Another Case Where Case Workers are held to the 4th Amendment Right


http://laws.findlaw.com/10th/042108.html

FILED
United States Court of Appeals
Tenth Circuit

June 14, 2005

PATRICK FISHER
Clerk
PUBLISH

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

TENTH CIRCUIT

PATRISHA JONES,

Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
No. 04-2108
DEPUTY R. HUNT, in his individual
and official capacity; THE SANDOVAL
COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS,

Defendants,

and

ALFRED HABERMAN, in his individual
capacity,

Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court
for the District of New Mexico
(D.C. No. CIV-03-362 JB/LAM)

Jane Gagne, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Daniel J. Macke, Brown & German, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Defendant-
Appellee.

——————————————————————————–
Before LUCERO and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges, and BLACKBURN,(1)
District Judge.

LUCERO, Circuit Judge.

Patrisha Jones seeks redress under 42 U.S.C.  1983 for alleged violations
of her Fourth Amendment rights arising from her seizure by two New Mexico
government officials at the Bernalillo High School where Jones was a student.
This appeal relates to the dismissal of one of the two state officials on the basis of
qualified immunity. The second official, a deputy sheriff, remains a party in the
proceedings below. Jones alleges that Alfred Haberman, a Social Worker
Supervisor for the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department
(“CYFD”), seized her at her high school with no legitimate justification,
demanded that she leave her mother’s care, and insisted that she return to her
abusive father. Haberman made these alleged demands in the face of an existing
court order assigning temporary custody to Jones’ mother and forbidding the
father from contacting Jones. The district court dismissed her claims against
Haberman on the basis of qualified immunity, finding that Haberman’s actions did
not amount to a seizure and that, even if they did, the law was not clearly
established at the time of the incident. Accepting Jones’ allegations as true, we

(1) The Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, District Judge, United States
District Court for the District of Colorado, sitting by designation.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
conclude that Haberman violated Jones’ clearly established Fourth Amendment
rights and REVERSE the district court’s order dismissing Jones’ suit.
I
When reviewing a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we accept the well-
pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Yoder v. Honeywell Inc., 104 F.3d 1215, 1224
(10th Cir. 1997). Construed in the most favorable light, the complaint reveals the
following facts.
Jones’ mother and father are not married and have been estranged for some
time. Jones had been living with her father for several years when, in the course
of an argument, Jones’ father and stepmother struck Jones, causing her to sustain
cuts on her neck and collarbone and bruising on her face. She was sixteen years
old at the time. Because her father is a former police officer and her stepmother
is a friend of the county sheriff, Jones was reluctant to report the incident. She
did, however, meet with officials at Bernalillo High School to discuss
emancipation and revealed the details of the argument during the course of her
conversation. As a result of Jones’ disclosure, Deputy R. Hunt, a law
enforcement officer employed by the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, was
dispatched to the school, apparently pursuant to the New Mexico Abuse and
Neglect Act, N.M. Stat. Ann.  32-A-4-1 to 32-A-4-33. He took Jones to the

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
sheriff’s department to meet with social worker Haberman for an investigatory
interview. At the conclusion of the interview, the two officials handed Jones over
to the custody of her adult sister, where she remained until she moved in with her
mother two months later.
Based on the incident of violence, Jones’ mother filed for a protective order
on her daughter’s behalf and obtained, on January 8, 2003, a Temporary Order of
Protection and Order to Appear (“TRO”) against Jones’ father, under the New
Mexico Family Violence Protection Act,  40-13-1 to 40-13-8. In the TRO, the
state court gave Jones’ mother temporary physical custody of Jones and prohibited
the father from having contact with Jones until further order of the court. Jones’
father was not aware that Jones was living with her mother until receiving the
TRO. On the same day that they received the TRO, Jones’ father and stepmother
met with Deputy Hunt to seek his assistance. Hunt then left that meeting and took
social worker Haberman with him to the high school. The two officials
confronted Jones and told her, contrary to the terms of the TRO, that she could
not live with her mother. They insisted that she either choose to live with her
father, again in contravention of the TRO, or move into a shelter.
Having made these demands, the officials left Jones at the high school, at
which point she went, panic-stricken, to a school resource officer and stated that
if she could not live with her mother she would kill herself. Consequently, the

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
resource officer referred Jones to a school counselor and she promptly reported to
his office. After conducting a risk assessment, the counselor determined that
Jones presented a low risk of suicide. Meanwhile, Hunt and Haberman returned
to the high school and, upon finding her in the counselor’s office, proceeded to
threaten and harass her in the presence of the counselor for over two hours. The
counselor then left, and the two officials � Hunt in uniform � proceeded to tell
Jones for an additional “hour or two” that if she did not return to her father’s
house, Hunt would arrest her, that her “life would be hell,” that Hunt and
Haberman would “be [her] shadow until [she was] eighteen, and maybe longer,”
that they would ensure that her mother was sent to prison, that there was a “zero
percent” chance that she would live with her mother, and that when she turned
eighteen, she and her mother might be “cell mates.” Jones cried throughout the
encounter, and alleged that she was “terrified of Hunt and Haberman” and “did
not even think of challenging” them.
By prearrangement with Hunt and Haberman, Jones’ father and stepmother
were waiting at the school. Jones emerged from the counselor’s office and,
complying with Hunt and Haberman’s demands, went to her father’s house. The
following day, Hunt called Jones’ mother and informed her that Jones was now
living with her father. He also falsely told Jones’ mother that the TRO had been
“reversed” and the hearing set for January 22nd was cancelled. Jones’ mother

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
learned subsequently that Hunt had misled her, and she attended the January 22nd
hearing, although she did not testify. At this point, the record is unclear as to the
result of the January 22nd hearing. The complaint alleges, in somewhat confusing
fashion, that the special commissioner declined to “issue a further restraining
order.” Jones, having contacted attorneys and received assurance that she would
not be arrested for refusing to return to her father’s home, moved into a youth
shelter the evening after the hearing.
Jones later sued Hunt and Haberman under 42 U.S.C.  1983, claiming a
violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures.(1)
On the basis of its conclusion that the altercation in the counselor’s office
between Jones and the two officials did not amount to an unconstitutional seizure
and that, even if it did, Haberman did not violate clearly established law, the
district court granted Haberman’s motion to dismiss on the basis of qualified
immunity. Jones appeals that order.
II
We review de novo a district court’s ruling on qualified immunity. Farmer
v. Perrill, 288 F.3d 1254, 1259 (10th Cir. 2002). Qualified immunity is “an
entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation.” Mitchell v.

(1) Not relevant to this appeal, Jones also asserted claims against the
Sandoval County Board of Commissioners for failure to adequately supervise and
train, and sued all defendants claiming the state tort of false imprisonment.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). Our threshold inquiry in the qualified
immunity analysis is whether, taking Jones’ allegations as true, Haberman
violated Jones’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures.
Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 736 (2002). If we conclude that Jones has alleged
constitutionally impermissible conduct, Haberman “may nevertheless be shielded
from liability for civil damages if [his] actions did not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Id. at 739 (citation omitted).
A
Applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process
Clause, the Fourth Amendment provides: “The right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures, shall not be violated . . . .” U.S. Const. amend. iv. Because the
Amendment focuses on safeguarding persons from unwarranted intrusion, and not
on regulating the behavior of particular governmental actors, the prohibition
against unreasonable seizures extends to civil, as well as criminal, investigations
by the government. See, e.g., Dubbs v. Head Start, Inc., 336 F.3d 1194, 1206
(10th Cir. 2003) (“The focus of the Amendment is thus on the security of the
person, not the identity of the searcher or the purpose of the search.”); Marshall v.
Barlow’s, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 312-13 (1978) (“If the government intrudes on a

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
person’s property, the privacy interest suffers whether the government’s
motivation is to investigate violations of criminal laws or breaches of other
statutory or regulatory standards.”). We have held that the Fourth Amendment
subjects state social workers to its requirements. See Dubbs, 336 F.3d at 1205
(“There is no `social worker’ exception to the Fourth Amendment.”).
A seizure occurs for Fourth Amendment purposes when “a reasonable
person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” Michigan v.
Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 573 (1988). In United States v. Hill, 199 F.3d 1143
(10th Cir. 1999), we identified several factors to guide our determination of
whether a person was, in fact, seized. They include:
1) the threatening presence of several officers; 2) the
brandishing of a weapon by an officer; 3) some physical
touching by an officer; 4) use of aggressive language or tone
of voice indicating that compliance with an officer’s request is
compulsory; 5) prolonged retention of a person’s personal
effects . . . ; 6) a request to accompany the officer to the
station; 7) interaction in a nonpublic place or a small, enclosed
place; 8) and absence of other members of the public.

Hill, 199 F.3d at 1147-48. We have refused to treat any of the factors cited above
as dispositive. United States v. Glass, 128 F.3d 1398, 1406 (10th Cir. 1997);
United States v. Little, 18 F.3d 1499, 1503 (10th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (“only in
rare instances will any one factor produce an inexorable conclusion that a seizure
has occurred.”). Nor are these factors exclusive. See United States v. Griffin, 7
F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993) (“we have avoided hard line rules to govern this

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
analysis, and our opinion today should not be interpreted as an exhaustive
pronouncement.”). Rather, we base our Fourth Amendment analysis on the
“totality of the circumstances.” United States v. Shareef, 100 F.3d 1491, 1505
(10th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). When viewing the totality of the
circumstances, it may be that the strong presence of two or three factors
demonstrates that a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to
terminate an encounter with government officials.
We must view Jones’ encounter with Haberman and Hunt through the eyes
of a reasonable sixteen-year-old. See Little, 18 F.3d at 1505 n.6 (“whether the
person being questioned is a child or an adult” is “relevant” to whether a person
would have felt free to leave); see also Doe v. Heck, 327 F.3d 492, 510 (7th Cir.
2003) (child “was `seized’ with[in] the meaning of the Fourth Amendment
because no reasonable child would have believed that he was free to leave”).
Seen from a such a perspective, we are inexorably driven to the conclusion that a
reasonable sixteen-year-old would not have felt free to terminate the encounter
with Hunt and Haberman.
Jones’ encounter with Hunt and Haberman, two government officials, one
of whom was in police uniform, took place in a small, confined school
counselor’s office, to which Jones had been sent by a school official after
threatening suicide. See Hill, 199 F.3d at 1147-48. Jones was a sixteen-year-old

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
girl whom these very officials had transported from the high school to the
sheriff’s department for an investigatory interview two months earlier. She knew
that they had the authority to determine her custodial care, as they had previously
turned her over to the custody of her older sister. Finding herself alone with these
two officials for an “hour or two,” Jones endured their repeated threats that if she
did not agree to live with her father, they would arrest her and follow her for at
least the next two years, ensuring that her “life would be hell.” As evidenced by
her crying, she was obviously emotionally fragile and distraught. See Little, 18
F.3d at 1505 (A citizen’s “subjective state of mind” is relevant “to the extent that
[it] may have been known to the officer and influenced his conduct.”). An
emotionally vulnerable sixteen-year-old would not have felt free to terminate that
encounter.
The district court concluded that the threats of arrest did not contribute to
the seizure, because “[a]ny compliance Haberman demanded . . . concerned Jones’
future living arrangements and did not concern an alleged inability to leave the
counselor’s office at that moment.” Construing the facts in the light most
favorable to Jones, the district court’s conclusion is incorrect. Jones was living
with her mother at the time of the encounter. A reasonable sixteen-year-old
would have interpreted Hunt and Haberman’s threats to mean that if she did not
agree to go home with her father � who was waiting at the school to receive her

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
following her encounter with Hunt and Haberman � then she would be arrested.
Jones reasonably believed that leaving the office, and thus refusing to go home
with her father, would result in her arrest.
Additionally, the court below found that Jones went to the counselor’s
office voluntarily, which “points away from a seizure.” This finding is at odds
with the allegation in the complaint. Jones claims that the school resource officer
referred Jones to the counselor to determine if she were at risk of committing
suicide. A reasonable high school student would not have felt free to flaunt a
school official’s command, leave an office to which she had been sent, and
wander the halls of her high school without permission. It is possible that Jones’
initial encounter with Hunt and Haberman was consensual. Regardless, it was
transformed into a seizure through Hunt and Haberman’s alleged threats and
demands. See Little, 18 F.3d at1505 (“a consensual encounter between a citizen
and police can be transformed into a seizure through persistent and accusatory
questioning by police.”).(2)
B

(2) We need not determine the precise moment in time that a seizure
occurred. Although it may have occurred earlier, we are satisfied that after Hunt
and Haberman threatened Jones with her own arrest, as well as her mother’s
arrest, and promised that her “life would be hell” because the two officials would
“be [her] shadow until [she was] eighteen, and maybe longer,” she was seized.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
Our conclusion that the alleged encounter constituted a seizure is but the
first part of the constitutional analysis. We must yet determine if the seizure was
reasonable, an inquiry that depends on the context in which it took place. New
Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 337 (1985). With limited exceptions, a search or
seizure requires either a warrant or probable cause. Camara v. Municipal Court,
387 U.S. 523, 528-529 (1967) (“except in certain carefully defined classes of
cases, a search of private property without proper consent is `unreasonable’ unless
it has been authorized by a valid search warrant.”); T.L.O., 469 U.S. at 340-41
(“Ordinarily, a search . . . must be based upon `probable cause’ to believe that a
violation of the law has occurred. [However,] we have in a number of cases
recognized the legality of searches and seizures based on suspicions that, although
`reasonable,’ do not rise to the level of probable cause.”).
The court below relied on one such exception recognized by the Supreme
Court in T.L.O. In T.L.O., the Supreme Court held that where school officials
detain and question a child for the purpose of maintaining or restoring order in
the school:
the accommodation of the privacy interests of schoolchildren
with the substantial need of teachers and administrators for
freedom to maintain order in the schools does not require strict
adherence to the requirement that searches be based on
probable cause to believe that the subject of the search has
violated or is violating the law. Rather, the legality of a search
of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness,
under all the circumstances, of the search.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–

T.L.O., 469 U.S. at 341. Adopting the Terry standard, the Court explained that a
search of a student by a school official is reasonable if “justified at its inception”
and “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the
interference in the first place.” Id. (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20
(1968)). We have held that “the same considerations which moved the Supreme
Court to apply a relaxed Fourth Amendment standard in cases involving school
searches support applying the same standard in school seizure cases.” Edwards v.
Rees, 883 F.2d 882, 884 (10th Cir. 1989) (applying Terry standard where a junior
high school vice principal seizes a student to question him about a bomb threat).
Therefore, we have held since 1989 that seizures of students by school officials
must pass the Terry test.
Because Haberman and Hunt’s seizure of Jones took place on public school
property, the district court erroneously concluded that the relaxed Fourth
Amendment standard announced in T.L.O. should apply to this case.(3) The
Supreme Court fashioned a relaxed standard due to its concern about “unduly
burden[ing] the efforts of school authorities to maintain order in their schools.”
T.L.O., 469 U.S. at 342. Because the case before us does not involve efforts by

(3) The district court in error applied the relaxed standard when deciding if
the altercation constituted a seizure. The relaxed standard announced in T.L.O.
and extended by this court in Rees is irrelevant to determining if a seizure
occurred, and applies only to an inquiry into the reasonableness of a search or
seizure.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
school administrators to preserve order on school property, it does not implicate
the policy concerns addressed in T.L.O. and therefore does not merit application
of the T.L.O. standard.(4)
It is ultimately unnecessary for us to decide what Fourth Amendment test is
most appropriate in this case “because the conduct alleged in [this] case would
violate the most minimal standard of which we can conceive.” Snell v. Tunnell,
920 F.2d 673, 698 (10th Cir. 1990). Even applying the Terry standard � that a
seizure must be “justified at its inception” and “reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances which justified the interference in the first place” � Haberman
violated Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights. Terry, 392 U.S. at 20.
Taking the facts as alleged, Haberman’s seizure of Jones was not “justified
at its inception.” Id. The complaint does not allege that Haberman suspected Jones’
mother of abusive or neglectful behavior.(5) On the other hand, there was
sufficient evidence of her father’s abusiveness to both warrant transfer from his
custody (which Haberman himself facilitated two months earlier) and the issuance
of a TRO against him.(6) Indeed, Haberman’s demand that Jones leave her
mother’s care and enter her father’s custody violated the express terms of the
existing TRO. We do not see how a seizure, the alleged intended purpose of
which would violate a court order, can possibly be justified at its inception.
There was no legitimate governmental interest in this seizure. See Wyoming v.
Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 299-300 (1999) (we may “evaluate the search or seizure
under traditional standards of reasonableness by assessing, on the one hand, the
degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the
degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental
interests.”). Where no legitimate basis exists for detaining a child, a seizure is
plainly unreasonable. Taking the alleged facts as true, this seizure, which lasted
between three to four hours, was unjustified from the beginning, and therefore
cannot be said to be “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which

(4) We do not imply that a social worker investigating allegations of abuse or
neglect necessarily requires a warrant, probable cause, or exigent circumstances
before questioning a child on public school property. Where a social worker
merely conducted an interview of a child at a public school, and thus did not
remove the child nor interfere with the sanctity of the private home, we have
applied the Terry standard. Doe v. Bagan, 41 F.3d 571, 575 n.3 (10th Cir. 1994).
It may be that the Terry standard applies even where a social worker removes a
child from her parents’ custody at a public school following a legitimate
investigation into child abuse and neglect. As discussed, infra, this case presents
a unique constellation of alleged facts allowing us to evaluate the claims under
the Terry standard without deciding what standard ought to apply in an ordinary
removal case.
(5) Of course, discovery could develop facts indicating that Haberman had
legitimate concerns for Jones’ welfare, which would be highly relevant to the
constitutional analysis.
(6) According to the complaint, Jones’ father had been charged by CYFD
with abusing two of his other children, and he lost custody as a result of those
charges. Haberman, as an employee of CYFD, allegedly had access to
information about these charges before the seizure.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
justified the interference in the first place.” Terry, 392 U.S. at 20. Even when
scrutinized under the minimal requirements of Terry, Haberman’s alleged conduct
amounts to an unreasonable seizure.
After the defendants have the opportunity to develop the factual record, the
picture confronting the court may look very different. Haberman may have had
legitimate concerns for Jones’ safety and welfare, he may have played a minor
role in the encounter and been ignorant of Hunt’s motives, and Jones may have
consented to the questioning throughout the encounter. Viewing the totality of
the circumstances as alleged in the complaint in the light most favorable to Jones,
however, we conclude that she has alleged sufficient facts to demonstrate at the
12(B)(6) stage that she was unreasonably seized within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment.
C
Although his alleged actions, if true, violated Jones’ Fourth Amendment
rights, Haberman nonetheless gains qualified immunity if his “actions did not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.” Hope, 536 U.S. at 739 (internal quotation omitted).
To defeat a claim of qualified immunity, plaintiffs need not point to a prior
holding that the specific conduct at issue is unlawful; rather, the unlawfulness of
the alleged action must have been apparent. See id. Moreover, it is incumbent

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
upon government officials to make “reasonable applications of the prevailing law
to their own circumstances.” Murrell v. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 186 F.3d 1238, 1251
(10th Cir. 1999).
Without doubt, it was clearly established by January 2003 that a seizure
must be reasonable. See, e.g., United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873,
878 (1975). In Terry, decided in 1968, the Court instituted the rule that, at
minimum, a seizure must be “justified at its inception” and “reasonably related in
scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.”
Terry, 392 U.S. at 20. It was also clearly established by the date of the seizure
that the Fourth Amendment’s strictures apply to social workers. See, e.g., Malik
v. Arapahoe County Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 191 F.3d 1306, 1316 (10th Cir. 1999)
(holding, in a case involving alleged retaliation, that it was clearly established
that a social worker violates the Fourth Amendment by procuring seizure order
through material omissions); Snell, 920 F.2d at 697-98 (holding that a social
worker violates the Fourth Amendment where there is “evidence indicating
deliberate and willful conduct, specifically, that the defendants knew that any
allegations concerning child sexual abuse and the Snells were false, yet they
persisted in their attempts to intervene on that very basis.”). Indeed, in 1994 we
applied the Terry standard to a social worker’s seizure of a child at a public
school. Doe v. Bagan, 41 F.3d at 575 n.3. Finally, the standard by which a court

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
judges whether a seizure occurred was clearly established. See, e.g., Hill, 199
F.3d at 1147-48.
Therefore, by January 10, 2003, Haberman was on notice that the Fourth
Amendment’s requirements applied to him, that a seizure would occur within the
meaning of that Amendment if at any point the person believed that she was not
free to terminate an encounter with him, that the “free to leave” determination
would be informed by the Hill factors, and that any seizure of a child at a public
school must be justified at its inception. Because Haberman’s conduct as alleged
constituted a seizure under Hill and was unreasonable under Terry, Haberman
violated a clearly established constitutional right of which a reasonable person
would have known.
Our conclusion is based on clearly and narrowly articulated Fourth
Amendment principles. In Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. at 638-40, the Court
expressed its awareness that if alleged at a sufficient level of generality, any
constitutional violation would deprive government officials of qualified
immunity. Therefore, rather than “alleging violation of extremely abstract
rights,” plaintiffs must show that “[t]he contours of the right [are] sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates
that right.” Id. at 640. In Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. (2004), the Supreme
Court considered how factually related existing precedent must be to an alleged

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
violation to render a rule of law “clearly established.” The Court concluded that
the standard established in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989) (“the test
of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise
definition or mechanical application”), was “cast at a high level of generality”
and therefore did not clearly establish a Fourth Amendment violation. Id. at .
The tests enunciated in Hill and Terry are far more specific than the
general standard set forth in Graham. Furthermore, the Court’s recent qualified
immunity jurisprudence does not allow public officials such as Haberman, who
are alleged to have committed blatant Fourth Amendment violations, to obtain
immunity from suit. The Brosseau Court acknowledged that even with regard to
highly general standards, “in an obvious case, these standards can `clearly
establish’ the answer, even without a body of relevant case law.” Id. Implicit in
the Court’s reasoning is the recognition that officials committing outrageous, yet
sui generis, constitutional violations ought not to shield their behavior behind
qualified immunity simply because another official has not previously had the
audacity to commit a similar transgression.
We conclude that the Fourth Amendment violation as alleged in this case is
both obvious and outrageous, and that “it would be clear to a reasonable officer
that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Saucier v. Katz,
533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001). A social worker who lacks any legitimate justification

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
——————————————————————————–
for seizing a child, but nonetheless seizes the child and demands, in direct
contravention of a court order, that she enter the custody of her abusive father,
would clearly know that his conduct is unconstitutional.(7)
III
Jones’ allegations, if true, establish that Haberman violated her clearly
established Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. We
therefore REVERSE the district court’s order granting Haberman’s motion to
dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity and REMAND for further
proceedings.

(7) We emphasize that our disposition of this case is largely dictated by the
Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Jones’ complaint effectively portrays the encounter at
issue as an unjustified seizure in light of clearly established law, and we must
accept her allegations as true. As such, we conclude that the district court erred
in granting qualified immunity at this stage in the litigation.

* Honorable Robert E. Blackburn, United States District Judge for the District of
Colorado, sitting by designation.
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About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by Lulu.com October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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