Motion Memo Assignment
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The Motion Memo Assignment involves a case brought by Mr. William Humphrey pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Baltimore Police Department Officer Jake Pratchett. Mr. Humphrey and Officer Pratchett got into a dispute at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the Ravens/Steelers football game on October 1, 2015. Mr. Humphrey was seriously injured after Officer Pratchett tripped him with his handcuffs, causing Mr. Humphrey to fall over a railing in the front of their seating area onto the seats below. Mr. Humphrey alleged in his complaint that Officer Pratchett violated his Fourth Amendment right against excessive force during a seizure and that Officer Pratchett was acting under the color of law. Additional facts are contained in the court filings, party and witness depositions, and additional evidence posted on our Blackboard course page.
At this stage in the litigation, the defendant is preparing to file a Motion for Summary Judgment. Office Pratchett is not disputing that he “seized” Mr. Humphrey for Fourth Amendment purposes. Officer Pratchett will assert that (1) he did not act under color of law when he assaulted Mr. Humphrey and (2) he did not use excessive force against Mr. Humphrey and therefore did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In the opposition brief, Mr. Humphrey will challenge Officer’s Pratchett’s motion by arguing the merits of his case, that Officer Pratchett (1) acted under color of law and (2) used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In order to defeat Officer Pratchett’s motion, Mr. Humphrey must demonstrate that case facts support his argument that Officer Pratchett acted under color of law and used excessive force.
Relevant cases and statutes are posted on Blackboard. In reviewing the cases, you may notice that a number of the excessive force cases discuss excessive force as part of a larger qualified immunity analysis. At this time, Officer Pratchett is not asserting that he is entitled to qualified immunity. Therefore, you do not need to address this issue. In reading these cases, stay focused on what the courts say about whether the defendant used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In considering this question, the courts focus on the objective reasonableness of the defendant’s action. Therefore, you will want to pay close attention to whether the defendants were found to have acted reasonably or unreasonably under the circumstances presented. For the Motion Memorandum Assignment, it is not relevant whether the constitutional right at issue was “clearly established” in the law.
In addition, with respect to the “color of law” issue, Mr. Humphrey’s only theory of liability is that Officer Pratchett was a government actor when he assaulted him. He has waived any other “color of law” theory. In addition, this case does not involve municipal liability.
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