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Case Name United States v. Cooney PN-CO-0001
Docket / Court Crim. A. No. 16837 ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
This case involved the indictment of five defendants--two deputy sheriffs of Adams County, Colorado in their official capacity, two private detectives, and the ex-husband of the victim--by the United States of America for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 242. The federal government filed the indictment ... read more >
This case involved the indictment of five defendants--two deputy sheriffs of Adams County, Colorado in their official capacity, two private detectives, and the ex-husband of the victim--by the United States of America for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 242. The federal government filed the indictment against the defendants on February 28, 1962 in the United States District Court for the District Court of Colorado. The case was assigned to District Judge Olin Hatfield Chilson. The defendants were charged with violating a private citizen's due process rights and her right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The United States alleged that the defendants, while acting under the color of state law, willfully entered and searched the citizen's home without her consent, a search warrant, or arrest warrant. Specifically, the victim alleged that her ex-husband hired private detectives that sought the help of the two deputy sheriffs charged. During the night of July 4, the five parties raided the victim's home, took pictures of the victim nude, and arrested the victim and man present with charges of fornication.

As the docket for this case is unavailable, it is not clear precisely what happened between February 27, 1962 and May 16, 1963. At some point during this time, prior to April 13, 1962, the defendants moved to dismiss the charges. On May 2, 1962, the United States Attorney on the case sought guidance from Burke Marshall, the Assistant United States Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, on the issue of whether the deputies were acting under the color of law since they were following the orders of the private detectives. Marshall suggested that it was irrelevant that the deputies were potentially following orders from private individuals so long as the deputies were acting under the color of law, because federal law had removed the distinction between a principal and accessory. See Letter to United States Attorney Lawrence M. Henry.

In their motion to dismiss, the defendants argued that the unreasonable search and seizure charge should be dismissed because, when the acts were committed, it was not yet determined that unreasonable search and seizure by a state authority was a violation of a person's constitutional rights. On May 16, 1963, the Court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that the Supreme Court had established that an unreasonable search and seizure by a state authority violated a person's due process rights in 1949, over a decade before the alleged acts of the sheriffs. 217 F. Supp. 417.

The two private detectives and ex-husband also moved for dismissal on the grounds that Section 242 charges may only be brought against a state authority acting in their official capacity. The Court acknowledged that if the three parties acted only as private individuals and held no power or authority under state law, the charges should be dismissed. However, the Court stated that it would be premature to conclude these parties were not acting under the color of state law or only aided and abetted the sheriffs, and ordered a bill of particulars from the United States which would state the basis of its charges against these parties. 217 F. Supp. 417.

As the docket is unavailable, it is not clear what happened following the motion to dismiss. There does not appear to be additional published orders following the publication of 217 F. Supp. 417.

Cade Boland - 07/30/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Causes of Action Criminal Violation of Federal Rights Under Color of Law, 18 U.S.C. § 242
Defendant(s) Deputy Sheriffs of Adams County
Plaintiff Description The United States of America
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Filing Year 1962
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Indictment [MAY BE DRAFT]
PN-CO-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/04/1961
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Case Summary
PN-CO-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Letter to U.S. Attorney Lawrence M. Henry and Grand Jury Charges
PN-CO-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Civil Rights Division- Criminal Case
PN-CO-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/27/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Department of Justice Routing Slip
PN-CO-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Letter to U.S. Attorney Lawrence M. Henry
PN-CO-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/30/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Letter to United States Attorney Lawrence M. Henry
PN-CO-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/15/1962
Source: Papers of David Marlin
Opinion (217 F.Supp. 417) (D. Colo.)
PN-CO-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/16/1963
Source: Google Scholar
Judges Chilson, Olin Hatfield (D. Colo.)
PN-CO-0001-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Henry, Lawrence M. (Colorado)
PN-CO-0001-0001 | PN-CO-0001-0005 | PN-CO-0001-0006 | PN-CO-0001-0008
Marshall, Burke (Connecticut)
PN-CO-0001-0001 | PN-CO-0001-0005 | PN-CO-0001-0006
McGruder, James P. (Colorado)
PN-CO-0001-0008
Murphy, John L. (District of Columbia)
PN-CO-0001-0001 | PN-CO-0001-0003 | PN-CO-0001-0005
Defendant's Lawyers Keller, Alex Stephen (Colorado)
PN-CO-0001-0008
Kingsley, Robert T. (Colorado)
PN-CO-0001-0008
Morgan, Wright J. Jr. (Colorado)
PN-CO-0001-0008

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