Friday, June 18, 2004

Denial of qualified immunity reversed for officers in case of detainee who suffocated

In Parish v. Cleveland, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the individual defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

The panel included Judge Williams, Judge King, and Judge Luttig, each of whom wrote separately, with Judge Luttig dissenting. Judge King, in his concurrence, opined that the case was a close one, but he felt the evidence did not show deliberate indifference, only negligence.

In his dissent, Judge Luttig began with his view that the Circuit's qualified immunity cases have become erratic:

"With today’s decision, this court completes the turn of both the deliberate indifference and qualified immunity doctrines on their heads, so confounding these two important doctrines that it is literally impossible in the first instance to make principled predictions as to what conduct will and will not be considered to constitute "deliberate
indifference," and, upon a finding of such, to make like predictions as to the availability of qualified immunity."

Judge Williams' opinion, commenting on the dissent, notes that Judge Luttig's discontent with some of these precedents has been expressed more than once in his earlier dissents.

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