Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fellow has a case after the police threw him out of the courthouse

This guy went with his attorney to the Albany County Courthouse to review a court file. He waited in a public area while his lawyer went inside. An officer came around and kicked plaintiff out of the waiting area. It is not clear why the office did this, but he used excessive force in throwing plaintiff out of the waiting area. Plaintiff sues under the Fourth Amendment alleging an unlawful seizure.

The case is Salmon v. Blesser, decided on September 10. This case may look like an easy one, but the district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim. In dismissing the case, the district court cited Sheppard v. Beerman, a Second Circuit case from 1996 that held that a former law clerk was not seized under the Fourth Amendment when court officers ordered him to leave his former employer's chambers and escorted him from the courthouse. Since the former clerk could go wherever he wanted except for the judge's chambers, he was not seized. The Court of Appeals now holds that the Albany County Courthouse guy has a case despite Sheppard, which is distinguished.

Sheppard is not on point because the officer physically grabbed Salmon "without encountering reprisal or resistance" and "use[d] painful force to control Salmon's movements. That distinguishes this case from Sheppard, where no physical force was used." The Second Circuit (Jacobs, Raggi nad Lynch) tries to limit this holding, however:

To be clear, we do not here hold that any physical contact will transform an order to depart a public place into a Fourth Amendment seizure. But where such an order is accompanied by the use of sufficient force intentionally to restrain a person and gain control of his movements—as the collar grab and arm twisting allegedly did here—we conclude that a Fourth Amendment seizure is plausibly alleged.

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