Monday, October 4, 2010

Northern California Judges Rule in Civil Rights Cases

Benjamin Franklin Butler drafted the
Enforcement Act of 1871.  Photo
courtesy of wikisource.
Two Northern District of California judges recently ruled on civil rights cases.

In Buckheit v. Dennis, the plaintiff called police because his girlfriend attacked him.  He claims officers arrested him without probable cause where it was legally impossible for him to be convicted of inflicting an injury upon a co-habitant (he didn't attack anyone).  He argues that the city and county have a policy of always arresting males in domestic disturbances regardless of fault.  The county responds that it did not hire the officers (the City of Atherton did) and it had no responsibility for them.  Magistrate Joseph C. Spero disagreed and stated that if what Mr. Buckheit is alleging is true that there was an agreement between the city and county to arrest males in domestic disturbances then that is enough for Monell liability to attach to the county.  The Court denied the County's motion to dismiss.

Conception v. Tilton involves an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison who disputes the warden's decision to validate him as a member of the Northern Structure prison gang.  Under the prison regulations, to be validated as a gang member the warden must have three independent pieces of evidence.  In this case they were a letter sent to a woman, not a prisoner, who had a reputation of moving letters between gang members and two confidential reports.  Mr. Conception states that this is insufficient either because the letter didn't mean anything or because the reports were identical.  Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong reviewed the reports under seal and determined that they were different and provided "some evidence" for the warden's decision.  Judge Armstrong granted summary judgment for the warden.

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