Weekly Case Summaries: May 22, 2015

United States Supreme Court

City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan

No. 13-1412        5/18/15

Issue:

Is it a Fourth Amendment violation to not accommodate a person’s disability when searching, detaining, or arresting her?

Holding:

There is no clearly established right on the part of armed, violent, disabled individuals to have police accommodate their disabilities when bringing them into custody. The Court recognized qualified immunity for the two police officers in this case who shot Sheehan in an attempt to subdue and arrest her because there was no clearly established law requiring them to accommodate Sheehan’s mental illness in their efforts to arrest her under these circumstances  Read opinion.

Dissent (Scalia, J. dissenting in part and concurring in part, joined by Kagan, J.):

Justice Scalia wrote separately to note that he would have dismissed this question as improvidently granted. In its petition for certiorari, the city of San Francisco presented a question as to whether Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act requires law enforcement officers to provide accommodations to an armed, violent, and mentally ill suspect in the course of bringing the suspect into custody. This issue was never actually argued to the court and dismissed as improvidently granted; Scalia and Kagan would have dismissed the entire case.

Commentary:

Here, the officers encountered an armed, mentally ill person who had previously threatened her social worker and the two officers. They did not act unreasonably in reentering her home to prevent her from harming herself, gathering additional weapons, or escaping, and thus did not violate a clearly established constitutional right. The Court dodged the larger issue whether the ADA can impose “reasonable accommodations” on such police activities.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Ex parte Hill

No: 05-15-00053-CR        5/20/15

Issue:

Is it a violation of double jeopardy to charge a defendant with capital murder for a death that occurred due to injuries sustained in an aggravated robbery, but only after defendant’s conviction for the robbery?

Holding:

No. There is an exception to the double jeopardy rule that allows for a subsequent prosecution on a more serious charge when facts necessary for that charge, here the victim’s death, have not occurred at the time of the original prosecution.  While aggravated robbery is a lesser-included offense of capital murder, when one of the elements of the murder charge—here a death—has not taken place at the time of the robbery case, the prosecution is not barred from bringing the capital murder case after the death occurs.  Read opinion

Commentary:

It is not uncommon for the victims of violent assaults to die of their injuries years after the crime. This case provides a road map to justice in those cases where the punishment range for aggravated assault does not fit the crime, if the State still has the witnesses and evidence necessary to prove the case.

Office of the Attorney General

Letter from the Trinity River Authority of Texas

KP-0020                5/12/15

Question:

Does the Open Meetings Act prohibit a governmental body from holding a meeting at a location that requires the presentation of photo identification?

Answer:

It is unlikely that as a matter of law the Open Meetings Act prohibits a government from holding meetings in a location that requires photo ID for entry. Whether a specific meeting location is accessible to the public under the Act is a question of fact, however, and not determinable by the Attorney General. Read

Commentary:

Town hall meetings just got a little bit safer.

TDCAA is pleased to offer these unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Attorney General. In addition to the basic summaries, each case will have a link to the full text opinion and will offer exclusive prosecutor commentary explaining how the case may impact you as a prosecutor. The case summaries are for the benefit of prosecutors, their staff members, and members of the law enforcement community. These summaries are NOT a source of legal advice for citizens. The commentaries expressed in these case summaries are not official statements by TDCAA and do not represent the opinions of TDCAA, its staff, or any member of the association. Please email comments, problems, or questions to [email protected]