University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Mahoney v. Holder PN-WA-0004
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-00794-MJP ( W.D. Wash. )
Additional Docket(s) 14-35970  [ 14-35970 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On May 28, 2014, approximately 125 police officers from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) brought this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Marsha J. Pechman. The plaintiffs each individually sued the U.S. Department of Justice ... read more >
On May 28, 2014, approximately 125 police officers from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) brought this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Marsha J. Pechman. The plaintiffs each individually sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Seattle, including the SPD and the Seattle Police Monitor Team, under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for their roles in implementing Seattle’s new use of force policy (UF policy). The new UF policy limited police officers’ ability to use force against civilians without repercussions, and the plaintiffs argued that this policy violated their constitutional rights under the Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, they alleged that the policy violated their constitutional right to self-defense, as well as Due Process and Equal Protection. Initially representing themselves pro se, the plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

On August 21, 2014, the City of Seattle moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. It alleged that the plaintiffs had misunderstood both what their constitutional rights were and what the new UF policy did, as the officers’ claims were not supported by the U.S. Constitution or by case law. On the same day, the Seattle Police Monitor Team filed a motion to dismiss the case because the members of the monitor team had quasi-judicial immunity. The monitors were appointed by the court as part of a consent decree from an earlier settlement in United States v. City of Seattle regarding the SPD’s excessive use of force. So, the monitors argued, they could not be considered part of the city the way that the SPD could.

Six days after the motions were filed, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added new factual allegations about the policy and removed those plaintiffs that no longer wished to litigate. The amended complaint emphasized the idea of constitutional self-defense as a right embedded in several amendments rather than stated outright. In September 2014, the defendants filed two motions to dismiss offering arguments similar to those found in the motions to dismiss the original complaint. On October 9, the court held oral arguments on the issue. The plaintiffs also obtained private counsel during this month.

On October 17, 2014, the court granted both motions to dismiss. Because the complaint had already been amended once and amending it further would be “futile,” Judge Pechman dismissed the case with prejudice. 62 F.Supp.3d 1215. The court held that the monitor team had quasi-judicial immunity and, even without it, the plaintiffs’ claims betrayed their misunderstanding regarding what their constitutional rights were, and the constitutional right to self-defense did not exist; the plaintiffs had failed to allege that any of the defendants had violated their rights.

On November 14, 2014, the plaintiffs appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision nearly three years later, on September 19, 2017, finding that neither the case law nor the constitution entitled the plaintiffs to self-defense. 871 F.3d 873.

On December 28, 2017, the plaintiffs petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case. On April 2, 2018, their petition was denied. The plaintiffs exhausted their options for appealing this case, and it is now closed.

Rebecca Strauss - 06/01/2018


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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
General
Aggressive behavior
Excessive force
Pattern or Practice
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) The City of Seattle
United States of America
Plaintiff Description Approximately 125 named police officers from the Seattle Police Department
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PN-WA-0001 : United States v. City of Seattle (W.D. Wash.)
Docket(s)
2:14-cv-00794 (W.D. Wash.)
PN-WA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Rights Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-WA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/28/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 And 28 U.S.C. § 1331 [ECF# 13]
PN-WA-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/27/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 73] (62 F.Supp.3d 1215) (W.D. Wash.)
PN-WA-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 79] (871 F.3d 873)
PN-WA-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Pechman, Marsha J. (W.D. Wash.)
PN-WA-0004-0003 | PN-WA-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Tramountanas, Athan E (Washington)
PN-WA-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Keller, Bradley S (Washington)
PN-WA-0004-9000
Narver, Gregory Colin (Washington)
PN-WA-0004-9000
Ryan-Lang, Nicholas (Washington)
PN-WA-0004-9000

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