From Reason: The Supreme Court Says You Can Sue Cops Who Frame You on False Charges


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7 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon

    Gonna have to see if I can parse the reasoning of the dissent.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon

      Here’s the opener. The first paragraph made me miss Scalia.

      Homer described the mythical chimera as a “grim monster” made of “all lion in front, all snake behind, all goat between.” The Iliad p. 201 (R. Fagles trans. 1990). Today, the Court creates a chimera of a constitutional tort by stitching together elements ta ken from two very different claims: a Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure claim and a common-law malicious-prosecution claim.
      The Court justifies this creation on the ground that malicious prosecution is the common-law tort that is most analogous to an unreasonable seizure claim. And because a common-law malicious-prosecution claim demanded proof of a favorable termination, the Court holds that its new creation includes that element. But this Court has never held that the Fourth Amendment houses a malicious-prosecution claim, and the Court defends its analogy with just two sentences of independent analysis and a reference to a body of lower court cases.
      I cannot agree with that approach.


  2. CJColucci

    It used to be the rule in some circuits, including the one where I practice, that for a federal civil rights claim based on malicious prosecution, the prosecution must have terminated in a way favorable to the plaintiff. Everyone agrees that if you get convicted, you don’t have a malicious prosecution claim. But the issue was whether it was enough that it ended without a conviction, or did the termination of the prosecution have to be on grounds that at least suggested actual innocence? The circuits were divided and — unless you adopt the dissent’s view that you can’t bring such a claim at all — it had to be decided some way or other and the Supremes decided that any termination that effectively ended the case without possibility of a conviction later is good enough.
    That’s one of those questions where it is more important that there be some definite answer rather than that there be any particular answer, so — meh.
    The dissent, however, says the federal civil rights statute doesn’t permit actions based on malicious prosecution at all, and that all the many lower-court cases based on malicious prosecution are based on a misunderstanding of a Supreme Court case named Albright. And to be fair, Albright was a fractured decision where no view gathered majority support, so back to first principles. The logic, as best I understand it, is that the statute itself doesn’t create claims, which is true, so the source of the right you claim has been violated must be something else. There are two reasonable possibilities, the 4th Amendment and substantive due process.
    It seems to be generally accepted that the source is the 4th Amendment rather than substantive due process. Why? Because, that’s why. Several Justices don’t like substantive due process, admittedly a silly name, and won’t root a claim in SDP if a more specific amendment seems to provide the proper home.
    So the 4th Amendment it is. And there is no doubt that you can bring a false arrest claim, based on the 4th Amendment, because it forbids unreasonable “seizures,” an arrest is a “seizure,” and a false arrest is an unreasonable seizure. But a malicious prosecution claim does not require a “seizure,” just a bunch of lying SOBs who commence a prosecution without probable cause. Does this mean that you might be able to bring a malicious prosecution claim if you were “seized,” like with an arrest, or detention pending trial, but not otherwise? Well, that is messy and it’s cleaner to say you can’t bring a malicious prosecution claim at all under the 4th amendment.
    Why doesn’t this suggest that maybe SDP is the right “home” for the claim after all? Beats me. But there it is. I don’t say it makes a great deal of sense, but that seems to be what they have in mind.Report

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