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9.26 Qualified Immunity (Comment only)

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9.26 QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

Comment 

"Qualified immunity is ‘an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation.’ " Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, (1985)). In Saucier, the Supreme Court established a two-prong analysis for qualified immunity cases. In Pearson v. Callahan, ___ U.S.____, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009), however, the Supreme Court held that this two-step inquiry is no longer "an inflexible requirement," explaining "that, while the sequence set forth [in Saucier ] is often appropriate, it should no longer be regarded as mandatory. " Thus, it is within a trial court’s "sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand." Id.

In Ramirez v. City of Buena Park, the Ninth Circuit reiterated the two-step analysis as follows:

Under Saucier’s first prong, we consider whether, "[t]aken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, ... the facts alleged show the officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right." Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151. Where disputed issues of fact remain, we view the facts in the light most favorable to Ramirez, the non-moving party. See Beier v. City of Lewiston, 354 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir.2004). "If no constitutional right would have been violated were the allegations established, there is no necessity for further inquiries concerning qualified immunity." Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201.

Under Saucier’s second prong, we ask "whether the right was clearly established." Id. To be "clearly established," the " ‘contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.’ " Id. at 202, 121 S.Ct. 2151 (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)). The dispositive inquiry is "whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted." Id. "If the officer’s mistake as to what the law requires is reasonable, ... the officer is entitled to the immunity defense." Id. at 205.

Ramirez v. City of Buena Park, 560 F.3d 1012, 1020 (9th Cir. 2009).

The committee has not formulated any instructions concerning qualified immunity because most issues of qualified immunity are resolved before trial.

Approved 8/2009