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Pushes and Shoves Must be Judged Under the Fourth Amendment Standard of Reasonableness

Summer 2001

By Regina M. Ryan of Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff, LLP.

The Supreme Court of the United States has recently ruled that a police officer may be awarded summary judgment for excessive force claims if the officer acted objectively and reasonably in using the force necessary to effectuate the arrest.Saucier v. Katz, 121 S.Ct. 2151, June 18, 2001. This ruling expands the language of the United States District Court for the First Circuit decision in Roy v. Lewiston, 42 F. 3d 691.

Briefly, the Court in Saucier held that excessive force claims, like most other Fourth Amendment issues, are evaluated for objective reasonableness based upon the information the officers had when the conduct occurred. The plaintiff in this case asserted that the defendant, military police officer, shoved him into a van. The Court held that the plaintiff's claim for excessive force by the police officer should be dismissed based upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and based on the reasonableness of the officer.

The Court specifically stated that pushes and shoves, like other police conduct, must be judged under the Fourth Amendment standard of reasonableness. Further, based on the circumstances presented to this officer, the Court concluded that he had a duty to protect the safety and security of individuals that were present and himself.

If you have any questions regarding these issues, please feel free to contact Attorneys Douglas I. Louison or Regina M. Ryan of Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff, LLP at (617) 439-0305.

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