Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Summary Judgement on Unlawful Arrest, Excessive Force Claims Properly Denied to Officers

Morris v. Noe, -- F.3d --, 2012 WL 604170 (10th Cir. 2/27/12) (OK) - A 42 USC ยง 1983 civil rights case holding the district court properly denied summary judgment based on qualified immunity to defendant police officer who threw Morris to the ground, severely injuring him, despite the fact Morris presented no threat to officer safety and had not engaged in suspicious activity. An unreasonable level of force transforms a Terry detention into an arrest requiring probable cause. Here because Morris was unarmed and did not threaten anyone, the officer could not have reasonably believed there was probable cause to arrest Morris for assault. The officer had no reason to arrest Morris for any offense. And because Morris posed no threat to the officer or anyone else and did not resist or flee, Morris had a clearly established right to be free from a forceful takedown. Thus, the police officer defendant was not entitled to qualified immunity on either the unlawful arrest or excessive force claim.