JURIST Digital Scholars
Supreme Court sends police excessive force case back to appeals court
3839153 / Pixabay
Supreme Court sends police excessive force case back to appeals court

The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded in part an excessive use of force case against two police officers from Escondido, California who were responding to a domestic violence 911 call in April 2013.

Marty Emmons, who was arrested by Officer Robert Craig, later sued both Officer Craig and Sergeant Kevin Toth, another officer at the scene, for use of excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Emmons sought monetary damages for which both Sergeant Toth and Officer Craig would be personally responsible.

Sergeant Toth was granted summary judgement by the District Court because he did not himself apprehend Emmons. The Court also rejected the excessive force claim against Officer Craig in a summary judgement because, based on body camera footage, they found that he acted in the manner prescribed for the particular situation.

The 9th Circuit reversed and remanded for trial against both Sergeant Toth and Officer Craig on the excessive force claims, citing their own precedent in a 2013 case, stating, “The right to be free of excessive force was clearly established at the time of the events in question.”

In an unsigned opinion he Court stated,

We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals as to Sergeant Toth, and vacate and remand as to Officer Craig. With respect to Sergeant Toth, the Ninth Circuit offered no explanation for its decision. The court’s unexplained reinstatement of the excessive force claim against Sergeant Toth was erroneous—and quite puzzling in light of the District Court’s conclusion that “only Defendant Craig was involved in the excessive force claim” and that Emmons “fail[ed] to identify contrary evidence.