Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Davis v. City of Las Vegas (9th Cir. - Feb. 28, 2007)

There's no one I'd rather have on the panel if I was the plaintiff in a police brutality case than Judge Reinhardt. And I'd positively salivate if I knew he was the one who was going to author the opinion.

Which he does here.

Who wins, you might ask? I'll give you a hint. Here's the first paragraph of the opinion:

"Once again we confront the question whether a police officer’s use of force during the arrest of an unarmed citizen was sufficiently excessive to violate the citizen’s clearlyestablished constitutional rights. Officer David Miller of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department responded to a call from the Las Vegas Club Hotel & Casino informing him that security personnel had encountered Frankie Davis reading a magazine in an area of the Casino not open to the public. After Davis, who had been handcuffed by Casino employees and remained handcuffed throughout his encounter with Officer Miller, refused to consent to being searched by the officer,
Miller slammed him head-first into a wall several times, pinned him against the floor, and punched him in the face. At some point during this encounter, Miller fractured Davis’s neck. Davis was unarmed at all times."

Now, Judge Reinhardt doesn't expressly tell you in this paragraph who's going to win. But if you can't figure it out, well, honestly, you're just not that bright.

Truthfully, I think that Judge Reinhardt is correct, and that the officer doesn't have qualified immunity, or at least not sufficient to obtain summary judgment. And Judges Noonan and Thomas agree.

Apart from the merits, I guess the "new" Las Vegas is somewhat like the old Las Vegas. At least when it comes to getting slammed into the floor and having your neck broken. It happens. Don't mess with the casinos. Or the LVPD. That said, it's still somewhat different than the old Las Vegas, as nowadays there's potentially a legal remedy for the violation of your rights. You're not just buried in a hole in the desert.

Ah, progress.