On May 27, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Plumhoff v. Rickard. This case presented two questions: (1) Whether the Sixth Circuit wrongly denied qualified immunity to the police officers by analyzing whether the force used was supported by subsequent case decisions rather than prohibited by clearly established law at the time the force was used; and (2) whether the Sixth Circuit further erred in holding the officers’ use of force was not reasonable as a matter of law when the suspect led police officers on a high-speed pursuit that began in Arkansas and ended in Tennessee, weaved through traffic on an interstate at a high rate of speed and made contact with the police vehicles twice, and used his vehicle in a final attempt to escape after he was surrounded by police officers, nearly hitting at least one police officer in the process.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court held that the officer's conduct did not violate the Fourth Amendment and that, even if it had, they would still be entitled to qualified immunity because they had violated no clearly established law. Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined the opinion of the Court. Justice Ginsburg joined as to the judgment and Parts I, II, and III, and Justice Breyer joined except as to part III-B-2. The decision of the Sixth Circuit was reversed and the case was remanded.
To discuss the case, we have Joshua Skinner, who is a member of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin.