Friday, October 13, 2017
Qualified Immunity Bars Action by Man Arrested Through Deputies’ Error
Sheriff’s Deputies Went to House on Hawthorne Street Instead of Hawthorne Drive, To Make Arrest; Homeowner Was Handcuffed, Taken to Station
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday reversed the denial of summary judgment sought by three San Bernardino deputy sheriffs, one of whom shoved a man against a wall, handcuffed him and arrested him in front of his home after he disclaimed any knowledge of the person being sought.
The deputies were seeking to execute an arrest warrant for Erik Ford, described as having blond hair and green eyes and weighing 180 lbs. They encountered the plaintiff, insurance broker Daniel Matthew McGuigan, who has black hair, blue eyes, and weighs 215 lbs.
McGuigan was on the front porch of his house, located on Hawthorne Street in Ranch Cucamonga. The address for Ford was on Hawthorne Drive, in a different zip code area.
When McGuigan failed to identify himself, Deputy Charles Nichols arrested him.
Following his release, McGuigan sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for false arrest and use of excessive force. Chief Judge Virginia A. Phillips denied summary judgment to the defendants, Deputies Nichols, Charles Mulligan, and Paul Schaefer.
In reversing, the opinion found similarities in the appearance of Ford and McGuigan. Both were white males with three years difference in their ages.
To defeat qualified immunity, the opinion says, McGuigan was obliged to show a violation of a clearly established federal constitutional right. It observes:
“Here, McGuigan has not carried this burden; he has not identified law that would make it obvious to all reasonable officers, in the Defendants-Appellants’ place, that what they did violated federal law. Thus, we cannot conclude that it was obvious to all reasonable officers (1) that despite the physical similarities between McGuigan and Ford, and their two addresses, an officer could not reasonably suspect McGuigan was Ford or was harboring Ford; or (2) that it was excessive force to restrain McGuigan against a wall and refuse to loosen his handcuffs, though McGuigan did not complain of pain. Defendants-Appellants are entitled to qualified immunity with regard to McGuigan’s detention and the force used to effect McGuigan’s arrest.”
McGuigan also sued for malicious prosecution.
“Because Defendants-Appellants are entitled to qualified immunity with regard to McGuigan’s detention and arrest,” the opinion says, “there is no basis for a malicious prosecution claim.”
The case is McGuigan v. County of San Bernardino, No. 16-55492.
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