White v. Pauly

Facts of the Case

Respondent Daniel Pauly was involved in a road-rage incident on a highway near Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was in the evening and it was raining. The two women involved called 911 to report Daniel as a “‘drunk driver’” who was “‘swerving all crazy.’” The women then followed Daniel down the highway, close behind him and with their bright lights on. Daniel, feeling threatened, pulled his truck over at an off-ramp to confront them. After a brief, nonviolent encounter, Daniel drove a short distance to a secluded house where he lived with his brother, Samuel Pauly. Officer White had parked at the first house and was walking up to its front door when he heard shouting from the second house. He half-jogged, half-walked to the Paulys’ house, arriving “just as one of the brothers said: ‘We have guns.’” Just “a few seconds” after the “We have guns” statement, Daniel stepped part way out of the back door and fired two shotgun blasts while screaming loudly. A few seconds after those shots, Samuel opened the front window and pointed a handgun in Officer White’s direction.

Question

Does an officer’s failure to shout a warning before firing–when that officer joined an ongoing confrontation–constitute a violation of a clearly established Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive use of force?

CONCLUSION

An officer’s failure to shout a warning before firing in an ongoing confrontation does not constitute a violation of a clearly established Fourth Amendment right to be free from the excessive use of force. In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that, for the purpose of qualified immunity, the clearly established right at issue must be particular to the facts of the case. The lower court erred by relying on overly broad statements of law regarding the excessive use of force. In this case, there is no clearly established Fourth Amendment right that requires officers to shout warnings before firing when that officer joined an ongoing confrontation and could reasonably assume that proper procedures, such as police identification, were followed.In her concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the majority opinion does not foreclose the denial of Truesdale and Mariscal’s motions for summary judgment, especially since there are questions of fact regarding whether they identified themselves as police officers. Similarly, the majority opinion does not foreclose the denial of White’s motion for summary judgment because the record indicates that there may be questions of fact regarding when he arrived on the scene and what he observed.

Case Information

  • Citation: 580 US _ (2017)
  • Granted: Jan 9, 2017
  • Decided Jan 9, 2017