In a recent article, Sharon R. Fairley of the University of Chicago Law School, reports through several recent decisions, the Supreme Court of the United States has created an avenue for individuals, through the Fourth Amendment, to bring excessive force claims to trial. The Law360 Access to Justice article “6th Circ. Case Eases Path For Some Excessive Force Claims” examines several excessive use-of-force cases and what this could mean for future litigants. 

An excerpt of the article is below: 

During its 2020-2021 term, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for individuals who were shot by police, but nonetheless able to flee, to bring excessive force claims under the Fourth Amendment.

In Torres v. Madrid,[1] the court held that a Fourth Amendment seizure includes law enforcement’s application of physical force to the body of a person with the intent to restrain, even if the person does not submit and is not subdued by such force.

This term, the court has declined an invitation to further define or clarify what it means to be seized under the Fourth Amendment.

In so doing, the court leaves in place a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling that allows a victim of a police officer’s unjustified discharge of a firearm to bring an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, regardless of whether the person was actually hit by the gunfire.

This is helpful for civil rights litigants who otherwise would have to bring such a claim under the 14th Amendment’s cumbersome “shock the conscience” standard. 

Read the full piece here. 


Madison Bessho

The American Law Institute