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Saucier v. Katz

Supreme Court of the United States

March 20, 2001, Argued ; June 18, 2001, Decided

No. 99-1977


 [*197]   [***278]   [**2154]  JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In this case a citizen alleged excessive force was used to arrest him. The arresting officer asserted the defense of qualified immunity. The matter we address is whether the requisite analysis to determine qualified immunity is so  [***279]  intertwined with the question whether the officer used excessive force in making the arrest that qualified immunity and constitutional violation issues should be treated as one question, to be decided by the trier of fact. The Court of Appeals held the inquiries do merge into a single question. We now reverse and hold that the ruling on qualified immunity requires an analysis not susceptible of fusion with the question whether unreasonable force was used in making the arrest.

In autumn [****7]  of 1994, the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco was the site of an event to celebrate conversion of the base to a national park. Among the speakers was Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., who attracted several hundred observers from the military and the general public. Some in attendance were not on hand to celebrate, however. Respondent Elliot Katz was concerned that the Army's Letterman Hospital would be used for conducting experiments on animals. (Katz was president of a group called In Defense of Animals. Although both he and the group are respondents here, the issues we discuss center upon Katz, and we refer to him as "respondent"). To voice opposition to the possibility that the hospital might be used for experiments, respondent brought with him a cloth banner, approximately 4 by 3 feet, that read "Please Keep Animal Torture Out of Our National Parks." In the past, as respondent was aware, members of the public had been asked to leave the military base when they engaged in certain activities, such as distributing handbills; and he kept the banner concealed under his jacket as he walked through the base.

 [*198]   The area designated for the speakers contained seating for the general public,  [****8]  separated from the stage by a waist-high fence. Respondent sat in the front row of the public seating area. At about the time Vice President Gore began speaking, respondent removed the banner from his jacket, started to unfold it, and walked toward the fence and speakers' platform.

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533 U.S. 194 *; 121 S. Ct. 2151 **; 150 L. Ed. 2d 272 ***; 2001 U.S. LEXIS 4664 ****; 69 U.S.L.W. 4481; 2001 Cal. Daily Op. Service 5000; 2001 Daily Journal DAR 6137; 2001 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3134; 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 361



Disposition: 194 F.3d 962, reversed and remanded.


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Civil Rights Law, Immunity From Liability, Local Officials, Customs & Policies, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Scope of Protection, Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Motions for Summary Judgment, Notice Requirement, General Overview, Criminal Law & Procedure, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Reasonable Force, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Resisting Arrest, Probable Cause, Warrants, Search Warrants, Warrantless Searches, Exigent Circumstances, Reasonable & Prudent Standard