Friday, May 23, 2014

Mustafa v. City of Chicago case brief summary

Mustafa v. City of Chicago
442 F.3d 544 (7th Cir. 2006)

Use of the word "Bomb" by the passenger.  Granted SJ in favor of defendants because it found there was PC to arrest Mustafa and regardless within the scope of their immunity.
No duty to actually look for the bomb, once PC existed via accusation of a credible witness, they could seize her.
Qualified Immunity - protects LEO performing discretionary functions from civil liability so long as their conduct does nto violate long standing statutory or constitutional rights that a reasonable person would know about.
the bomb threat statute does not only apply to credible or convicining bomb threats. THerefore polce qualified immunity protects them.
Appeal not frivolous, while wrong, it does not warrant grant of attorney fees to defendants.
Is profiling really bad? Voir Dire is perfectly fine yet its the same thing.

·         Mustafa, a 56-year-old American citizen of Palestinian descent and Muslim faith, just three months after the attacks of September 11 arrived at the Swissair ticket counter at O'Hare, intending to fly to Tel Aviv by way of Zurich, Switzerland to attend her father's funeral with nineteen members of her immediate family.  Mustafa ordered a “Muslim” meal for the flight.
·         Moments later, the Swissair clerk took Mustafa to a bomb-detection machine to have her two pieces of luggage inspected for weapons. 
·         Mustafa suspected that this was an instance of discriminatory religious or ethnic profiling.  She started to freak out and yell.
·         Mustafa tried to point out that her purse had not been inspected, saying, “You already checked my luggage. Maybe I have a bomb in my purse. Nobody has checked that.”
·         After she said the word “bomb”, police were called to the scene.  Another shouting match ensued between Mustafa, her family, and cops; eventually, she was placed under arrest and spent two days jail (charged with disorderly conduct).  After being acquitted of that charge, she filed the instant suit (a §1983 suit) against the City of Chicago and four police officers, which originally contained seven counts.

Issue 1: Was there probable cause to arrest Mustafa (as PC is an absolute defense to any 1983 claim for false arrest)?

Holding 1: Yes. Here, there were at least two separate facts that could have led a reasonable person to believe that a crime had been committed.
First, the earliest arriving officer, Officer Schober, observed “commotion” and “agitation” in progress, with Mustafa at its center, at a crowded ticket counter at an international airport.
Second, Qadeer, the Swissair manager, told the officers that the plaintiff had said, “Maybe I have a bomb.” Once a reasonably credible witness informs an officer that a suspect has committed a crime, the police have probable cause to arrest the suspect.
-The truth of the matter asserted is irrelevant for purposes of showing probable cause.  Once officers have PC they have no duty to investigate extenuating circumstances or search for exculpatory evidence (if the claim comes from credible evidence, here the manager). 

Issue 2: Were the Police protected by Qualified Immunity?

Holding 2: Defendants had qualified immunity.  Qualified immunity protects officers performing discretionary functions from civil liability so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights that a reasonable person would know about  (Saucier Test). 

-To defeat a qualified immunity defense the P must show that their rights were violated, and that the law concerning those rights was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct. Third, the court has to determine if a competent official would have known that his conduct was “unlawful” in the situation he confronted. 
-The Illinois statute at issue applies to implausible and unconvincing bomb threats.  The argument that one can only be arrested for “credible or convincing bomb threats are open to interpretation (not settled), so, the officers here have qualified immunity. 
-Further, even if they thought her threat of a bomb was not real, Officers may arrest individuals suspected of any crime (that other crime being a crime of disorderly conduct (conduct which alarms or disturbs another or provokes a breach of the peace); the fact that Mustafa was prosecuted under only the bomb threat section of the disorderly conduct statute does not mean that she could only properly be arrested under that section. Thus, the officers are protected by qualified immunity.
(Note: the court didn’t grant the officer’s fees, as it didn’t think that her claim was overly vexatious).

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