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February 12, 2016
  J.H. v. Bernalillo County - Tenth Circuit
Case Name: J.H. v. Bernalillo County

Headline: Tenth Circuit Holds Schoolhouse Arrest of Special Education Student Did not Violate Fourth Amendment or ADA

Area of Law: Fourth Amendment, Americans With Disabilities Act

Issue Presented: Whether a school officer: 1) had probable cause to arrest a special needs child who kicked a teacher; 2) used excessive force in handcuffing the child and transporting her to the juvenile detention center; 3) discriminated against the child on the basis of disability; and 4) failed to reasonably accommodate the child during an arrest and transport.

Brief Summary:

After observing 11 year-old special needs student (Child) kick a teacher, a school resource officer handcuffed and transported Child to a juvenile detention center. Child's Mother sued the officer and his employer, Bernalillo County, for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) via 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court dismissed the due process claim and granted summary judgment to Defendants on the remaining claims.

Mother appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding with respect to the constitutional arguments that the officer had probable cause to arrest Child after she committed a crime and did not use excessive force. The Tenth Circuit also rejected the ADA arguments because there was no reason for the officer to believe Child lacked the necessary scienter and Child never asked for an accommodation.

Extended Summary:

A school officer observed an 11 year-old special needs student (Child) kick a teacher. Since battery of a school official is a crime, the officer handcuffed and transported Child to a juvenile detention center. Child's Mother sued the officer and his employer, Bernalillo County, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment, Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She asserted that the officer arrested Child without probable cause and used excessive force in handcuffing and transporting Child to a juvenile detention center. And the officer discriminated against Child for having a disability and failed to reasonably accommodate Child's disability.

The district court dismissed the due process claim because the factual allegations did not implicate the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court also granted summary judgment to Defendants on the Fourth Amendment and ADA claims on qualified immunity grounds. Mother appealed.

First, the Tenth Circuit held that once Child committed a crime by kicking the teacher, the officer had probable cause to arrest her. See Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 354 (2001).

Second, the Tenth Circuit held that the officer did not apply excessive force because the officer could restrict Child's freedom of movement by handcuffing her. See Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 386 F.3d 1148, 1156 (D.C.Cir.2004). Also, state law authorized the officer to take her to a detention center as opposed to taking her to her parents. See NMSA 1978, §§ 32A-210(A)(1), (A)(3).

Third, the Tenth Circuit agreed that the officer did not violate the ADA, as the officer properly arrested Child on the basis that she committed a crime, not on the basis of her disability. See Roberts v. City of Omaha, 723 F.3d 966, 973-74 (8th Cir.2013); see also 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

Fourth, the Tenth Circuit held that the officer did not fail to reasonably accommodate Child's learning disability because he did not know, or have reason to know, that Child was an individual with a disability needing accommodations. See Robertson v. Las Animas Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 500 F.3d 1185, 1996 (10th Cir.2007); see also 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A).

Additionally, the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the Due Process claim because actions for excessive force and unlawful arrest are governed by the Fourth Amendment, not the Fourteenth. See Estate of Booker v. Gomez, 745 F.3d 405 (10th Cir.2014). The Tenth Circuit also rejected claims against Bernalillo County for inadequate training because an employer is not liable unless the employee commits a constitutional or statutory violation. See Estate of Ellis v. Odgen City, 589 F.3d 1099, 1104-05 (10th Cir.2009). There was no such violation here.

To read the full opinion, please visit: https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/14/14-2068.pdf

Panel: Bacharach, Ebel, and McHugh

Date of Issued Opinion: November 27, 2015

Docket Number: No. 14-2068

Decided: The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal and grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.

Case Alert Author: Veronica C. Gonzales

Counsel:

Joseph P. Kennedy, Kennedy Kennedy & Ives, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Shannon L. Kennedy and Michael L. Timm, Jr., Kennedy Kennedy & Ives, Albuquerque, New Mexico, with him on the briefs), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Luis Robles, Robles, Rael & Anaya, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Taylor S. Rahn, Robles, Rael & Anaya, Albuquerque, New Mexico, with him on the briefs), for Defendants-Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Hon. Robert E. Bacharach

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Dawinder S. Sidhu

    Posted By: Veronica Gonzales @ 02/12/2016 12:14 AM     10th Circuit  

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