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Hebshi v. United States - 12 F. Supp. 3d 1036 (E.D. Mich. 2014)

Rule:

When a defendant raises a defense of qualified immunity, the plaintiff bears the burden of pleading facts that would be sufficient to show that the defendant is not entitled to its protection. "Qualified immunity shields federal and state officials from money damages unless a plaintiff pleads facts showing (1) that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was 'clearly established' at the time of the challenged conduct."

Facts:

Plaintiff Shoshana Hebshi is a natural person, a United States citizen, a resident of Ohio, and the daughter of a Jewish mother and a father who emigrated from Saudi Arabia. On September 11, 2011, Plaintiff Shoshana Hebshi flew on Frontier Airlines flight 623. Upon landing, heavily armed agents forcibly removed Hebshi from the airplane; handcuffed, pat searched, and strip searched her; and locked her in a cell at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport before interrogating her. Hebshi was detained for approximately four hours before being released with no charges.Plaintiff brought a suit against defendants for violation of equal protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments against several defendants, including the airline, federal agents, the airport police, and the United States of America. Plaintiff alleged that she was unlawfully arrested by federal agents after alighting a plane based on alleged involvement in suspicious activities. Both the Federal Agent Defendants and the airport officers moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Equal Protection claims under Count IV of the Complaint, asserting that their conduct is protected by qualified immunity, and that therefore Plaintiff's claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Issue:

Were defendant law enforcement officers entitled to immunity from plaintiff passenger's suit alleging violation of her Equal Protection rights under the United States Constitution?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

Based on the Plaintiff's allegations, which are assumed to be true for the purpose of deciding motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the unlawfulness of defendants' actions was apparent in the light of pre-existing law. The complaint adequately alleges that the plaintiff was arrested and detained because of her race, ethnicity, or national origin, and that there was no legal justification for either her arrest or her detention.

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