Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Longoria v. Pinal County (9th Cir. - Oct. 10, 2017)

Sometimes you write impassioned pleas to justice.  Sometimes you're writing to the Supreme Court to try to convince it not to reverse you.

Today's opinion reads like the latter.

It's a Judge Reinhardt opinion in a police shooting case that reverses the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

That single sentence is all you have to know to understand why the opinion is moderate, restrained, and extraordinarily careful in its analysis.

Judge Reinhardt has three things going for him in this regard.  First, it's a unanimous opinion, with no dissent.  Second, he's got Judge Kozinski -- who's on the panel -- on his side.  Would it be even better if he had a law-and-order, don't-care-about-civil-rights-in-the-slightest conservative on the panel and on his side as well?  Sure.  But Judge Kozinski helps at least a little.

Finally, there are the actual facts.  Summed up by Judge Reinhardt as follows:  "Pinal County Deputy Sheriff Heath Rankin fired two shots into Manuel Longoria’s back and killed him just as he was raising his hands above his head. . . . Rankin shot Longoria after the car chase had ended. Longoria’s car was fully immobilized; he was surrounded by armed officers, and his erratic driving no longer posed any threat to bystanders. He had been hit by several bean bag rounds shot from close range as well as a taser dart. Viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Longoria, the inquiry is thus whether he posed an immediate threat to Rankin or the many officers around him, or whether a reasonable officer would have perceived Longoria to be an immediate threat, after the non-lethal force was used but before Rankin shot him dead."

Plus there's a video of the whole thing.

All that's very helpful to Judge Reinhardt's opinion.

We'll see soon enough if that's enough to avoid en banc review (or dissents from the denial of such review) and/or a grant of certiorari from the Supreme Court.

But one thing's for sure.  Judge Reinhardt's trying his best.