Valentin v. Mueller, No. 09-2385 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
FBI agents executed a search warrant at an apartment; the search was one of six that day involving an alleged domestic terrorism plot by "Los Macheteros," an organization dedicated Puerto Rican independence that has been involved in numerous prior violent acts. When reporters entered the apartment complex during the search, there was a confrontation, and agents used pepper spray and struck or pushed plaintiffs, who brought Fourth Amendment excessive force claims. After the First Circuit vacated summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, the district court again granted summary judgment for defendants. The First Circuit affirmed. The district court's discovery limitations were consistent with resolving qualified immunity questions at the earliest possible stage and it acted within its discretion to consider depositions and video clips. The court concluded that it was not clearly established that a "non-arrest" could be considered a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment, so that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Even if viewed as a seizure, the court found the force employed by defendants was reasonable in at the time of the events.