United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG, D.J.
immunity attaches when an official's conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known,"
City of Escondido, Cal. v. Emmons,
139 S.Ct. 500, 503 (2019) (quoting Kisela
v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148, 1152 (2018) (per
curiam)); Alfano v. Lynch, 847
F.3d 71, 75 (1st Cir. 2017). "The doctrine's
prophylactic sweep is broad: it leaves unprotected only those
officials who, 'from an objective standpoint, should have
known that their conduct was unlawful.'"
Alfano, 847 F.3d at 75 (quoting MacDonald
v. Town of Eastham, 745 F.3d 8, 11 (1st
Cir. 2014) (quoting Haley v. City of
Bos., 657 F.3d 39, 47 (1st Cir. 2011)). "Put
another way, the doctrine protects 'all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.'" Alfano, 847 F.3d at 75 (quoting
Mailey v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335,
qualified immunity analysis entails a two-step pavane."
Alfano, 847 F.3d at 75. "The first step
requires an inquiring court to determine whether the
plaintiff's version of the facts makes out a violation of
a protected right." Id. "The second step
requires the court to determine 'whether the right at
issue was 'clearly established' at the time of
defendant's alleged misconduct.'" Id.
(quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 232 (2009). "These steps, though framed
sequentially, need not be taken in order." Id.
"The 'clearly established' analysis has two
sub-parts." Id. "The first sub-part
requires the plaintiff to identify either 'controlling
authority' or a 'consensus of cases of persuasive
authority' sufficient to send a clear signal to a
reasonable official that certain conduct falls short of the
constitutional norm." Id. (quoting
Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 617
first sub-part of this analysis 'must be undertaken in
light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad
general proposition.'" Alfano, 847 F.3d at
76 (citing Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S.
194, 198, 125 S.Ct. 596, 160 L.Ed.2d 583 (2004) (per
curiam)). The Supreme Court, in City of Escondido,
Cal. v. Emmons, 139 S.Ct. 500, 503
(2019), recently emphasized the heightened level of
"This Court has repeatedly told courts ... not to define
clearly established law at a high level of generality."
Kisela, 584 U.S., at ---, 138 S.Ct., at 1152
(internal quotation marks omitted), That is particularly
important in excessive force cases, as we have explained:
"Specificity is especially important in the Fourth
Amendment context, where the Court has recognized that it is
sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the
relevant legal doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to
the factual situation the officer confronts. Use of
excessive force is an area of the law in which the result
depends very much on the facts of each case, and thus police
officers are entitled to qualified immunity unless existing
precedent squarely governs the specific facts at
“[I]t does not suffice for a court simply to state that
an officer may not use unreasonable and excessive force, deny
qualified immunity, and then remit the case for a trial on
the question of reasonableness. An officer cannot be said
to have violated a clearly established right unless the
right's contours were sufficiently definite that any
reasonable official in the defendant's shoes would have
understood that he was violating it."
Kisela, 584 U.S., at ----, 138 S.Ct., at 1152
(internal quotation marks omitted).
City of Escondido, Cal. v. Emmons,
139 S.Ct. 500, 503 (2019) (emphasis added).
second sub-part asks whether an objectively reasonable
official in the defendant's position would have known
that his conduct violated that rule of law."
Alfano v. Lynch, 847 F.3d 71, 75
(1st Cir. 2017) (citing Wilson v. City
of Bos., 421 F.3d 45, 57-58 (1st Cir. 2005)). "The
question is not whether the official actually abridged the
plaintiff's constitutional rights but, rather, whether
the official's conduct was unreasonable, given the state
of the law when he acted." Id. at 75-6 (citing
Amsden v. Moran, 904 F.2d 748, 751-52 (1st Cir.
Marie Winfield ("Winfield") and her husband Robert
originally commenced a multi-count complaint against a number
of Andover police officers. Only Winfield's claim that
Andover Police Chief Patrick Keefe ("Keefe") and
Andover Police Lieutenant Chad Cooper ("Cooper")
used excessive force when escorting her from the police
station survived the motion to dismiss Winfield
v. Town of Andover, 305 F.Supp.3d 286, 300
(D. Mass. 2018) .
Keefe and Cooper, armed with affidavits and a video recording
of the encounter at the police station, move for summary
judgment on the remaining counts. The video may be divided
into two segments - a lengthy bright depiction of the
encounter from multiple security cameras within the police
station and a shorter, much darker and blurry segment from a
single more distant security camera outside. Winfield and her
husband counter with affidavits of their own.
an objectively reasonable official in the defendant's
position would have known that his conduct violated [a
clearly established constitutional right],"
Alfano, 847 F.3d at 75, is a mixed question of fact
and law. It is the Court that establishes the legal standard
defining the "objectively reasonable official."
Here, in light of the irrefutable evidence provided by the
video inside the police station, this Court has no hesitancy
in ruling as matter of law that no reasonable police officer
would have understood their conduct to have violated
blurry video outside the police station presents a different
situation. One cannot tell specifically what is going on, and
Robert Winfield's affidavit alleges that Keefe and Cooper
pushed Marie Winfield "using as much force as
possible" and "pushed [her] as hard as they
could." Robert Winfield Aff'd ¶¶ 21-22.
there are various non-material inconsistencies in the
Winfields' affidavits and parts of them are nonsense in
non-material ways in light of what accurately can be
discerned from the video. Moreover, it would have been
utterly out of character and counter productive for Keefe and
Cooper to have spent hours entreating, cajoling, and gently
guiding Winfield out of the police station to then, having
achieved their goal, roughly to have shoved her into the
family car. Yet none of these observations makes a whit of
a jury case, triable as of right to a duly qualified jury
under the Seventh Amendment. It is the jury's
conclusions, not mine, that matter. See generally Dan M.
Kahan, David A. Hoffman & Donald Braman, Whose Eyes
Are You Going to Believe? Scott v. ...