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Manuel v. City of Joliet

United States Supreme Court

March 21, 2017

ELIJAH MANUEL, PETITIONER
v.
CITY OF JOLIET, ILLINOIS, ET AL.

          Argued October 5, 2016

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

         During a traffic stop, police officers in Joliet, Illinois, searched petitioner Elijah Manuel and found a vitamin bottle containing pills. Suspecting the pills to be illegal drugs, the officers conducted a field test, which came back negative for any controlled substance. Still, they arrested Manuel and took him to the police station. There, an evidence technician tested the pills and got the same negative result, but claimed in his report that one of the pills tested "positive for the probable presence of ecstasy." App. 92. An arresting officer also reported that, based on his "training and experience, " he "knew the pills to be ecstasy." Id., at 91. On the basis of those false statements, another officer filed a sworn complaint charging Manuel with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Relying exclusively on that complaint, a county court judge found probable cause to detain Manuel pending trial.

         While Manuel was in jail, the Illinois police laboratory tested the seized pills and reported that they contained no controlled substances. But Manuel remained in custody, spending a total of 48 days in pretrial detention. More than two years after his arrest, but less than two years after his criminal case was dismissed, Manuel filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 lawsuit against Joliet and several of its police officers (collectively, the City), alleging that his arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment. The District Court dismissed Manuel's suit, holding, first, that the applicable two-year statute of limitations barred his unlawful arrest claim, and, second, that under binding Circuit precedent, pretrial detention following the start of legal process (here, the judge's probable-cause determination) could not give rise to a Fourth Amendment claim. Manuel appealed the dismissal of his unlawful detention claim; the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

         Held:

1. Manuel may challenge his pretrial detention on Fourth Amendment grounds. This conclusion follows from the Court's settled precedent. In Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, the Court decided that a pretrial detention challenge was governed by the Fourth Amendment, noting that the Fourth Amendment establishes the minimum constitutional "standards and procedures" not just for arrest but also for "detention, " id., at 111, and "always has been thought to define" the appropriate process "for seizures of person[s] ... in criminal cases, including the detention of suspects pending trial, " id., at 125, n. 27. And in Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, a majority of the Court again looked to the Fourth Amendment to assess pretrial restraints on liberty. Relying on Gerstein, the plurality reiterated that the Fourth Amendment is the "relevan[t]" constitutional provision to assess the "deprivations of liberty that go hand in hand with criminal prosecutions." Id., at 274; see id., at 290 (Souter, J., concurring in judgment) ("[R]ules of recovery for such harms have naturally coalesced under the Fourth Amendment"). That the pretrial restraints in Albright arose pursuant to legal process made no difference, given that they were allegedly unsupported by probable cause.
As reflected in those cases, pretrial detention can violate the Fourth Amendment not only when it precedes, but also when it follows, the start of legal process. The Fourth Amendment prohibits government officials from detaining a person absent probable cause. And where legal process has gone forward, but has done nothing to satisfy the probable-cause requirement, it cannot extinguish a detainee's Fourth Amendment claim. That was the case here: Because the judge's determination of probable cause was based solely on fabricated evidence, it did not expunge Manuel's Fourth Amendment claim. For that reason, Manuel stated a Fourth Amendment claim when he sought relief not merely for his arrest, but also for his pretrial detention. Pp. 6-10.
2. On remand, the Seventh Circuit should determine the claim's accrual date, unless it finds that the City has previously waived its timeliness argument. In doing so, the court should look to the common law of torts for guidance, Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 257-258, while also closely attending to the values and purposes of the constitutional right at issue. The court may also consider any other still-live issues relating to the elements of and rules applicable to Manuel's Fourth Amendment claim. Pp. 11-15.

590 Fed.Appx. 641, reversed and remanded.

          KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.

          KAGAN JUSTICE

         Petitioner Elijah Manuel was held in jail for some seven weeks after a judge relied on allegedly fabricated evidence to find probable cause that he had committed a crime. The primary question in this case is whether Manuel may bring a claim based on the Fourth Amendment to contest the legality of his pretrial confinement. Our answer follows from settled precedent. The Fourth Amendment, this Court has recognized, establishes "the standards and procedures" governing pretrial detention. See, e.g., Ger-stein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 111 (1975). And those constitutional protections apply even after the start of "legal process" in a criminal case-here, that is, after the judge's determination of probable cause. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 274 (1994) (plurality opinion); id., at 290 (Souter, J., concurring in judgment). Accordingly, we hold today that Manuel may challenge his pretrial detention on the ground that it violated the Fourth Amendment (while we leave all other issues, including one about that claim's timeliness, to the court below).

         I

         Shortly after midnight on March 18, 2011, Manuel was riding through Joliet, Illinois, in the passenger seat of a Dodge Charger, with his brother at the wheel. A pair of Joliet police officers pulled the car over when the driver failed to signal a turn. See App. 90. According to the complaint in this case, one of the officers dragged Manuel from the car, called him a racial slur, and kicked and punched him as he lay on the ground. See id., at 31-32, 63.[1]The policeman then searched Manuel and found a vitamin bottle containing pills. See id., at 64. Suspecting that the pills were actually illegal drugs, the officers conducted a field test of the bottle's contents. The test came back negative for any controlled substance, leaving the officers with no evidence that Manuel had committed a crime. See id., at 69. Still, the officers arrested Manuel and took him to the Joliet police station. See id., at 70.

         There, an evidence technician tested the pills once again, and got the same (negative) result. See ibid. But the technician lied in his report, claiming that one of the pills was "found to be ... positive for the probable presence of ecstasy." Id., at 92. Similarly, one of the arresting officers wrote in his report that "[f]rom [his] training and experience, [he] knew the pills to be ecstasy." Id., at 91. On the basis of those statements, another officer swore out a criminal complaint against Manuel, charging him with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. See id., at 52-53.

         Manuel was brought before a county court judge later that day for a determination of whether there was probable cause for the charge, as necessary for further detention. See Gerstein, 420 U.S., at 114 (requiring a judicial finding of probable cause following a warrantless arrest to impose any significant pretrial restraint on liberty); Ill.Comp.Stat., ch. 725, §5/109-1 (West 2010) (implementing that constitutional rule). The judge relied exclusively on the criminal complaint-which in turn relied exclusively on the police department's fabrications-to support a finding of probable cause. Based on that determination, he sent Manuel to the county jail to await trial. In the somewhat obscure legal lingo of this case, Manuel's subsequent detention was thus pursuant to "legal process"- because it followed from, and was authorized by, the judge's probable-cause determination.[2]

         While Manuel sat in jail, the Illinois police laboratory reexamined the seized pills, and on April 1, it issued a report concluding (just as the prior two tests had) that they contained no controlled substances. See App. 51. But for unknown reasons, the prosecution-and, critically for this case, Manuel's detention-continued for more than another month. Only on May 4 did an Assistant State's Attorney seek dismissal of the drug charge. See id., at 48, 101. The County Court immediately granted the request, and Manuel was released the next day. In all, he had spent 48 days in pretrial detention.

         On April 22, 2013, Manuel brought this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the City of Joliet and several of its police officers (collectively, the City). Section 1983 creates a "species of tort liability, " Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417 (1976), for "the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution, " §1983. Manuel's complaint alleged that the City violated his Fourth Amendment rights in two ways-first by arresting him at the roadside without any reason, and next by "detaining him in police custody" for almost seven weeks based entirely on made-up evidence. See App. 79-80.[3]

         The District Court dismissed Manuel's suit. See 2014 WL 551626 (ND 111., Feb. 12, 2014). The court first held that the applicable two-year statute of limitations barred Manuel's claim for unlawful arrest, because more than two years had elapsed between the date of his arrest (March 18, 2011) and the filing of his complaint (April 22, 2013). But the court relied on another basis in rejecting Manuel's challenge to his subsequent detention (which stretched from March 18 to May 5, 2011). Binding Circuit precedent, the District Court explained, made clear that pretrial detention following the start of legal process could not give rise to a Fourth Amendment claim. See id., at *1 (citing, e.g., Newsome v. McCabe, 256 F.3d 747, 750 (CA7 2001)). According to that line of decisions, a §1983 plaintiff challenging such detention must allege a breach of the Due Process Clause-and must show, to recover on that theory, that state law fails to provide an adequate remedy. See 2014 WL 551626, at *l-*2. Because Manuel's complaint rested solely on the Fourth Amendment-and because, in any event, Illinois's remedies were robust enough to preclude the due process avenue-the District Court found that Manuel had no way to proceed. See ibid.

         The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Manuel's claim for unlawful detention (the only part of the District Court's decision Manuel appealed). See 590 Fed.Appx. 641 (2015). Invoking its prior caselaw, the Court of Appeals reiterated that such claims could not be brought under the Fourth Amendment. Once a person is detained pursuant to legal process, the court stated, "the Fourth Amendment falls out of the picture and the detainee's claim that the detention is improper becomes [one of] due process." Id., at 643-644 (quoting Llovet v. Chicago, 761 F.3d 759, 763 (CA7 2014)). And again: "When, after the arrest[, ] a person is not let go when he should be, the Fourth Amendment gives way to the due process clause as a basis for challenging his detention." 590 Fed. Appx., at 643 (quoting Llovet, 761 F.3d, at 764). So the Seventh Circuit held that Manuel's complaint, in alleging only a Fourth Amendment violation, rested on the wrong part of the Constitution: A person detained following the onset of legal process could at most (although, the court agreed, not in Illinois) challenge his pretrial confinement via the Due Process Clause. See 590 Fed. Appx., at 643-644.

         The Seventh Circuit recognized that its position makes it an outlier among the Courts of Appeals, with ten others taking the opposite view. See id., at 643; Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 99 (CA1 2013) ("[T]here is now broad consensus among the circuits that the Fourth Amendment right to be free from seizure but upon probable cause extends through the pretrial period").[4] Still, the court decided, Manuel had failed to offer a sufficient reason for overturning settled Circuit precedent; his argument, albeit "strong, " was "better left for the Supreme Court." 590 Fed. Appx., at 643.

         On cue, we granted certiorari. 577 U.S. ___ (2016).

         II

         The Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures." Manuel's complaint seeks just that protection. Government officials, it recounts, detained- which is to say, "seiz[ed]"-Manuel for 48 days following his arrest. See App. 79-80; Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 254 (2007) ("A person is seized" whenever officials "restrain[] his freedom of movement" such that he is "not free to leave"). And that detention was "unreasonable, " the complaint continues, because it was based solely on false evidence, rather than supported by probable cause. See App. 79-80; Bailey v. United States, 568 U.S. 186, 192 (2013) ("[T]he general rule [is] that Fourth Amendment seizures are 'reasonable' only if based on probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime"). By their respective terms, then, Manuel's claim fits the Fourth Amendment, and the Fourth Amendment fits Manuel's claim, as hand in glove.

         This Court decided some four decades ago that a claim challenging pretrial detention fell within the scope of the Fourth Amendment. In Gerstein, two persons arrested without a warrant brought a §1983 suit complaining that they had been held in custody for "a substantial period solely on the decision of a prosecutor." 420 U.S., at 106. The Court looked to the Fourth Amendment to analyze- and uphold-their claim that such a pretrial restraint on liberty is unlawful unless a judge (or grand jury) first makes a reliable finding of probable cause. See id., at 114, 117, n. 19. The Fourth Amendment, we began, establishes the minimum constitutional "standards and procedures" not just for arrest but also for ensuing "detention." Id., at 111. In choosing that Amendment "as the rationale for decision, " the Court responded to a concurring Justice's view that the Due Process Clause offered the better framework: The Fourth Amendment, the majority countered, was "tailored explicitly for the criminal justice system, and it[] always has been thought to define" the appropriate process "for seizures of person[s] ... in criminal cases, including the detention of suspects pending trial." Id., at 125, n. 27. That Amendment, standing alone, guaranteed "a fair and reliable determination of probable cause as a condition for any significant pretrial restraint." Id., at 125. Accordingly, those detained prior to trial without such a finding could appeal to "the Fourth Amendment's protection against unfounded invasions of liberty." Id., at 112; see id., at 114.[5]

         And so too, a later decision indicates, those objecting to a pretrial deprivation of liberty may invoke the Fourth Amendment when (as here) that deprivation occurs after legal process commences. The §1983 plaintiff in Albright complained of various pretrial restraints imposed after a court found probable cause to issue an arrest warrant, and then bind him over for trial, based on a policeman's unfounded charges. See 510 U.S., at 268-269 (plurality opinion). For uncertain reasons, Albright ignored the Fourth Amendment in drafting his complaint; instead, he alleged that the defendant officer had infringed his substantive due process rights. This Court rejected that claim, with five Justices in two opinions remitting Albright to the Fourth Amendment. See id., at 271 (plurality opinion) ("We hold that it is the Fourth Amendment . . . under which [his] claim must be judged"); id., at 290 (Souter, J., concurring in judgment) ("[I]njuries like those [he] alleges are cognizable in §1983 claims founded upon . . . the Fourth Amendment"). "The Framers, " the plurality wrote, "considered the matter of pretrial deprivations of liberty and drafted the Fourth Amendment to address it." Id., at 274. That the deprivations at issue were pursuant to legal process made no difference, given that they were (allegedly) unsupported by probable cause; indeed, neither of the two opinions so much as mentioned that procedural circumstance. Relying on Gerstein, the plurality stated that the Fourth Amendment remained the "relevan[t]" constitutional provision to assess the "deprivations of liberty"- most notably, pretrial detention-"that go hand in hand with criminal prosecutions." 510 U.S., at 274; see id., at 290 (Souter, J., concurring in judgment) ("[R]ules of recovery for such harms have naturally coalesced under the Fourth Amendment").

         As reflected in Albright's tracking of Gerstein s analysis, pretrial detention can violate the Fourth Amendment not only when it precedes, but also when it follows, the start of legal process in a criminal case. The Fourth Amendment prohibits government officials from detaining a person in the absence of probable cause. See supra, at 6. That can happen when the police hold someone without any reason before the formal onset of a criminal proceeding. But it also can occur when legal process itself goes wrong-when, for example, a judge's probable-cause determination is predicated solely on a police officer's false statements. Then, too, a person is confined without constitutionally adequate justification. Legal process has gone forward, but it has done nothing to satisfy the Fourth Amendment's probable-cause requirement. And for that reason, it cannot extinguish the detainee's Fourth Amendment claim- or somehow, as the Seventh Circuit has held, convert that claim into one founded on the Due Process Clause. See 590 Fed. Appx., at 643-644. If the complaint is that a form of legal process resulted in pretrial detention unsupported by probable cause, then the right allegedly infringed lies in the Fourth Amendment.[6]

         For that reason, and contrary to the Seventh Circuit's view, Manuel stated a Fourth Amendment claim when he sought relief not merely for his (pre-legal-process) arrest, but also for his (post-legal-process) pretrial detention.[7]Consider again the facts alleged in this case. Police officers initially arrested Manuel without probable cause, based solely on his possession of pills that had field tested negative for an illegal substance. So (putting timeliness issues aside) Manuel could bring a claim for wrongful arrest under the Fourth Amendment. And the same is true (again, disregarding timeliness) as to a claim for wrongful detention-because Manuel's subsequent weeks in custody were also unsupported by probable cause, and so also constitutionally unreasonable. No evidence of Manuel's criminality had come to light in between the roadside arrest and the County Court proceeding initiating legal process; to the contrary, yet another test of Manuel's pills had come back negative in that period. All that the judge had before him were police fabrications about the pills' content. The judge's order holding Manuel for trial therefore lacked any proper basis. And that means Manuel's ensuing pretrial detention, no less ...


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