798 F.2d 552 (1st Cir. 1986), 85-1982, Thompson v. Olson

Docket Nº:85-1982.
Citation:798 F.2d 552
Party Name:A. Douglas THOMPSON, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. Richard OLSON, Franklin Noiles, and Stephen Robinson, Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:August 19, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 552

798 F.2d 552 (1st Cir. 1986)

A. Douglas THOMPSON, Plaintiff, Appellee,


Richard OLSON, Franklin Noiles, and Stephen Robinson,

Defendants, Appellants.

No. 85-1982.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 19, 1986

        Argued June 5, 1986.

Page 553

        William J. Kayatta, Jr., with whom Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster, Portland, Me., was on brief, for defendants, appellants.

        Mary B. Devine with whom Robert H. Avaunt and Zuckerman & Avaunt, Gray, Me., were on brief, for plaintiff, appellee.

        Before BREYER, Circuit Judge, BROWN, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

        JOHN R. BROWN, Circuit Judge:

        In this appeal we must determine whether the District Court erred in holding three police officers liable on a state-based (Maine) claim of false imprisonment on the grounds that they breached a duty to conduct a post-arrest investigation which would have tended to negate their initial finding of probable cause. We must further determine whether the District Court correctly ruled that one of those officers was liable to the plaintiff under Sec. 1983 for conduct which "shocks the conscience" based on the officer's abrupt dismissal of plaintiff's medically based, self-exonerating statements.

        We hold that a police officer's initial finding of probable cause justifies not only arrest but a reasonable period of continued detention for the purpose of bringing the arrestee before a magistrate. Once the arrest has been made, it is the magistrate and not the policeman who should decide whether probable cause has dissipated to such an extent following arrest that the suspect should be released. Thus, although a police officer certainly has the discretion to release an arrestee immediately in light of certain post-arrest circumstances giving rise to doubts about the initial probable cause finding, we impose no absolute duty to do so absent the post-arrest discovery of evidence negating, beyond any reasonable doubt, the initial probable cause finding--a situation that just did not exist on the facts of this case. Therefore, because there was neither excessive force

Page 554

used nor an unreasonable delay in bringing the plaintiff to the stationhouse, the District Court erred in holding the officers liable on the state law (Maine) claim of false imprisonment.

        We further hold that the District Court erred in holding Officer Robinson liable under Sec. 1983 for conduct which "shocks the conscience." The complained of conduct in this case in no way approaches the level of malevolent conduct required to support a conclusion that it "shocks the conscience." At most, Officer Robinson's curt reply to the plaintiff was evidence of negligence, which does not support an action under Sec. 1983.

        The District Court's judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the police officers.

Baleful Bus Ride

        Plaintiff-Appellee A. Douglas Thompson is totally blind, the result of a severe form of diabetes. As a result of his special condition, he must carry a number of items when out in public or when traveling. These include a collapsible cane, a bottle of medicine for treating insulin shock, a medic alert necklace, and a diabetic identification card which he carries in his wallet. Thompson wore two artificial glass eyes which, except upon close inspection, concealed his sightlessness.

        On December 3, 1980, Thompson was traveling on a Greyhound bus from his parents' home in Machias, Maine to Portland, where he was to catch a plane to his home in Chicago. Although the bus driver who drove the bus from Machias to Bangor knew of Thompson's particular infirmities, the replacement driver who assumed control of the bus in Bangor did not. At some point during the trip from Bangor to Portland, Thompson suffered an insulin shock reaction. When the bus arrived in Portland at 3:00 a.m., Thompson was still in insulin shock.

        The driver noticed that Thompson did not get off the bus and asked him whether he wished to disembark in Portland. Thompson responded in the affirmative but made no effort to leave, despite further similar inquiries by the driver. Finally, the driver called the Portland Police, informed them that Thompson refused to get off the bus, and requested their assistance.

        Three police officers answered the call, defendants Franklin Noiles, Steven Robinson, and Richard Olson. All three drove to the scene in separate police cruisers. Officer Robinson arrived on the scene first, boarded the bus, and found Thompson slumped in his seat, appearing to be asleep. When Robinson spoke to him and tried to rouse him, Thompson murmured incoherently. Although there was neither an odor of alcohol nor any alcoholic beverage containers present, Robinson assumed that Thompson was drunk. Officers Noiles and Olson arrived shortly thereafter and Robinson informed them about the situation. Olson identified himself as a police officer and told Thompson that he would have to leave the bus. Thompson replied "I will, I will" but still did not move. Olson also believed that Thompson was drunk or under the influence of drugs. Olson reached out and shook Thompson, and Thompson began flailing his arms wildly. At this point, the officers restrained Thompson's arms, moved him to the aisle on his knees, and handcuffed him. The officers tried to stand Thompson up since intoxicated people often revive when stood upright. Thompson, however, collapsed to the floor. The officers then removed Thompson from the bus and placed him in the floor well in the rear of Robinson's cruiser to transport...

To continue reading