Facts: FBI agents conducted a warrantless search of a residential home at night, on the basis that a bank robbery suspect was inside. Some officers had shot guns, some where in uniform and some were in plain clothes, but all were white. The family- two parents and three children- were black. The officers were said to have used force against the father and a child, as well as a phone the mother was trying to use, along with shouting phrases like “I don’t need a damn search warrant”, telling the children to “Sit their damn asses down and stop screaming”, as well as “Hang up that damn phone”.
Question: Were the FBI agents actions “Objectively Reasonable”?
Conclusion: The court held that immunity from civil liability exists so long as the official's actions could reasonably have been thought consistent with the rights they are alleged to have violated.
Bowers v. DeVito (1982)
Facts: Thomas Vanda was convicted of aggravated battery with a knife, and was diagnosed as a “schizophrenic in remission”. A year later Vanda murdered a young woman with a knife, and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. After spending five years in a mental health center, Vanda was released and soon after murdered Miss Bowers.
Question: Did the public mental health officials have a duty to protect those murdered by Vanda after his release?
Conclusion: No. According to section 1983 imposes liability on anyone who under the color of state law “subjects..any citizen..or other person..to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the constitution..” and thus applies only if there is a deprivation of a constitutional right. There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.
Beltran v. City of El Paso (2004)
Facts: After receiving a 911 call about an intoxicated and violent father, dispatch placed the call as a priority level call, under ‘family violence assault’. No police units immediately responded, and soon after the father fatally shot his wife and daughter.
Facts: A young boy was consistently beaten by his father, and after several visits from DHS- in which his injuries and living conditions, including danger to his safety were recorded- the boy was eventually beaten so badly that it caused him to sustain serious brain damage.
Question: Had the county and its employees (DHS) deprived the child of his liberty interests without due process by failing to provide adequate protection against his fathers violent acts?
Conclusion: The court held that there was no state liability under the circumstances. It noted that the due process clause of the 14th amendment does not require government actors to affirmatively protect life, liberty or property against intrusion by private third parties.
Dwares v. City of New York (1993)
Facts: Dwares was in support of a rally that was burning an American flag on the fourth of July, and a group of “skinheads”-locally known individuals who were said to have a history of racism, among other things- assaulted Dwares for his support of the flag burning rally, by chasing him and beating him with a bottle over a period of approximately ten minutes, were police were said to have stood idly by, letting the conduct happen, as long as it didn’t get “totally out of control”.
Question: Did the police officers have an affirmative duty to protect the protestor from the “Skinhead” beating?
Conclusion: No. The court ruled that, once again, the constitution and its amendments purpose was to protect the people from the state, not to ensure that the state protect them from each other, therefore no constitutional right had been deprived.
Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzalez (2005)
Facts: Approximately a month after a restraining order and visitation schedule was placed on a husband, he took his three children from their mothers home with no authorization to do so.