Brooks v. Clark County, No. 14-16424 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs Brooks and Smith, bail enforcement agents, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against various defendants after they were removed from a court room by a courtroom marshal at the request of a judge. The court concluded that neither precedent nor first principles justify giving courtroom officials absolute immunity when they allegedly use force in excess of what their judge commanded and the Constitution allows. In this case, the marshal was not performing a judicial function and he employed more force than the judge ordered him to use. The court concluded, however, that the marshal was entitled to a qualified immunity defense. Given the chaos in the courtroom and the undisputed evidence that Brooks was intent on disobeying the court’s instructions - and given his extremely vague and insubstantial allegations about his injury - it is simply not “beyond debate” that the marshal employed an unreasonable amount of force. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the marshal's absolute immunity defense and reversed the district court's denial of his qualified immunity defense.