Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adams v. Speers (9th Cir. - Jan. 10, 2007)

When it rains it pours. The Ninth Circuit issued as many published opinions today as it has during the last twelve days. That's a lot.

But there are some good ones in there, and this opinion by Judge Noonan is one of them. For two reasons.

First, the opinion reminds us that the Ninth Circuit (and especially Judge Noonan) -- is a stickler for following the rules. Not just rules like page limits, citations, and the like, but substantive principles as well. Lest there be any doubt in that regard, the second paragraph of Judge Noonan's opinion should more than dissipate it. That paragraph contains some fairly blunt language, and I'm sure it caused counsel for appellant -- California Deputy A.G. Scott Wyckoff -- to cringe when he first read it:

"Preliminary to statement of the facts, we note that Officer Speers can make an interlocutory appeal from the ruling on immunity only if he accepts as undisputed the facts presented by the appellees. [Cite] As Speers’ briefs show, he is familiar with this maxim governing such appeals, but at times his briefs lapse into disputing the Adamses’ version of the facts and even into offering his own version of the facts. We regret these lapses and, as they are made by the Attorney General of the State of California defending Speers, we take this occasion to advise the Attorney General that such practice could jeopardize our jurisdiction to hear the interlocutory appeal."

Not something you want to hear at the outset of your qualified immunity appeal, eh? Nor, I'm sure, did Mr. Wyckoff like it when he got to the final paragraph of the opinion, in which Judge Noonan says (immediately prior to the word "AFFIRMED") that the result in this case is "obvious". Lesson of the day: Don't make Judge Noonan (or anyone else, for that matter) mad by appearing to play fast and loose with the facts. I guarantee you won't like the results.

Second, I won't attempt to summarize them, but it'll do one good to read the first three pages of the "Facts" section. Especially if you've ever been inclined not to stop when a police car tries to pull you over. Judge Noonan's description is, in a lot of ways, chilling. The way he wrote the opinion (and I'm pretty sure it was deliberately done this way), I definitely didn't see the part at the end of page 244 coming.

Admittedly, me telling you all this somewhat spoils the surprise. But read those three pages anyway. And don't try to run from the cops. Even on a lark. It's not a good idea. At all.