When Good Law Goes Bad

Not generically bad, but bad for you.

The plaintiff in Acosta v. Hill, case no. 05-56575 (9th Cir. Oct. 17, 2007), claimed in her Section 1983 case that the force used by city security guards and police while ejecting from a San Diego stadium violated her civil rights.  Indeed, she claimed she had been subjected to deadly force, and that the trial court erred by giving an instruction on excessive force under a reasonableness standard without giving a separate instruction on deadly force.

She had a shot.  Ninth Circuit precedent at the time of her appeal drew a distinction between instructions for excessive force and instructions for deadly force.

Her bad luck that before her appeal could be heard, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007), which allows the panel to make quick work of Acosta’s claim.  Under Scott, a standard of reasonableness applies to all uses of police force.  There is no difference in standard between excessive force and deadly force.  The jury having found that the officers acted reasonably in their use of force, it doesn’t matter whether the force is alleged to be deadly or merely excessive.