Appeals Court: JOHANNA ORTIZ v. JOHN MORRIS

KeywordsState Police. Immunity from suit. Civil Rights, Immunity of public official. Federal Civil Rights Act. Practice, Civil, Civil rights, Summary judgment, Affidavit. Probable Cause

On what the Court described as a tragic set of facts, the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgement to the defendant State Police officer base on qualified immunity.  A drug smelling dog singled the plaintiff out as possessing drugs, when in fact she possessed only beauty products. She served over a month’s incarceration before she was released.

“On appeal, Ortiz contends that summary judgment was improperly granted because there existed a dispute of material fact whether Morris knew, prior to arresting her, that field tests performed on the beauty products by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents did not, in fact, show a positive result for the presence of cocaine.  In support of this allegation, Ortiz relied on her affidavit, in which she stated that Morris heard a CBP agent relay that the field tests were negative.  Because Ortiz’s affidavit was not based on personal knowledge, it was not the type of admissible evidence required on summary judgment.  The only admissible evidence showed that Morris had a reasonable basis to believe that he had probable cause to arrest Ortiz; accordingly, we affirm the judgment in favor of Morris on the basis of qualified immunity.”

Click here for the full text of the Appeals Court’s decision.

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