Davis v. United States, No. 15-55671 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs Joann Davis and Paul Cilley filed suit against the United States and NASA officials, alleging, among other things, a claim for wrongful detention under the Fourth Amendment pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents. The court concluded that the federal agent involved in the detention was not entitled to qualified immunity from suit for detaining Davis, an elderly woman, in a public parking lot for two hours, while she stood in urine-soaked pants, to question her, incident to a search, about her possession of a paperweight containing a rice-grain-sized bit of lunar material. The court agreed with Davis that, in light of Franklin v. Foxworth, the agent violated the Fourth Amendment because his detention of her was unreasonably prolonged and degrading. In this case, the agent was aware of several facts that color the reasonableness of his actions: he knew that Davis was a slight, elderly woman; Davis had lost control of her bladder and had visibly wet her pants; Davis and Cilley were unarmed and the search warrant had been fully executed; Davis had not concealed possession of the paperweights, but rather had reached out to NASA for help in selling the paperweights; and the agent knew that Davis was experiencing financial distress as a result of having to raise grandchildren after her daughter died, her son was severely ill and required expensive medical care, and Davis needed a transplant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity.