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Date: 04-06-2022

Case Style:

Larry Thompson v. Pagiel Clark, et al.

Case Number: 20-659

Judge: Kavanaugh

Court: United States Supreme Court on certiorari to the United Stats Court of appeals for the Second Circuit on appeal from the Eastern District of New York

Plaintiff's Attorney: Cary London and David Zelman

Defendant's Attorney: Kavin Suresh Thadani, Matthew Bridge and Blair Ziff-Wasserman

Description: n January 2014, petitioner Larry Thompson was living with his fiancée
(now wife) and their newborn baby in an apartment in Brooklyn, New
York. Thompson’s sister-in-law, who apparently suffered from a men-
tal illness, called 911 to report that Thompson was sexually abusing
the baby. When Emergency Medical Technicians arrived, Thompson
denied that anyone had called 911. When the EMTs returned with
four police officers, Thompson told them that they could not enter with-
out a warrant. The police nonetheless entered and handcuffed Thomp-
son. EMTs took the baby to the hospital where medical professionals
examined her and found no signs of abuse. Meanwhile, Thompson was
arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration
and resisting arrest. He was detained for two days before being re-
leased. The charges against Thompson were dismissed before trial
without any explanation by the prosecutor or judge. After the dismis-
sal, Thompson filed suit under 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging several con-
stitutional violations, including a Fourth Amendment claim for mali-
cious prosecution. To maintain that Fourth Amendment claim under
§1983, a plaintiff such as Thompson must demonstrate, among other
things, that he obtained a favorable termination of the underlying
criminal prosecution. To meet that requirement, Second Circuit prec-
edent required Thompson to show that his criminal prosecution ended
not merely without a conviction, but also with some affirmative indi-
cation of his innocence. See Lanning v. Glens Falls, 908 F. 3d 19, 22.
The District Court, bound by Lanning, held that Thompson’s criminal
case had not ended in a way that affirmatively indicated his innocence
because Thompson could not offer any substantial evidence to explain
why his case was dismissed. The Second Circuit affirmed the dismis-
sal of Thompson’s claim. This Court granted certiorari to resolve a
split among the Courts of Appeals over how to apply the favorable ter-
mination requirement of the Fourth Amendment claim under §1983
for malicious prosecution.

See: Chick here for copy of the full opinion

Outcome: To demonstrate a favorable termination of a criminal prosecution
for purposes of the Fourth Amendment claim under §1983 for mali-
cious prosecution, a plaintiff need not show that the criminal prosecu-
tion ended with some affirmative indication of innocence. A plaintiff
need only show that his prosecution ended without a conviction.
Thompson has satisfied that requirement here. Pp. 4–12.
(a) To determine the elements of a constitutional claim under §1983,
this Court’s practice is to first look to the elements of the most analo-
gous tort as of 1871 when §1983 was enacted, so long as doing so is
consistent with “the values and purposes of the constitutional right at
issue.” Manuel v. Joliet, 580 U. S. 357, 370. Here, as most of the
Courts of Appeals to consider the question have determined, the most
analogous tort to this Fourth Amendment claim is malicious prosecu-
tion. Pp. 4–7.
(b) In accord with the elements of the malicious prosecution tort, a
Fourth Amendment claim under §1983 for malicious prosecution re-
quires the plaintiff to show a favorable termination of the underlying
criminal case against him. The parties to this case, as well as the lower
courts, disagree about what a favorable termination entails, i.e., is it
sufficient to show that Thompson’s prosecution ended without a con-
viction or must he also show that his prosecution ended with some af-
firmative indication of innocence? To resolve that disagreement, the
Court looks to American malicious prosecution tort law as of 1871. At
that time, most American courts agreed that the favorable termination
element of a malicious prosecution cl aim was satisfied so long as the
prosecution ended without a convicti on. A plaintiff could maintain a
malicious prosecution claim when, for example, the prosecutor aban-
doned the criminal case or the court dismissed the case without provid-
ing a reason.
The American tort-law consensus as of 1871 did not require a plain-
tiff in a malicious prosecution suit to show that his prosecution ended
with an affirmative indication of innocence, and this Court similarly
construes Thompson’s Fourth Amendment claim under §1983 for ma-
licious prosecution. Doing so is consistent with “the values and pur -
poses” of the Fourth Amendment. Manuel, 580 U. S., at 370. Ques-
tions concerning whether a criminal defendant was wrongly charged,
or whether an individual may seek redress for a wrongful prosecution,
cannot reasonably depend on whether the prosecutor or court hap-
pened to explain why charges were dismissed. And requiring a plain-
tiff to show that his prosecution en ded with an affirmative indication
of innocence is not necessary to protect officers from unwarranted civil
suits, as officers are still protected by the requirement that the plain-
tiff show the absence of probable cause and by qualified immunity.

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