Supreme Court Blog


E-mail me at
scotus -at- justice dot com

Supreme Court of the United States

Findlaw's Supreme Court Center

How Appealing

Sam Heldman


Site Meter

Tuesday, December 03, 2002
No. 01-1444 Chavez v. Martinez

The question here is whether a police officer that conducts a coercive interrogation is entitled to qualified immunity under Section 1983. What happened is this: The police shot the plaintiff in this case in the face, and then while he was being treated in the emergency room an officer interrogated him over his repeated objections that he was in pain and thought he was dying.

The plaintiff then sued the officer under Section 1983. The Ninth Circuit found that the officer’s conduct constituted a violation of a clearly established right, and that he was not entitled to qualified immunity. The panel characterized as dicta the following language from the Supreme Court’s opinion in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 264 (1990): “The privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment is a fundamental trial right of criminal defendants. Although conduct by law
enforcement officials prior to trial may ultimately impair that right, a constitutional
violation occurs only at trial.”

To make a short analysis even shorter, I doubt the Court will hold much truck with the Ninth Circuit’s disregard of what appears to be a pretty solid statement. I predict the Court will REVERSE.