Thursday, June 17, 2004

Various state appeals court opinions used to show law not clear for purposes of qualified immunity

In Owens v. Lott, earlier this week, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Traxler, joined by Judges Michael and Shedd, concluded that the conduct of the defendants in a case under 42 U.S.C. 1983 violated the Fourth Amendment but that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.

One thing that is interesting about the case is how the Court went about the analysis of figuring whether the plaintiff's constitutional rights were clearly established. The Court took into account appellate court decisions from a number of state courts, noting that "these decisions provide no clear view, let alone a consensus, regarding what factors are most significant in deciding whether sufficient probable cause exists to support the search of 'all persons' found in a private residence being searched for drugs."

I think this is an interesting and useful opinion for defendants asserting the qualified immunity defense.

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