Connick v. Thompson

Connick v. Thompson
Connick v. Thompson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued October 6, 2010
Decided March 29, 2011
Full case name Connick, District Attorney, et al. v. Thompson
Docket nos. 09-571
Citations 563U.S._(2011)
5th Circuit reversed
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Thomas, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito
Concurrence Scalia, joined by Alito
Dissent Ginsburg, joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan

Connick v. Thompson was a case decided by United States Supreme Court on March 29, 2011. The case considered whether a prosecutor's office can be held liable for a single Brady violation by one of its members on the theory that the office provided inadequate training. In a 5-4 decision split along ideological lines,[1] The Supreme Court found for the appellant, Harry Connick, Sr., and ruled that the prosecutor's office is not liable, overturning a $14 million jury award to the respondent, Thompson.[2]


Summation of the opinion

Justice Thomas wrote for the Court:

"Petitioner the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office concedes that, in prosecuting respondent Thompson for attempted armed robbery, prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83, by failing to disclose a crime lab report. Because of his robbery conviction, Thompson elected not to testify at his later murder trial and was convicted. A month before his scheduled execution, the lab report was discovered. A reviewing court vacated both convictions, and Thompson was found not guilty in a retrial on the murder charge. He then filed suit against the district attorney’s office under 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging, inter alia, that the Brady violation was caused by the office’s deliberate indifference to an obvious need to train prosecutors to avoid such constitutional violations. The district court held that, to prove deliberate indifference, Thompson did not need to show a pattern of similar Brady violations when he could demonstrate that the need for training was obvious. The jury found the district attorney’s office liable for failure to train and awarded Thompson damages. The Fifth Circuit affirmed by an equally divided court. Held: A district attorney’s office may not be held liable under §1983 for failure to train its prosecutors based on a single Brady violation."

"(a) Plaintiffs seeking to impose §1983 liability on local governments must prove that their injury was caused by “action pursuant to official municipal policy,” which includes the decisions of a government’s lawmakers, the acts of its policy making officials, and practices so persistent and widespread as to practically have the force of law. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U. S. 658, 691. A local government’s decision not to train certain employees about their legal duty to avoid violating citizens’ rights may rise to the level of an official government policy for §1983 purposes, but the failure to train must amount to “deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the [untrained employees] come into contact.” Canton v. Harris, 489 U. S. 378, 388. Deliberate indifference in this context requires proof that city policymakers disregarded the “known or obvious consequence” that a particular omission in their training program would cause city employees to violate citizens’ constitutional rights. Board of Comm’rs of Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 520 U. S. 397, 410."

"(b) A pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees is “ordinarily necessary” to demonstrate deliberate indifference. Bryan Cty., supra, at 409. Without notice that a course of training is deficient, decision makers can hardly be said to have deliberately chosen a training program that will cause violations of constitutional rights. Thompson does not contend that he proved a pattern of similar Brady violations, and four reversals by Louisiana courts for dissimilar Brady violations in the 10 years before the robbery trial could not have put the district attorney’s office on notice of the need for specific training."

"(c) Thompson mistakenly relies on the “single-incident” liability hypothesized in Canton, contending that the Brady violation in his case was the “obvious” consequence of failing to provide specific Brady training and that this “obviousness” showing can substitute for the pattern of violations ordinarily necessary to establish municipal culpability. In Canton, the Court theorized that if a city armed its police force and deployed them into the public to capture fleeing felons without training the officers in the constitutional limitation on the use of deadly force, the failure to train could reflect the city’s deliberate indifference to the highly predictable consequence, namely, violations of constitutional rights. Failure to train prosecutors in their Brady obligations does not fall within the narrow range of Can-ton’s hypothesized single-incident liability. The obvious need for specific legal training present in Canton’s scenario—police academy applicants are unlikely to be familiar with constitutional constraints on deadly force and, absent training, cannot obtain that knowledge—is absent here. Attorneys are trained in the law and equipped with the tools to interpret and apply legal principles, understand constitutional limits, and exercise legal judgment. They receive training before entering the profession, must usually satisfy continuing education requirements, often train on the job with more experienced attorneys, and must satisfy licensing standards and ongoing ethical obligations. Prosecutors not only are equipped but are ethically bound to know what Brady entails and to perform legal research when they are uncertain. Thus, recurring constitutional violations are not the “obvious consequence” of failing to provide prosecutors with formal in-house training. The nuance of the allegedly necessary training also distinguishes the case from the example in Canton. Here, the prosecutors were familiar with the general Brady rule. Thus, Thompson cannot rely on the lack of an ability to cope with constitutional situations that underlies the Canton hypothetical, but must assert that prosecutors were not trained about particular Brady evidence or the specific scenario related to the violation in his case. That sort of nuance simply cannot support an inference of deliberate indifference here. Contrary to the holding below, it does not follow that, because Brady has gray areas and some Brady decisions are difficult, prosecutors will so obviously make wrong decisions that failing to train them amounts, as it must, to “a decision by the city itself to violate the Constitution.” Canton, 489 U. S., at 395 (O’Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)."[3]

Reactions to the opinion

The New York Times opined that "Justice Ginsburg’s dissent is the more persuasive..."[4], and the Los Angeles Times wrote that "[t]he court got this one wrong."[5] Nina Totenberg wrote that "a bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court all but closed the door" to prosecutors being held liable for damages when prosecutors violate the law to deprive a person of a fair trial.[6] Dahlia Lithwick wrote "Both Thomas and Scalia have produced what can only be described as a master class in human apathy. Their disregard for the facts of Thompson's thrashed life and near-death emerges as a moral flat line...only by willfully ignoring that entire trial record can [Scalia] and Thomas reduce the entire constitutional question to a single misdeed by a single bad actor."[7] Radley Balko noted that "...[t]here's something pretty unsavory about a judicial philosophy that cites a ruling that we now know sent an innocent man back to prison as an authority to deny compensation to another innocent man who was nearly executed because the government hid the evidence that would have and eventually did exonerate him."[8] Kieran Healy called the tone of the majority opinion "spiteful", and the decision a "Lord Denning Moment" for the court. Healy continued, "[t]he conservative majority preferred to affirm an obvious wrong rather than face the appalling vista of a brutal and corrupt justice system."[9] Andrew Cohen called the majority's argument a "warped rationale."[10] Wendy Kaminer wrote that "...what's striking about this case, aside from the majority's apparent indifference to practical realities and the actual sufferings of an innocent man wrongfully sentenced to die, is its indifference to the facts of the case outlined by Justice Ginsburg's dissent."[11] Bennett Gershman and Joel Cohen called the majority's reasoning "bizarre," and wrote that "[Ginsburg's] dissent was so contemptuous of the majority's decision that it provoked a gratuitous concurring opinion from Justice Scalia in a likely effort to seek to legitimize the majority opinion from her savage rebuke."[12] Writing for the American Constitution Society, Brandon Garrett called the ruling "chilling" and the majority's arguments "formalistic and circular."[13]

See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Thou Shalt Not (musical) — Infobox Musical name= Thou Shalt Not caption=Poster from the production music=Harry Connick, Jr. lyrics=Harry Connick, Jr. book=David Thompson basis=Émile Zola s novel Thérèse Raquin productions= 2001 Broadway awards= Thou Shalt Not is a musical… …   Wikipedia

  • performing arts — arts or skills that require public performance, as acting, singing, or dancing. [1945 50] * * * ▪ 2009 Introduction Music Classical.       The last vestiges of the Cold War seemed to thaw for a moment on Feb. 26, 2008, when the unfamiliar strains …   Universalium

  • South Pacific (2001 film) — Infobox Film name = South Pacific caption = DVD cover imdb id = 0242898 amg id = 1:243915 director = Richard Pearce writer = Oscar Hammerstein II Joshua Logan James Michener Lawrence D. Cohen starring = Glenn Close Harry Connick Jr. Rade… …   Wikipedia

  • Excess Baggage — Infobox Film name = Excess Baggage writer = Max D. Adams, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais starring = Alicia Silverstone, Benicio del Toro, Christopher Walken, Harry Connick Jr. director = Marco Brambilla producer = Bill Borden, Carolyn Kessler,… …   Wikipedia

  • Jazz — Para otros términos similares, véase Jazz (desambiguación). Jazz Orígenes musicales Blues, música africana, música clásica, minstrel Orígenes culturales Mediados del Siglo XIX en Estado …   Wikipedia Español

  • New Orleans Police Department — Policier du French Market dans le Vieux carré, illustration datée d entre 1885 et 1890. Le New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) est la police de La Nouvelle Orléans, dotée d environ 1 400 hommes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • List of people from Louisiana — People from the state of Louisiana who have achieved fame or note include:A*Jamar Adcock (1917–1991) politician and banker *Trace Adkins (born 1962) singer/songwriter *Robert Adley (born 1947) politician from Bossier Parish *Calhoun Allen… …   Wikipedia

  • Come Away with Me — Studio album by Norah Jones Released February 26, 2002 …   Wikipedia

  • Memphis Belle (film) — Memphis Belle Theatrical Release Poster Directed by Michael Caton Jones Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • 2008 NBA All-Star Game — 1 2 3 4 Total East 34 40 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”