More PACER Drama

PACER LogoOhhhhh PACER.

I’m a little bit behind on complaining about it, so here’s the executive summary to catch everyone up: One month after they celebrated 25 years of PACER, the whole thing went down, twice in one week.

In case you missed it, the Administrative Office of Courts issued a statement in December celebrating the twenty five year anniversary of PACER. The electronic filing service was started in 1988. It ushered in the era of electronic filing for federal court documents. To me, the irony of this “celebration” is that PACER, and the local CM/ECF systems, have barely changed since then.

As usual, the Third Branch PR team leads with how PACER has made access “universal.”

“Twenty-five years ago, the vast majority of cases were practically obscure. Today, every Third Branch court is using CM/ECF and PACER,” said Michel Ishakian, chief of staff for the AO’s Department of Program Services, who oversaw PACER from 2008 to 2013. “That means that all dockets, opinions, and case file documents can be accessed world-wide in real time, unless they are sealed or otherwise restricted for legal purposes. This level of transparency and access to a legal system is unprecedented and unparalleled.”

This is technically correct – but Mr. Ishakian neglects two caveats to this statement:

1. Users have to pay to access these documents. You pay to search for them, and you pay to download them.

2. The “opinions” available on PACER are slip opinions, not officially published case law. That means they can’t be cited in court.

Continue reading

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – January 31, 2014

Burrage v. United States, US Supreme Court (1/27/14)
Criminal Law

HeroinLong-time drug user Banka died after a binge that included use of heroin purchased from Burrage. Burrage pleaded not guilty to charges that he had unlawfully distributed heroin and that “death … resulted from the use of th[at] substance,” which carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C). Medical experts testified that Banka might have died even if he had not taken the heroin. The court instructed the jury that the prosecution had to prove only that heroin was a contributing cause of death. The jury convicted Burrage, and the court sentenced him to 20 years. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.  The Supreme Court reversed. Where use of the drug distributed by the defendant is not an independently sufficient cause of death or serious bodily injury, the penalty enhancement does not apply unless such use is a “but-for” cause of the death or injury.  The Court declined to address cases in which multiple sufficient causes independently, but concurrently, produce death, because there was no evidence that Banka’s heroin use was an independently sufficient cause of his death. Congress could have written the statute to refer to a “substantial” or “contributing” factor in producing death, but instead used language that imports but-for causality.

Read More: Supreme Court relaxes mandatory drug-dealer sentencing in overdoses

United States v. Thavaraja, US 2nd Cir. (1/23/14)
Criminal Law

Defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Defendant, a Sri Lankan native, was the principal procurement officer for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a foreign terrorist organization. On appeal, the Government challenged defendant’s 108 months prison sentence as substantively unreasonable. The district court had found many mitigating circumstances: defendant was motivated not by power or self-aggrandizement, but by a desire to help the Tamil people; defendant’s actions had to be evaluated in context where he was caught in an ongoing civil war with serious human rights violations on both sides of the conflict; defendant did not have a criminal record; defendant had accepted full responsibility for his crimes; during the six years of his incarceration, defendant was a model inmate who earned the gratitude of other prisoners by his efforts to teach them math and other subjects; as well as other considerations. The court concluded that, in light of defendant’s personal history and characteristics, the nature and circumstances of his crimes, and all of the relevant factors, the sentence imposed was not substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Read More: Nine-Year Sentence of Terrorist Suspect Upheld by Circuit

Brownstein v. Lindsay, US 3rd Cir. (1/29/14)
Copyright, Intellectual Property

Brownstein and Lindsay worked at LSDI, a direct mailing list company. In 1993 Lindsay began developing rules for categorizing names by ethnicity. Lindsay enlisted Brownstein to create computer programs that did everything from rewriting names into proper data format to turning the rules into computer code. The combined system of Lindsay’s rules and Brownstein’s computer code was called the LCID. Lindsay received a copyright registration for the rules in 1996, entitled “Ethnic Determinant System — Knowledge and Rule/Exception Basis,” including a copy of Brownstein’s programs as a “deposit copy” for the registration, 17 U.S.C. 407(a) and referencing associated “computer process” and “codes.” Lindsay listed herself as the only author. She gave Brownstein a copy of the registrations. He claims that he never reviewed them. Subsequently, LSDI demanded that Lindsay turnover the copyright registration. Lindsay and Brownstein left LSDI in 1997. Lindsay handled all business affairs and, over the next several years, executed several agreements to form new business entities to promote and transfer ownership of the LCID. There were several lawsuits with LSDI. In 2009, Brownstein left on bad terms, filed an oppressed shareholder lawsuit, and sought his own copyright registrations. He then sought a declaratory judgment of joint authorship of LCID under the Copyright Act. The district court found the claim time-barred and insufficient on the merits. The Third Circuit remanded, holding that an authorship claim accrues when a plaintiff’s authorship has been “expressly repudiated” and that courts have no authority to cancel copyright registrations.

In re Glass, California Supreme Court (1/27/14)

Stephen Glass, the infamous journalist from the late 1990s who fabricated material for more than forty articles for The New Republic magazine and other publications, passed the California bar examination in 2006 and applied to join the bar. The Committee of Bar Examiners denied the application, determining that Glass did not satisfy California’s moral fitness test. The State Bar Court’s hearing department, however, found that Glass had established the good moral character to be admitted as an attorney. The Supreme Court granted review. After detailing Glass’s history of dishonesty, professional misconduct, lack of integrity, and tendency to advance his own agenda rather than to serve others in the community, the Court concluded that Glass failed to “carry his heavy burden of demonstrating rehabilitation and fitness for the practice of law” and declined to admit Glass to the practice of law.

Read More: California Denies Scorned Journalist Stephen Glass Right to Practice Law

New Jersey v. Brown, New Jersey Supreme Court (1/29/14)
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Based on information from two confidential informants and a concerned citizen that a dilapidated Camden row house was being used as a “stash location” for illegal drug transactions, a State Trooper set up a surveillance of the property. The trooper observed what he believed to be four drug transactions. He did not attempt to determine who owned or lived in either residence or to secure a search warrant. One of the two front windows of the house was broken. The front door was padlocked, and the rear door was “off the hinges” and “propped closed” so that no one could exit from inside. Another trooper observed through the front broken window trash bags filled with clothes and soda cans; he did not observe any light fixtures, and the electric meter was missing. The trooper concluded the house was “abandoned” and could be searched without a warrant. Troopers then opened the padlock, entered the residence, and searched the house. There was evidence of criminality inside: a sawed-off rifle inside a floor air vent and drugs and drug paraphernalia on a shelf above the stairs to the basement. Troopers concluded that the next door house was “occupied” and therefore a search warrant was obtained to enter. The search of next door uncovered more cocaine and drug paraphernalia. The trial court granted defendants’ motion to suppress the evidence seized at the “abandoned” house, finding that the State had not satisfied its burden of proving that the house was an abandoned building that justified bypassing the warrant requirement; that defendants had automatic standing to challenge the search because they exercised “possessory control over the premises” by the manner in which the front door was padlocked and the rear door secured; and that exigent circumstances did not justify a warrantless search. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s suppression order. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded the State did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the house, though in bad condition, was abandoned or that defendants were trespassers, and thus failed to justify the warrantless search of the property.

Read More: NJ Supreme Court: Police need warrants to search ‘decrepit’ homes

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – January 24, 2014

Kosilek v. Spencer, US 1st Cir. (1/17/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

shutterstock_121502677Sixty-four-year-old Plaintiff was born anatomically male but suffered from severe gender identity disorder. In 1992, Plaintiff was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2000, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC), alleging that the DOC was denying her adequate medical care by not providing her with sex reassignment surgery. The district court subsequently issued an order requiring the Commissioner of the DOC to provide Plaintiff was sex reassignment surgery, finding that the DOC’s failure to provide the surgery violated Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights. The DOC appealed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Plaintiff had a serious medical need for sex reassignment surgery and that the DOC refused to meet that need for pretextual reasons unsupported by legitimate penological considerations in violation of Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights.

Read More: Court upholds inmate’s right to sex change

Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox, U.S. 9th Cir. (1/17/14)
Communications Law, Injury Law

Plaintiffs filed a defamation suit against defendant where defendant published blog posts on several websites that she created accusing plaintiffs of fraud, corruption, money-laundering, and other illegal activities. The court joined its sister circuits in concluding that the protections of the First Amendment did not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story; therefore, the court held that the Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.’s negligence requirement for private defamation actions was not limited to cases with institutional media defendants; because defendant’s blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz was limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find defendant liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently; the district court also should have instructed the jury that it could not award presumed damages unless it found that defendant acted with actual malice; the court rejected defendant’s argument that plaintiffs are public officials; and the court found no error in the district court’s application of the Unelko Corp. v. Rooney test and rejected plaintiffs’ cross-appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Read More: First Amendment Doesn’t Distinguish Between Bloggers and Press, Court Says

SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, U.S. 9th Cir. (1/21/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Drugs & Biotech

GSK filed suit against Abbott over a dispute related to a licensing agreement and the pricing of HIV medications. The central issue on appeal was whether equal protection prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in jury selection. GSK contended that a new trial was warranted because Abbott unconstitutionally used a peremptory strike to exclude a juror on the basis of his sexual orientation. The court concluded that GSK had established a prima facie case of intentional discrimination where the juror at issue was the only juror to have identified himself as gay on the record and the subject of the litigation presented an issue of consequence to the gay community. The court held that classifications based on sexual orientation were subject to a heightened scrutiny under United States v. Windsor. The court also held that equal protection prohibits peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The history of exclusion of gays and lesbians from democratic institutions and the pervasiveness of stereotypes about the group leads the court to conclude that Batson v. Kentucky applied to peremptory strikes based on sexual orientation. The court also concluded that a Batson challenge would be cognizable only once a prospective juror’s sexual orientation was established, voluntarily and on the record. The court rejected Abbott’s harmless error argument. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.

Read More: Sexual Orientation Is No Basis for Jury Exclusion, a Federal Appeals Court Rules

Carnival Corporation v. Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood, South Carolina Supreme Court (1/22/14)
Admiralty & Maritime Law, Government and Administrative Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use

The plaintiffs in this case consist of four Charleston citizens’ groups. Plaintiffs brought suit seeking an injunction against what they believed to be the unlawful use of a terminal by the Carnival Corporation’s cruise ship, the “Fantasy.” The Terminal is within the City’s Old and Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places maintained by the United States Department of the Interior. Plaintiffs’ complaint sought injunctive relief based on ten claims: seven based on City ordinances, a public nuisance claim, a private nuisance claim, and a claim based on the South Carolina Pollution Control Act. Following a hearing, the trial court commissioned a report which concluded: that as a matter of law, none of the ordinances applied to the Fantasy’s use of the Terminal; the Pollution Control Act did not govern the Fantasy’s discharges in South Carolina waters; but that the complaint made sufficient allegations to set forth both a private and a public nuisance cause of action. Plaintiffs and Defendants filed exceptions to the report. After considering the report and the exceptions, the Supreme Court dismissed the noise ordinance, sign ordinance, and Pollution Control Act claims, and withheld ruling on the motions to dismiss on the five zoning and two nuisance claims. After ordering briefing on the issues of standing, preemption, and whether the zoning ordinances applied to the Fantasy’s use of the Terminal, the Supreme Court concluded Plaintiffs lacked standing. Accordingly, the Court granted Carnival’s motions to dismiss.

Read More: SC Supreme Court dismisses cruise ship lawsuit

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – January 17, 2014

Verizon v. FCC, et al, US DC Cir. (1/14/14)
Communications Law, Internet Law

broadbandVerizon challenged the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which imposed disclosure, anti-blocking, and anti-discrimination requirements on broadband providers. The court concluded that the Commission has established that section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 1302(a), (b), vests it with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure; the Commission reasonably interpreted section 706 to empower it to promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic, and its justification for the specific rules at issue here – that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet – was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence; given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 201 et seq., expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such; and because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules did not impose per se common carrier obligations, the court vacated those portions of the Open Internet Order.

Read More: Rebuffing F.C.C. in ‘Net Neutrality’ Case, Court Allows Streaming Deals

In re the Marriage of Cardona and Castro, Colorado Supreme Court (1/13/14)
Family Law

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether accrued vacation and sick leave may be considered marital property subject to division under the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (UDMA). The trial court entered an order dividing the value of the husband’s accrued vacation and sick leave as part of the marital estate. The husband appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that where a spouse has an enforceable right to be paid for accrued vacation or sick leave, such leave earned during the marriage is marital property for the purposes of the UDMA. Where the value of the leave can be ascertained at the time of dissolution, a trial court should consider such value when equitably dividing the marital estate. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in considering the value of the husband’s accrued leave because no competent evidence was presented to establish he had an enforceable right to payment for such leave.

Simpson v. Roberts, Virginia Supreme Court (1/10/14)
Health Law, Medical Malpractice

When Dr. David Roberts performed amniocentesis on Plaintiff’s mother, who was pregnant with Plaintiff, bleeding occurred. Complications arose from the unsuccessful amniocentesis, and Plaintiff was born with damaged kidneys and cerebral palsy. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment against Dr. Roberts and other defendants for medical malpractice. Plaintiff asserted that her claim was not covered by Virginia’s Medical Malpractice Act because she was not a “patient” as defined by the Act where she was not a “natural person” at the time of the treatment, and therefore, her claim was not subject to the Act’s statutory cap on damages. The jury returned a $7 million verdict in Plaintiff’s favor. The trial court reduced the verdict, holding that the cap applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Virginia’s statutory cap on damages applied to Plaintiff’s cause of action because Plaintiff became a “patient” when she was born alive, and therefore, her claim fell within the Act.

Read More: Va. Supreme Court blocks bid to avoid medical malpractice cap

Welcome JOAL! The New Journal of Open Access to Law

Journal of Open Access to LawA heads up to all interested open access folks that the debut issue of The Journal of Open Access to Law (JOAL) is up and ready for consumption at http://joal.law.cornell.edu/.  JOAL, a multidisciplinary journal related to research on open and online legal material, was conceived during a series of Law Via the Internet conferences. Tom Bruce gives a run down of key players who made this happen and lays out the goals of the journal in his latest B-Screeds post.  The inaugural issue contains articles on legal informatics, open government data, legal services and free access to law.

Onward!

New Best Practices for Open Government Data

Open DataJosh Tauberer recently announced the release of “Open Government Data: Best Practices Language for Making Data ‘License Free.’ That document sets forth recommendations for federal agencies issuing data, and sample Creative Commons Zero (public domain) licensing statements.

In the memorandum, Mr. Tauberer and his colleagues discuss how open licensing protocols can be applied by various federal government authors—agencies in house, through contractors, or a mix—to different outputs, such as codes, laws, reports, etc. The overriding principle is that because the federal government’s material is not subject to copyright protection, a CC0 license will make it clear to users that the government disclaims its copyright.

When contractors are involved, things get a little more complicated: “Works produced under a contract with the government may be subject to copyright protection. Any such contract should specify that any copyright in the work is transferred to the government.” Transferring the copyright to the government, of course, obviates it, as federal government works are not subject to copyright protection under the Copyright Act. For mixes of government and non-government works, they recommend that “non-governmental contributors be required to waive copyright protection to their submissions,” which is another way of bringing taxpayer funded government work product into the public domain. This shouldn’t be a controversial proposition, but we’ve seen what happens when private standards are incorporated by reference into law. Continue reading

Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks

MaineToday Media, Inc. v. State, Maine Supreme Court (11/14/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

telephoneThis case involved three Enhanced 9-1-1 (E-9-1-1) calls regarding an altercation that resulted in three people being shot. MaineToday Media, Inc. sent a series of requests to inspect and copy the three transcripts to the police department, state police, attorney general, and others. The State denied the requests, claiming that the transcripts constituted “intelligence and investigative information” in a pending criminal matter and were therefore confidential under the Criminal History Record Information Act. MaineToday filed suit against the State, arguing that the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) mandated disclosure of the transcripts as public records and that no exception to their disclosure applied. The superior court affirmed the State’s denial of MaineToday’s request. The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment, holding that the E-9-1-1 transcripts, as redacted pursuant to 25 Me. Rev. Stat. 2929(2)-(3), were public records subject to disclosure under the FOAA.

Read More: Maine court orders release of 911 transcripts

United States v. Chovan, US 9th Cir. (11/18/13)
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Defendant appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to dismiss an indictment against him for violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), which prohibits persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing firearms for life. Applying United States v. Brailey, the court concluded that defendant’s domestic violence conviction did not divest him of “core” civil rights and he could not qualify for the civil rights restored exception to section 922(g)(9). The court rejected defendant’s argument that the civil rights restored exception violated the Equal Protection Clause for the same reasons the court articulated in United States v. Hancock. Like the First, Fourth, and Seventh Circuits, the court applied intermediate scrutiny to section 922(g)(9) and held that it was constitutional on its face and as applied to defendant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Read More: Court In SF Upholds Law That Bars Domestic Violence Offenders From Owning Guns

Gissendaner v. Seaboldt, US 11th Cir. (11/19/13)
Criminal Law

Petitioner, convicted of malice murder and sentenced to death, appealed the district court’s denial of her 28 U.S.C. 2254 federal habeas petition. Petitioner convinced her on-again, off-again lover to kill her on-again, off-again husband. The court concluded that the district court correctly denied federal habeas relief on petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim where the state court reasonably found that she had failed to carry her burden of demonstrating that she was prejudiced by counsel’s advice during the plea process; correctly denied petitioner’s Brady v. Maryland claim where the state habeas court reasonably found that further impeachment of petitioner’s lover based on the undisclosed statements contained in the prosecution team’s notes would not have created a reasonable probability of a different result in either phase of the trial; and correctly rejected petitioner’s penalty phase claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where the state habeas court’s finding that trial counsel conducted a constitutionally adequate mitigation investigation did not involve an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington or depend on an unreasonable finding of fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

FDSys Opinion Coverage Increases, But Is Still Lacking

959347_magnifying_glassThe Administrative Office of the Courts announced yesterday that FDSys will now include opinions from 64 federal courts.  The program to integrate federal court opinions into FDSys began in 2011.  In 2011, they added opinions from 12 courts. In 2012, they increased that number to 28 courts.  In February of this year, they announced that they were expanding the program. And now we know they have increased the number of courts to 64. According to today’s press release, they are backfilling some jurisdictions, putting in an archive back to 2004. They claim to have 750,000 opinions in FDSys now.

According to the statement, “FDsys currently contains opinions from 8 appellate courts, 20 district courts, and 35 bankruptcy courts.”  To put this in perspective, there are 17 circuit courts, 94 district courts, and 195 bankruptcy courts.  All together, they are pulling opinions from 63 of 307 federal courts (roughly). That’s 21% of the federal jurisdictions in 3 years.

As usual, I feel compelled to say “it’s great that they’re doing this, BUT”—they’re focusing on the wrong things. Why are they pulling documents from district courts and bankruptcy courts? The case law that most people care about is appellate opinions that create precedent.  In federal jurisdictions, this means the Circuit Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court.  FDSys has no SCOTUS opinions (which are freely available on the Court’s site), and only about half of the Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Some district court opinions are interesting and useful, and I suppose the same is true for bankruptcy court opinions, but why are they being added ahead of the Supreme Court? 750,000 documents is a lot—my guess is they’re pulling in random orders and rulings that are part of the public record but not especially useful in legal research.

Another thing:  opinions in the FDSys collection are slip opinions. I need to reiterate this point every time I see press release from the AOC, because there is an implication that they’ve given us what we need to cite the law. THEY HAVEN’T. For the non-lawyers in the crowd, slip opinions are the immediate opinions released by the court. They are official, and can be cited to in court documents, only until they are published officially by a private company. They are temporary documents. They are useful if you just want to read the law, but they are not official and they can’t be cited.

I do believe there is value to having this information in a central database that the public can search, alongside other government publications, but I think it’s absurd that the government does not own a copy of its own official work product. It’s absurd that taxpayers throw billions of dollars into a court system that issues opinions that they have to pay to read and cite. It’s even more absurd that the government itself pays to read those cases, through research contracts for Westlaw and LexisNexis. Finally, it’s absurd that the AOC thinks that migrating documents from bankruptcy courts into FDSys is somehow going to solve this problem.

There is a REAL solution, but courts don’t want to talk about it:universal citation. If the clerks judges would put a citation on the opinion and insert paragraph numbers, it will be born digital and official. Make it available for download right away, and the private companies that have sprung up to provide alternative legal research services – some free, some cost effective – can get them up right away. Other companies are exploring ways to add value to these opinions in new and exciting ways. The government can take 3 years to move opinions around between databases and it won’t matter, because the public will use the private services instead.

Justia’s Weekly Writers’ Picks

Stanton v. Sims, United States Supreme Court (11/4/13)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

GateOfficer Stanton and his partner responded to a call about a disturbance involving a person with a baseball bat. Stanton was familiar with the LaMesa neighborhood, known for gang violence. The officers, wearing uniforms and driving a marked police vehicle, approached the location and noticed men walking in the street. Seeing the police car, two men turned into an apartment complex. Patrick crossed the street about 25 yards in front of Stanton’s car and ran toward a residence. Stanton did not see a baseball bat, but considered Patrick’s behavior suspicious and decided to investigate. Stanton exited his car, called out “police,” and ordered Patrick to stop. Patrick did not stop, but “looked directly at Stanton,” and went through the gate of the six-foot wooden fence enclosing Sims’ front yard. Stanton believed that Patrick had committed a jailable misdemeanor by disobeying his order, “fear[ed] for [his] safety” and made the “split-second decision” to kick open the gate. Sims was behind the gate when it flew open, striking and injuring Sims. Sims sued under 42 U.S.C 1983. The district court granted summary judgment to Stanton. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Stanton’s warrantless entry was unconstitutional because Sims had the same expectation of privacy in her curtilage as in her home itself, there was no immediate danger, and Patrick had committed only a minor offense; under clearly established law Stanton’s pursuit of Patrick did not justify warrantless entry and Stanton was not entitled to qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, noting that courts nationwide are divided on whether an officer with probable cause to arrest a suspect for a misdemeanor may enter a home without a warrant while in hot pursuit of that suspect. The Ninth Circuit read “too broadly” Supreme Court precedent that did not involve hot pursuit. The Court did not determine whether Stanton’s entry was constitutional; Stanton may have been mistaken in believing his actions were justified, but was not “plainly incompetent.”

Read more: High court rules for police in chase of suspect onto private property

Continue reading