O'Dell v. Espinoza

LOCATION: José Aponte de la Torre Airport, formerly Roosevelt Roads Naval Station

DOCKET NO.: 81-534
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Colorado Supreme Court

CITATION: 456 US 430 (1982)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1982
DECIDED: May 04, 1982

Scott H. Robinson - on behalf of the Respondents
Theodore S. Halaby - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for O'Dell v. Espinoza

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1982 in O'Dell v. Espinoza

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in O'Dell against Espinoza.

Mr. Halaby, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Theodore S. Halaby:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case arises out of a confrontation that occurred in a Denver, Colorado, city park between three officers of the Denver police department and the father of the Respondents and a companion of that father.

Before you get too far into the merits, Mr. Halaby, let me ask you this question.

As I read the State Supreme Court's opinion, the trial court had dismissed the 1983 action on a motion for summary dismissal on the ground that the remedy was exclusively under state law for death by a wrongful act.

Now, on that basis the State Supreme Court reversed the trial court and said, no, you should not have had summary judgment sending it back, and therefore the case is now back where it started and would go to trial.

Is that correct?

Theodore S. Halaby:

Not absolutely, Mr. Chief Justice.

Well, what would have happened if you had not brought the case here?

Theodore S. Halaby:

If we had not brought the case here, the two claims, the 1983 survivorship claims brought on behalf of the estate and the personal 1983 claims of the children of the decedent, both would have been remanded for trial in the district court and tried there.

The relief Petitioners are seeking--

Well, before you go into that, did you raise the 1985, Section 1985 question here, or only the 1983?

Theodore S. Halaby:

--We have only raised one issue, and that deals with the children of the decedent, the Respondents herein, and whether or not they may assert personal 1983 claims.

We have not raised the dismissal of the 1985 claims.

Neither have Respondents.

We have not raised the dismissal of the 1983 claims with respect to the chief of police, who was sued strictly in a supervisory capacity.

We have not raised the dismissal of those claims.

We have only raised the finding of the Colorado Supreme Court insofar as it recognized a personal constitutional right in the child to a continuing family relationship, which would afford that child a claim pursuant to Section 1983 for deprivation of that right.

I'm sure it's apparent to you what I'm driving at is whether there is a case here, whether there is jurisdiction.

And you say that if you had not brought the case here, if I understood you, you would have gone to trial on the 1983 question in the state court, with an obligation on the part of the state court to apply federal law.

Is that correct?

Theodore S. Halaby:

That's correct.

If we had not brought the case here--

Then is there a final judgment here?

Theodore S. Halaby:

--There is a final judgment, we submit, with respect to the claims of the children, because unless the Court recognizes that constitutional right they are not parties to the action, they have no claims whatsoever.

So with respect to the claims of the children there is... unless this Court is to affirm the finding of the Colorado Supreme Court with respect to the claims of those children, since they did not assert their state rights under the wrongful death statute, they would have no claims, they would not be parties to the action.

But the Colorado Supreme Court upheld those claims.

Theodore S. Halaby:

That's correct, Justice Rehnquist.