University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Lopera v. Town of Coventry PN-RI-0001
Docket / Court 1:08-cv-00123-S-DLM ( D.R.I. )
State/Territory Rhode Island
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On April 7, 2008, twelve individuals, all represented by private counsel, filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island against the town of Coventry and individual members of the town's police force (Police). Plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law ... read more >
On April 7, 2008, twelve individuals, all represented by private counsel, filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island against the town of Coventry and individual members of the town's police force (Police). Plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law alleging denial of due process and equal protection, unreasonable search and seizure, invasion of privacy, racial profiling and race/national origin intimidation.

Specifically, plaintiffs, Hispanic members of the Central Falls High School boys soccer team, claimed that they were treated improperly when traveling to Coventry, a predominately white neighborhood, for a high school soccer game. When the game was over, members of the home team stopped the Central Falls coach and accused his team of stealing electronic devices from the locker room. The coach searched his players' bags but found nothing. The police arrived on the scene, blocking the team's bus, and asked the coach if they could search the players. The coach consented. The police searched the boys' property as members of the Coventry community looked on and shouted racist epithets and accused the boys of theft. The search lasted approximately one hour and none of the allegedly stolen items were found.

On September 9, 2009, the district court (Judge William Smith) granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court held that the plaintiffs could not overcome qualified immunity in their claims. On the Fourth Amendment claim, the court found plaintiffs' case to be insufficient to overcome qualified immunity because the police officers did not violate the plaintiffs' clearly established rights, because the coach may have been acting in loco parentis when he consented to the police officers' request to search members of the team and their belongings. The court also held that the plaintiffs' invasion of privacy claim arose out of conduct for which the police officers were immune from suit. On the Equal Protection claim, the court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that the officers had a racial motive, even if they exhibited poor judgment in searching the boys in front of an angry crowd; for the same reasons, the court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the plaintiffs' state racial profiling claim. Finally, the court held there was insufficient evidence for plaintiffs' claim of supervisory and municipal liability.

Plaintiffs appealed to the First Circuit. On April 1, 2011, the Circuit Court (Chief Judge Lynch, Judge Selya, and Judge Thompson) upheld the district court's grant of summary judgment. The appellate court found that the officers' conduct was subject to qualified immunity. As to the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment and state privacy claims, the court found that it was not unreasonable for the officers to consider the coach's consent to search the team. The court also held that the plaintiffs could not overcome qualified immunity on their equal protection and state discrimination claims.

Marcy Blattner - 02/21/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Racial profiling
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Town of Coventry
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are individual high school students on their school soccer team
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:08−cv−00123 (D.R.I.) 06/02/2011
PN-RI-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint and Jury Trial Demand 04/07/2008
PN-RI-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint and Jury Trial Demand 12/29/2008
PN-RI-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment 03/10/2009
PN-RI-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Objection to Motion for Summary Judgment 04/27/2009
PN-RI-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Supplemental Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment 06/09/2009
PN-RI-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendants' Supplemental Memorandum 07/16/2009
PN-RI-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 09/09/2009 (652 F.Supp.2d 203) (D.R.I.)
PN-RI-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Judgment 09/11/2009 (D.R.I.)
PN-RI-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants 01/19/2010
PN-RI-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for the Defendants/Appellees 02/22/2010
PN-RI-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants 04/12/2010
PN-RI-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 04/01/2011 (640 F.3d 388)
PN-RI-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judgment 04/01/2011
PN-RI-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Lynch, Sandra Lea (First Circuit)
PN-RI-0001-0009
Martin, David L. (D.R.I.) [Magistrate]
PN-RI-0001-9000
Smith, William E. (D.R.I.)
PN-RI-0001-0010 | PN-RI-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bejma, Vicki J. (Rhode Island)
PN-RI-0001-0001 | PN-RI-0001-0003 | PN-RI-0001-0005 | PN-RI-0001-0006 | PN-RI-0001-0008 | PN-RI-0001-0011 | PN-RI-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Corcoran, Karen K. (Rhode Island)
PN-RI-0001-9000
DeSisto, Marc (Rhode Island)
PN-RI-0001-0002 | PN-RI-0001-0004 | PN-RI-0001-0007 | PN-RI-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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