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San Francisco Partners Gregg Thornton and Danielle Lewis Secure Victory in the Ninth Circuit Affirming Judgment For Benicia in Civil Rights Lawsuit

The plaintiff was arrested by Benicia Police personnel on two separate occasions.  In the first instance, the police were called to a Starbucks by patrons because the plaintiff appeared to be intoxicated and acting belligerently.  When police arrived to assess the situation, it was determined that the plaintiff was intoxicated to such an extent that he could not take care of himself, and that he posed a risk of harm to others.  Ultimately, the plaintiff was arrested and taken to jail.

Next, the plaintiff was arrested by Benicia Police personnel when the police were called to respond to an instance of alleged spousal abuse.  After conducting a thorough investigation, it was determined that there was probable cause to arrest the plaintiff.  Once again, the plaintiff was taken to jail.

When the District Attorney elected to drop the criminal charges against the plaintiff, in both instances, the plaintiff sued in District Court, alleging that the police wrongfully arrested the plaintiff, that the police engaged in excessive force against the plaintiff during the arrests and that the police conducted illegal searches and seizures incident to arrest.  Ultimately, after some initial motion practice, the plaintiff was allowed to proceed against the police personnel for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights on theories of false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, as well as excessive force.

The police officer defendants brought a motion for summary judgment.  Specifically, the defendants argued that the uncontroverted material facts demonstrated that the police had probable cause to arrest in both instances, that the level of force used to accomplish each arrest was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, and that any searches or seizures that occurred were lawful.  The District Court agreed with the defendants' arguments and granted the motion for summary judgment as to all claims against all defendants.  Judgment has been entered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff.

The plaintiff appealed the District Court's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The appellate court held that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for the police officers because the plaintiff failed to raise any genuine material facts disputing that:  (1) consent had been given to enter the dwelling to arrest the plaintiff, (2) the plaintiff's two arrests were properly performed pursuant to probable cause and (3) the force used on the plaintiff, in connection with his arrests, was objectively reasonable. 


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