« JOTWELL: Azad on McAlister on unpublished dispositions | Main | The Case for Teacher-Created Supplemental Learning Guides »

Friday, November 29, 2019

More state action and private vendettas

I wrote awhile back about a case in which police officers took private action against a citizen (trashing his car) based on a personal vendetta resulting from a professional dispute (the citizen filed a departmental complaint about them). The Seventh Circuit found no state action in an analogous case. A citizen shouted at a police officer while he was making an arrest and criticized the officer (and perhaps threatened his family) on Facebook, prompting the officer to file a criminal complaint with a fellow officer, prompting that officer to arrest the citizen. The court held that, although the original interaction came when the officer was on the job, he acted as a private citizen in filing a criminal complaint with another officer, who then pursued those charges.

The Seventh Circuit's analysis would reject the potential claim in the earlier case. I imagine the court would say the officers acted as private citizens in trashing the guy's car and it is not enough that the dispute traces to official police conduct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 29, 2019 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


Just clarification to my comment:

One may notice, that the advice concerning probable cause, had been given to James, not Peebles the officer at issue here. But yet, we have the previous phone call between them both, and the whole chain of connection,that in sum, raises grave concerns in this regard of private Vs. public or on duty.


Posted by: El roam | Nov 29, 2019 12:16:48 PM

Interesting and important case. Yet, not so simple. Barnes could claim, that the police officer, hadn't acted really like private citizen. Or at least, hell of private one. It is mentioned there in the ruling, that, Peebles ( the police officer at issue) I quote:

called Assistant State's Attorney Melissa Doran. The prosecutor told Peebles she could not tell him what to do but that he could file a report like a private citizen if he desired. Peebles then called Sergeant James about the Facebook posts and the conversation with Doran. He told James he felt Barnes had threatened his family.

And later I quote:

Sergeant James dispatched another officer to Peebles's house to take a written voluntary statement.

Later on, James texted the assistant state's attorney, and I quote:

Sgt. James: Hey Melissa, its [J.] [J]ames. I talked with [Peebles] and just wanted to clarify before we acted. You want us to arrest her after 9 but no offense report just a vague pc [probable cause] sheet?

Prosecutor Doran: Pretty much. That will give me a chance to talk to Matt about it before he decided right away what to do with the case[.] However, as I told [Peebles], I can't tell you guys that you should or should not arrest anyone. That discretion lies solely with you. As the statute re: intimidation of a public official is written this is a debatable case since it isn't clear to me whether this was a specific unique threat of harm vs a generalized threat of harm (as the statute reads). As always however, what may not be able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt still may have probable cause since it is a much lower burden.

End of quotation:

So, we have here,a sort of direct chain or reactions and connections. This is not the way, a private citizen would act naturally. No private citizen would have such direct lines and connections to the prosecutor for example, taking his advice and acting in accordance or not ( stating implicitly that there is no guilt necessarily, but probable cause for arrest ). Well:

One may argue, that using hell of "administrative structure" like that one, renders it, under color indeed.


Posted by: El roam | Nov 29, 2019 11:56:23 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.