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Close Translate. When analyzing qualified immunity, courts conduct a two-part inquiry.

District Court

The court must first consider the threshold inquiry of whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, show the defendants' conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, U.

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If a constitutional right has not been violated, it is unnecessary to inquire further regarding qualified immunity. Saucier, U. If a violation could be established on the facts alleged, the second inquiry is whether the right was clearly established at the time the violation occurred.

States have no general affirmative obligation to protect individuals against private violence. DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Soc. However, substantive due process requires a state to protect individuals under two theories.

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First, the state owes a duty to protect those in its custody. Gregory v. City of Rogers, F. Second, the state owes a duty to protect individuals if the state created the danger to which the individuals are subjected. Lewis, U. Uhlrig v. Harder, 64 F. Mere negligence is not conscience-shocking and cannot support a claim alleging a violation of a plaintiff's substantive due process rights.

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Terry B. Gilkey, F.

McMullen, F. DeShaney, U. We conclude the plaintiffs failed to show Detective Wake violated their substantive due process rights.

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Nothing Detective Wake actually did made the Vasquezes any more vulnerable than they would have been once Karl discovered Jessica's involvement with the Vasquezes and drugs. Detective Wake had no grounds to arrest or restrain Karl, could not have held Nicholas once he posted bond, and did not cause Karl to get drunk and go to the Vasquez apartment more than five weeks after the initial encounter between Karl and the Vasquezes.

Detective Wake was essentially a messenger who, as part of his duties, informed Karl about the investigation and used Karl's wife Maria as a CI on one occasion. That Karl acted violently and unpredictably more than five weeks later does not give rise to a substantive due process claim.


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Cleburne County, 93 F. Additionally, Detective Wake's actions did not place Nicholas in any greater danger than he otherwise would have faced. Karl was understandably upset, as any concerned parent would be, and the fact he made a threat at the time did not make it obvious or inevitable Karl would harm Nicholas five weeks later.

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Furthermore, any claim that the officers' deception of Jessica and her family about her possible sentence in any way caused the shooting is baseless because, before the shooting date, the state decided not to prosecute Jessica at all. Furthermore, Karl's anger was apparently triggered or fueled immediately before the shooting by the breakup between Michael and Jessica. Karl retaliated by stating Nicholas had better care, and then Karl shot Nicholas. The shooting in this case was simply too remote a consequence to constitute a substantive due process violation.

Detective Wake's actions relative to the investigation clearly were neither immediate nor proximate to the shooting. See Dorothy J. Little Rock Sch. Detective Wake's actions also do not shock the conscience by intentionally or wrongfully disregarding a known danger by failing to conduct a background check on Karl. Detective Wake did not know about Karl's criminal history. Thus, Detective Wake's failure to investigate Karl cannot be considered more than negligence.

See Terry B. Had Detective Wake done the background check on Karl, this would have merely reinforced the decision not to use Karl as a CI. The officers' failure to conduct a background check on a person they did not intend to use as a CI is not conscience-shocking.

To find Detective Wake violated the plaintiffs' substantive due process rights in this case would create a difficult situation for police officers. Requiring officers to act upon every threat they hear could expose the officers to claims of civil liability for false arrest. Ricketts v. City of Columbia, 36 F. In Ricketts, we observed that to hold an officer's failure to arrest an individual for one incident of harassment which causes a subsequent incident of violence would remove a fundamental part of our criminal justice system-an officer's discretion to decide when to arrest.

Harris, U. In this case, no probable cause or other reasonable justification existed for detaining Karl on April 5, , or anytime before the shooting on May 11, Because we conclude Detective Wake did not violate the plaintiffs' substantive due process rights, we need not address the alternative question of whether any substantive due process rights the plaintiffs assert were clearly established at the time of Detective Wake's conduct. See Tuggle, F. The municipal defendants also argue that, because the claims against them are intertwined with our qualified immunity decision, we have jurisdiction to decide whether summary judgment was improperly denied.

The municipal defendants also argue the district court failed to apply the correct standard to the claims against the Task Force members. When an interlocutory appeal of a qualified immunity denial is before us, we also have jurisdiction to decide closely related legal issues such as pendent appellate claims. Kincade v. City of Blue Springs, 64 F. Chambers County Comm'n, U. In denying summary judgment for the municipal defendants, the district court stated the plaintiffs claimed the policies of the Task Force and its members violated Nicholas's constitutional right to substantive due process.

The district court then concluded the plaintiffs presented a sufficient claim against the municipal defendants based on the deficiencies of the Task Force policies and procedures.

Court Update Information

The district court reasoned Karl was as much a CI as Maria because the officers allowed him to accompany her. The Task Force policies at issue here are the rules regarding the use of CIs. Louis County, F. Dep't of Soc.


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