14 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 1994), 93-1499, Febus-Rodriguez v. Betancourt-Lebron

Docket Nº:93-1499.
Citation:14 F.3d 87
Party Name:Julio FEBUS-RODRIGUEZ and Catalina Rodriguez-Pagan, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. Ismael BETANCOURT-LEBRON, et al., Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:January 18, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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14 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 1994)

Julio FEBUS-RODRIGUEZ and Catalina Rodriguez-Pagan, et al.,

Plaintiffs, Appellees,


Ismael BETANCOURT-LEBRON, et al., Defendants, Appellants.

No. 93-1499.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 18, 1994

Heard Nov. 4, 1993.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Reina Colon-de Rodriguez, Acting Deputy Sol. Gen., with whom Carlos Lugo-Fiol, Acting Sol. Gen., Edna C. Rosario-Munoz, Lou A. Delgado, Dept. of Justice, Federal Litigation Div., Angel L. Tapia-Flores, and Law Firm Tapia & Aviles, were on brief, for defendants-appellants.

Ivan A. Ramos, with whom Julio Morales-Sanchez, Katarina Stipec-Rubio, and Ramos, Morales-Sanchez & Ramos Camara, were on brief, for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, TORRUELLA and BOUDIN, Circuit Judges.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

The appellants in this case appeal the district court's order denying their motions for summary judgment based on the doctrine of qualified immunity. Plaintiffs Julio Febus-Rodriguez ("Febus") and his mother, Catalina Rodriguez-Pagan, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, claiming that during Febus' arrest on April 14, 1990, he was assaulted by the arresting police officers and then denied necessary medical treatment, in violation of the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Defendants 1 Ismael Betancourt-Lebron, the Superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police Department ("Betancourt"), and Daniel Oquendo-Figueroa, Mayor of the Municipality of Cayey ("Oquendo") moved for summary judgment, based in part, on the grounds that the doctrine of qualified immunity barred the suit. The district court denied their motion. We reverse.


When a defendant moves for summary judgment based on the doctrine of qualified immunity, the court must review the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Rogers v. Fair, 902 F.2d 140, 143 (1st Cir.1990). The facts appearing from the summary judgment materials are as follows.

On April 14, 1990, Febus, who is mentally retarded, was performing indecent gestures and breaching the peace on a public street in Cayey, Puerto Rico. After the Puerto Rico Police Department received a complaint about Febus' actions, police officers Hector Rivera-Santiago ("Hector Rivera") and Miguel Rodriguez-Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") arrived at the scene. A short time later, a Cayey Municipal Guard, Jose Rivera-Ortiz ("Jose Rivera") arrived to assist them. The three officers attempted to speak to Febus. Febus allegedly resisted their attempts to calm him down, and a struggle ensued. The officers then placed Febus under arrest.

After Febus' arrest, the officers transported Febus to the Cayey police station. From there, Officer Rodriguez and Officer Jose Rivera took Febus to the Guayama Court, where he was charged with breaching the peace and resisting arrest. The officers then brought Febus back to the Cayey police station and then released him.

Febus was severely beaten by the police officers during his arrest and he was denied medical treatment for the injuries he suffered. 2 Febus was hospitalized from April

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14, 1990 to April 24, 1990. As a result of the events of April 14, 1990, Febus is now allegedly a quadriplegic, suffering from post-traumatic epilepsy, and aphasia.

Febus, and his mother, Catalina Rodriguez-Pagan, originally filed their complaint in this matter on April 15, 1991, against police officers Rodriguez, Hector Rivera and Jose Rivera, Superintendent Betancourt, and Mayor Oquendo, as well as other defendants whose claims are not relevant to this appeal. The plaintiffs alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 claiming that the three police officers severely beat Febus during his arrest, and then denied him necessary medical treatment, thus violating Febus' rights under the Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The plaintiffs' claims against Betancourt and Oquendo were based on Betancourt's position as supervisor of Officer Rodriguez and Officer Hector Rivera, and Oquendo's position as supervisor of Officer Jose Rivera. The plaintiffs claimed that Betancourt and Oquendo were grossly negligent in their recruiting, training, and supervision of the police officers who were involved in this incident.

To support their allegations against Betancourt and Oquendo, the plaintiffs have proffered the expert affidavit of Dr. Pedro Vales-Hernandez ("Dr. Vales"), a clinical psychologist and criminologist. After reviewing the officers' personnel histories and the facts surrounding the events on April 14, 1990, Dr. Vales concluded:

[I]t is evident that Policemen and Municipal Guards are not adequately trained within a professional orientation where physical intervention is deemed unnecessary. There is not a single course in their curriculum related to crisis intervention, recognition and treatment of mentally [i]nsane people, treatment of non[-]visible traumas, [invasion] of psychological perimeters while approaching a person or even how to make a [non-violent] intervention or arrest.

Furthermore, it is our contention that Police (or Municipal Guard) recruitment practice[s] [are] extremely lax. People with [deficient] academic records, poor attitudes, and personal pathologies can be recruited due to the lack of rigorosity [sic] [in] the process.

Psychological assessment[s] of applicants are limited to an interview and the administration of a single test that will not measure a variety of personality traits not compatible with healthy standards.

On May 14, 1992, Betancourt and Oquendo filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment, basing their motion, in part, on the doctrine of qualified immunity. On April 7, 1993, the district court denied their motion without explanation. Betancourt and Oquendo then filed this interlocutory appeal.


A. Jurisdiction

"[A] district court's denial of a claim of qualified immunity, to the extent that it turns on an issue of law, is an appealable 'final decision' within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 ..." Fonte v. Collins, 898 F.2d 284, 285 (1st Cir.1990) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2817, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985)). Because a defendant's entitlement to qualified immunity is a question of law in this context, appellate review is plenary. Hoffman v. Reali, 973 F.2d 980, 985 (1st Cir.1992). Therefore, we must review the record and examine the discovered facts regarding the conduct of Betancourt and Oquendo, and determine whether a genuine issue does or does not exist concerning qualified immunity. Unwin v. Campbell, 863 F.2d 124, 132 (1st Cir.1988).

B. The Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment must be granted if:

[T]he pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material

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fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "To succeed, the moving party must show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's position." Rogers, 902 F.2d at 143. If this is accomplished, the burden then "shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of an issue of fact that could affect the outcome of the litigation and from which a reasonable jury could find for the [nonmoving party]." Id. (citations omitted). The nonmovant cannot simply rest upon mere allegations. Id. Instead...

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