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Police Not Entitled to Qualified Immunity

Rice v. Morehouse Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 18-35459, Opinion Date: March 8, 2021. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for police officers on the basis of qualified immunity in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of his constitutional rights, including his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. In this case, the officers tripped plaintiff so that he fell to the ground, pinned him down, and handcuffed him. Plaintiff fell on his face, sustained long-term physical injuries, and sustained emotional distress as a result of the encounter. The panel rejected the officers' contention that the Notice of Appeal failed to comply with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c). The panel also concluded that, although there are material facts in dispute, when the facts are taken in the light most favorable to plaintiff, a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff engaged in passive resistance and that the officers' take-down of plaintiff involved unconstitutionally excessive force. Furthermore, because the right to be free from the application of non-trivial force for engaging in mere passive resistance was clearly established at the time, the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings.

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