Brief filed: 02/07/2020
Torres v. Madrid
United States Supreme Court; Case No. 19-292
Decision below No. 18-2134 (10th Cir. May. 2, 2019)
If the Fourth Amendment does not apply here, then Ms. Torres will have no remedy at all. The Tenth Circuit’s ruling means that objectively un-reasonable police action that seriously injured the target of that action is not subject to Fourth Amendment scrutiny simply because the officer’s attempt to detain the target is initially unsuccessful. This approach is incorrect, not least because it would deprive plaintiffs like Ms. Torres of any remedy for serious injuries suffered at the hands of police officers. The decision below contradicts this Court’s jurisprudence. Furthermore, the Tenth Circuit’s approach is inconsistent with the way this Court has reviewed excessive-force cases in the past. Graham specifically held that “all claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force—deadly or not—in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other ‘seizure’ of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness’ standard.” The Tenth Circuit’s ruling expands the unjustifiably significant disparity that already exists between liability for civilians and for police officers. This Court should recalibrate the balance in our society’s laws—more respect for individual liberty, and less accommodation of police excessive force.
Jeffrey T. Green and John L. Gibbons, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC; Sarah O’Rourke Schrup, Northwestern Supreme Court Practicum, Chicago, IL; Barbara E. Bergman, NACDL, Tucson, AZ.