Law School Case Brief
Cty. of Riverside v. McLaughlin - 500 U.S. 44, 111 S. Ct. 1661 (1991)
A jurisdiction that provides judicial determinations of probable cause within 48 hours of arrest will, as a general matter, comply with the promptness requirement. For this reason, such jurisdictions will be immune from systemic challenges. However, this is not to say that the probable cause determination in a particular case passes constitutional muster simply because it is provided within 48 hours. Such a hearing may nonetheless violate the promptness requirement should the arrested individual prove that his or her probable cause determination was delayed unreasonably.
Respondent Donald Lee McLaughlin filed a class action lawsuit in federal district seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, alleging that petitioners County of Riverside ("County") violated the holding of Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 43 L. Ed. 2d 54, 95 S. Ct. 854, by failing to provide "prompt" judicial determinations of probable cause to persons who, like himself, were arrested without a warrant. As a practice, the County combined probable cause determinations with arraignment procedures which, under County policy, must be conducted within two days of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. The County filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, asserting that McLaughlin lacked standing to bring the suit because the time for providing him a "prompt" probable cause determination had already passed and he had failed to show that he would again be subject to the allegedly unconstitutional conduct. The district court never explicitly ruled on the motion to dismiss, but accepted for filing a second amended complaint, which named additional individual plaintiffs and class representatives, and alleged that each of them had been arrested without a warrant, had not received a prompt probable cause hearing, and was still in custody. The court granted class certification and subsequently issued a preliminary injunction requiring that all persons arrested by the County without a warrant be provided probable cause determinations within 36 hours of arrest, except in exigent circumstances. On the County's appeal, the court of appeals affirmed, rejecting the County's standing argument and ruling on the merits that the County's practice was not in accord with Gerstein's promptness requirement because no more than 36 hours were needed to complete the administrative steps incident to arrest. The County was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the County's practice of combining probable cause determinations with arraignments within 48 hours of an individual's arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, comport Gerstein's promptness requirement?
The Supreme Court of the United States vacated the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case to that court and the district court to determine whether there were legitimate reasons for the County's practice of conducting arraignments on the last day possible. The Court ruled that the County was entitled to combine probable cause determinations with arraignments, but the County's policy of excluding weekends and holidays in computing the two-day period within which the combined proceedings must be offered—which exclusion could result in delays of up to 7 days—meant that the County's regular practice exceeded the 48-hour period that was constitutionally permissible, and the county was not immune from systemic challenges, such as the challenge brought by McLaughlin.
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