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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is expected to hear a case (County of Los Angeles v. Mendez) that asks the question, “Should officers be held liable when they cause a situation that leads to the use of force?”
At a glance, we can see this will require Causal Argument.
Liability is always a question of causation.
- Did Action A cause the negative Consequence B?
- Did the failure to do A make consequence B more likely?
- Did Situation A prompt Action B which led to negative Consequence C?
Take another look at the question the Court will address:
- Should officers be held liable (are they Responsible for the Consequences)?
- when they cause a situation (when their Action creates a Situation)?
- that leads to the use of force (if the Situation they Caused Leads to Consequences)?
The Bald Narrative
Two armed Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies, guns drawn, enter a shed they know to be occupied, without knocking. Angel Mendez and Jennifer Garcia were lying on their futon inside. Mendez sat up. As he did he moved the BB gun he kept nearby to shoot pests. The deputies fired 15 bullets at him and Garcia, severely injuring both. Mendez later suffered a leg amputation.
The couple won a civil rights suit against LA County and the two deputies. The Court awarded money damages and explained that
“at the moment of shooting” the deputies’ use of deadly force was “objectively reasonable” because they reasonably believed “a man was holding a firearm rifle threatening their lives.
But it went further
The county was liable because the deputies had “recklessly provoke[d] a violent confrontation” by not having a search warrant and by not knocking and announcing, and had thus “creat[ed] the situation which caused” the injuries.
Causal Questions for the Court (that’s you)
- Who caused the shooting?
- What factors contributed to the shooting, and can they be considered causes?
- At what point in the causal chain could tragedy have been averted?
- Are there underlying causes?
- Is there a single precipitating or proximate cause?
- Was the lower court’s explanation of the causal chain correct?
- Are the plaintiffs entitled to money damages?
- Should the officers be held liable for the injuries to the plaintiffs?
- How causal was the failure to secure a search warrant?
- How causal was the failure to knock and announce?
- How causal was “moving” the BB gun?
- Supreme Court hears a case on Law Enforcement use of force
- Argument Preview from SCOTUSblog
- County of Los Angeles vs Mendez
- Work as a group.
- Assign readings.
- Search for Cause/Causal/Causation/Proximate/Precipitating
- Search for Underlying/Superceding/Provocation/Excessive/Reasonable
- Search for Failure/Failing/Implicit Bias/Circumstances/Preceding Circumstances
- Search for Interpret/Reasonably Interpret/Proximate Consequences
- Search for Qualified Immunity/Totality of the Circumstances
- Search for Exigency/Understandable/Reasonably Foreseeable
- Engage in Class Discussion: Group A vs Group B