Thursday, January 6, 2022

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Addresses Qualified Immunity for Police Officers in Civil Rights Actions

In the case Third Circuit Court of Appeals case of Jefferson v. Lias, No. 20-2526 (3d. Cir. Dec. 16, 2021)(Maj. Op. by Restrepo, J.), the Court addressed the circumstances under which a Defendant police officer may be entitled to qualified immunity under a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

In this case, the district court had granted a Defendant police officer’s summary judgment motion as to the alleged use of excessive  force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The city was also granted summary judgment as to the Plaintiff’s alleged Monell claims. 

At the lower court level, the court found that the Defendant police officer’s use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances, but that, even assuming it was not, the police officer was shielded from liability in any event by the doctrine of qualified immunity because his actions did not violate any  clearly established law.

On appeal, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court had improperly weighed evidence in determining that the Plaintiff allegedly presented a danger to those in the area based upon his escape and the court found that there were factual issues to be decided by the jury.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals then also discussed the doctrine of qualified immunity and provided clarification as to how it should be determined whether a right at issue is clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK

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