempt to hide a small package, later tested to be drugs. The 5th Circuit stated that it was no matter whether Stogner's resistance was active or passive. Does Stogner signal new tolerance for police violence against passive resistance? What would have happened if the victims were passive civil rights protesters? What if they were environmental activists chained to a tree? Or, was Stogner simply an outlier where the 5th Circuit was unsympathetic to the death of an alleged drug user?
- Is it materially misleading under 15 U.S.C. § 1692e for special counsel to use Attorney General letterhead to convey that they are collecting debts owed to the State on behalf of the Attorney General?
Attorney Peter Q. John
Baton Rouge, LA