U.S. Supreme Court Overturns $4 Million Judgment and Sides With Orrick Team In Major Excessive Force Case

May.30.2017

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously backed an Orrick appellate team’s arguments on behalf of Los Angeles County and two sheriff’s deputies in a closely-watched case about a 2010 police shooting. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had found the deputies could be held liable for excessive force under the “provocation rule,” but the Supreme Court rejected that conclusion, siding entirely with the position advocated by Orrick partner Josh Rosenkranz and our team.

The Supreme Court decision, which establishes important precedent for police departments around the country, stems from a lawsuit filed by a couple shot and wounded in a backyard shack in Lancaster, California by sheriff’s deputies searching for a wanted parole violator. The deputies believed the man, who had a BB gun, was armed, firing shots that wounded him and his pregnant girlfriend.

The Ninth Circuit accepted a lower court’s ruling that the deputies’ decision to fire was reasonable. But it nevertheless held the shooting unreasonable—and held them liable for $4 million in damages—because the deputies provoked the shooting by entering the shack without a warrant. In a decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court rejected this “provocation rule” and sent the case back to the lower courts for further review.

“We hold that the Fourth Amendment provides no basis for such a rule,” the court wrote. “A different Fourth Amendment violation cannot transform a later, reasonable use of force into an unreasonable seizure.”

The decision can be found here.

In addition to Josh, head of Orrick’s Supreme Court and Appellate Practice, the Orrick team on the case included senior counsel Tom Bondy, partner Andrew Silverman and associates Matthew Bush, Cynthia Stein, Benjamin Aiken and Logan Dwyer.