The issue in this case is whether reasonable, well trained officers should have known that the warrant failed to establish probable cause. The Ninth Circuit held that Messerschmidt and the other officers should have known, and denied qualified immunity to the officers relying on Malley v Briggs, 475 US 335, 106 S Ct 1092, 89 L Ed 2d 271 (1986). However, in a 6-3 decision, the SCOTUS reversed the Ninth Circuit holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity for executing a search warrant for firearms and evidence of gang activity in a home after a victim reported that the suspect had threatened her with a gun.
This evidence falls far short of establishing probable cause, and “no reasonably competent officer would have concluded that a warrant should issue.” Messerschmidt, 565 U.S. at 547 (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)). Because the search of Doe’s vehicle and computer was not supported by probable cause, I believe the two-and-a-half-hour-long detention of his vehicle and computer was likewise unlawful.
She points out that while the Second Circuit articulates the qualified immunity test in two parts ("clearly established law" and "good faith" or "objective reasonableness"), the Supreme Court has not quite broken it down that way. While the Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed determining if the state of law was sufficiently clear to place the defendant public official on notice that his actions were illegal, it has not -- contrary to widespread belief in the lower Federal courts -- given public officials a second bite from the qualified immunity apple in allowing them to avoid suit if their otherwise illegal actions were objectively reasonable at the time.The objective reasonableness test flows from a Supreme Court ruling, Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335 (1986), which does use that language in describing the entitlement to qualified immunity. But as Judge Sotomayor points out, that language has not appeared in any of the Supreme Court's majority opinions since then.