09 February 2011

You Have To Go Pretty Far to Get This From the 4th Circuit

From Judge Wilkinson, no less:

Qualified immunity is meant to protect against liability for “bad guesses in gray areas.” This was not a bad guess. Not a single one of the officers' proffered rationales provides a reasonable, particularized basis to justify their conduct. The officers contended at oral argument that a no-knock entry under these circumstances is “so infrequent, so uncommon that it's a gray area.” To the contrary, we face here an unfortunate exception to the truism that “[t]he easiest cases don't even arise.” The absence of “a prior case directly on all fours” here speaks not to the unsettledness of the law, but to the brashness of the conduct. Because “a man of reasonable intelligence would not have believed that exigent circumstances existed in this situation,” we affirm the district court's holding that this no-knock entry violated the Bellottes' clearly established constitutional rights and does not warrant an award of qualified immunity.

Bellotte v. Edwards, JAN11, 4Cir No. 10-1123.

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