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Law School Case Brief

Yang v. Hardin - 37 F.3d 282

Rule:

One who is given a badge of authority of a police officer may not ignore the duty imposed by his office and fail to stop other officers who summarily punish a third person in his presence or otherwise within his knowledge. This responsibility to intervene applies equally to supervisory and nonsupervisory officers. An officer who is present and fails to intervene to prevent other law enforcement officers from infringing the constitutional rights of citizens is liable under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 if that officer had reason to know: (1) that excessive force was being used, (2) that a citizen has been unjustifiably arrested, or (3) that any constitutional violation has been committed by a law enforcement official; and the officer had a realistic opportunity to intervene to prevent the harm from occurring.

Facts:

Plaintiff, defendant, and defendant's fellow officer were involved in an incident whereby defendant's fellow officer severely beat plaintiff. Defendant did nothing, and both officers were convicted of multiple felonies. Plaintiff sued both officers under Section 1983, and the lower court found for the defendants. Plaintiff appealed to the 7th Circuit.

Issue:

Whether defendant's decision not to intervene in his fellow officer's beating of plaintiff deprived plaintiff of his constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable seizure.

Answer:

Yes, defendant's decision not to intervene in the incident where plaintiff was beaten was a violation of plaintiff's constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable seizure.

Conclusion:

The court ruled that a police officer may not ignore the duty imposed by his office and fail to stop other officers who summarily punish a third person in his presence. Thus, because the facts demonstrated several opportunities during which defendant could have acted, the district court erred in making contrary findings.

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