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Law School Case Brief

Los Angeles v. Lyons - 461 U.S. 95, 103 S. Ct. 1660 (1983)


Past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects.


A citizen filed a complaint for damages, an injunction, and declaratory relief in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against the City of Los Angeles and four of its police officers. The complaint alleged that the officers stopped the citizen for a traffic or vehicle code violation, and although the citizen offered no resistance or threat, the officers, without provocation or justification, seized the citizen and applied a chokehold, rendering him unconscious and causing damage to his larynx. In support of the claim for injunctive relief. The complaint likewise alleged that pursuant to the city's authorization, the city's police officers regularly and routinely applied the chokeholds in situations where they were not threatened by the use of any deadly force, that the citizen and others were threatened with irreparable injury in the form of bodily injury and loss of life, and that the citizen justifiably feared that any contact with the police might result in his being choked or strangled to death without provocation, justification or other legal excuse. The District Court entered a preliminary injunction against the use of chokeholds when the police were not threatened with death or serious bodily injury. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, stating that the District Court had not abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction.


Does the case present an actual case or controversy?




The Court held that the citizen did not have standing to seek the preliminary injunction, there existing no actual case or controversy as required by Article III of the United States Constitution, since the complaint did not establish a real and immediate threat that the citizen would again be stopped by the police, who without justification or provocation, would again apply the chokehold, the citizen's claim of future injury being too speculative. Even assuming the citizen did meet the Article III requirements for standing in order to seek a preliminary injunction, the citizen would not be entitled to the injunctive relief, since the speculative nature of the citizen's claim of future injury did not fulfill the requirement for equitable relief that there be irreparable injury shown by a real or immediate threat that the plaintiff will be wronged again.


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