Police Practices

Porter Scott has the honor of representing police agencies and the public safety officers that work for them. We understand the unique and complex environment in which police agencies operate. Our breadth of experience, and understanding of police agencies, ensures that our clients’ interests are always protected.

Every day, actions by police agencies are the subject of news reports.  Maintaining the trust and integrity of the police agency is a paramount consideration.  Litigation can undermine that trust.  That is why it is so important to have counsel that is experienced and understands that a myriad of factors must be considered in determining the best course of action for any litigated matter.  We have that experience.  We have handled a comprehensive assortment of issues ranging from pre litigation counseling to matters presented before the United States Supreme Court.

Our experience includes handling the following:

  • Pitchess  motions
  • Administrative proceedings
  • Use of force
  • False arrest
  • Search and seizures
  • Detainment and jail operations

Obtained summary judgment on behalf of the County of Tehama in a civil rights case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Tehama County Sheriff’s Department conducted an undercover investigation into allegations that the plaintiff, a convicted felon, brandished firearms at passing motorists who he believed were trespassing on his property. During the course of the officers’ interaction with plaintiff outside his property, the plaintiff ran toward a high-powered rifle. The officers were able to safely detain the plaintiff before he reached the rifle. Plaintiff filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming that the officers unlawfully searched his property, unlawfully detained him, used excessive force, and conspired to murder him. In granting summary judgment, the Tehama County Superior Court held that an emergency existed that permitted the officers to enter plaintiff’s property without a warrant and detain him, the officers had probable cause to believe plaintiff was in unlawful possession of a firearm, the officers did not use excessive force as a matter of law, and there was no evidence to support a claim that the officers conspired to murder the plaintiff.

Crime Justice & America (CJA) sued Butte County because the Sheriff would not allow physical distribution of its free publication giving general legal advice to inmates in jail.  The County did not oppose distribution because of content, but due to the threat of jail security from the vast quantity of unwanted paper.  The Ninth Circuit had previously recognized that CJA had a First Amendment free speech right to distribute, as long as CJA could demonstrate under the four Turner factors concerning legitimate penological objectives that distribution would not unduly disrupt jail operations. Following a bench trial (and appeal) successfully defended by Porter Scott’s John Whitefleet and appellate expert, Thomas Riordan, the judgment was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit because the Turner factors had indeed been correctly applied in favor of the County.  Given that the inmates now had access to the publication through numerous electronic kiosks installed in the jail, there was no constitutional violation.  Crime Justice & America, Inc. v. Honea (9th Cir., Nov. 29, 2017, No. 15-16119) 2017 WL 5762809 [published opinion].

Successfully brought a Demurrer resulting in dismissal of entire action on behalf of County Sheriff’s Department on the basis of Eleventh Amendment Immunity. The plaintiff sued alleging that the Sheriff’s Department deprived her of medical care while she was being detained in a sober cell. Plaintiff alleged that the County had a custom and practice of depriving inmates of medical care for serious medical needs. The Court held that in the provision of law enforcement duties the Sheriff’s Department is a state actor entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity and dismissed the entire action.

Obtained defense verdict in favor of deputy sheriff . Plaintiff alleged the deputy illegally entered his property and used excessive force. The jury unanimously found that entering the property was permissible and the amount of forced used was appropriate under the circumstances.

Defended large county against claims that the county’s jail, one of the largest in the nation, did not provide sufficient accommodation to disabled persons. Successfully established plaintiff’s lack of Article III standing at the pleadings stage, preventing plaintiff from obtaining injunctive relief that would require significant overhaul of county detention facilities. Obtained summary judgment in County’s favor against plaintiff’s damages claims under state and federal law, establishing no monetary liability for County’s alleged failure to provide accessible detention facilities.

Important Update on Qualified Immunity

US Supreme Court grants Qualified Immunity The doctrine of qualified immunity, when properly applied, shields law enforcement from burdensome litigation and armchair quarterbacking in federal court. In its first decision of 2017, White v. Pauly, …

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ADA Update: DOJ To Make Jails Subject to Accessible Design Guidelines

by: Stephen E. Horan and Kevin M. Kreutz Starting March 2012, public entities must design, construct and renovate their jail facilities to comply with the design standards set forth in the Americans With Disabilities Act.  This …

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