973 F.2d 39 (1st Cir. 1992), 91-2337, Buenrostro v. Collazo

Docket Nº:91-2337.
Citation:973 F.2d 39
Party Name:Leonel BUENROSTRO, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. Pablo COLLAZO, a/k/a Pablo Collazo Marrero, et al., Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:August 26, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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973 F.2d 39 (1st Cir. 1992)

Leonel BUENROSTRO, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees,


Pablo COLLAZO, a/k/a Pablo Collazo Marrero, et al.,

Defendants, Appellants.

No. 91-2337.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 26, 1992

Heard July 29, 1992.

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John F. Nevares, with whom Annabel Rodriguez, Sol. Gen., Reina Colon, Asst. Sol. Gen., Silvio Cancio, and Saldana, Rey & Alvarado Hato Rey, P.R., were on brief, for defendants, appellants.

Francisco A. Besosa, with whom Goldman Antonetti Ferraiuoli & Axtmayer, Santurce, P.R., was on brief, for plaintiffs, appellees.

Before SELYA and STAHL, Circuit Judges and SKINNER, [*] District Judge.

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SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellee Leonel Buenrostro, portraying himself as a victim of mistaken identity and misplaced zeal, sued a number of police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988). 1 The defendants unsuccessfully attempted to pretermit the suit on qualified immunity grounds. The district court denied their motion for summary judgment. We affirm.


Consistent with the method of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), we take the record in the light most hospitable to the party opposing summary judgment and indulge all reasonable inferences favorable to him. See Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir.1990).

On March 29, 1988, the extradition squad raided Buenrostro's home, hauled him out, and arrested him pursuant to a "wanted person" request (WPR) from the State of New York. The police admittedly acted in the absence of an arrest warrant, a search warrant, or any exigent circumstances sufficient to justify the intrusion.

As a result of this arrest, appellee was handcuffed, taken to police headquarters, and locked in a cell. Subsequently, a local magistrate determined that there was probable cause to detain him while extradition proceedings ran their course. Despite a number of red flags--e.g., Buenrostro's claims that the probable-cause determination was based on false accusations mouthed by members of the extradition squad, his continuing protests of innocence, significant discrepancies between the description of the suspect mentioned in the WPR and Buenrostro's physical characteristics, and available (but unused) fingerprint evidence--Buenrostro remained immured in what the district court termed "horrific conditions" for thirty-one days. Finally, a more thorough examination of New York's extradition request was undertaken, and the Puerto Rican authorities admitted that they had arrested the wrong man. Buenrostro was released.

Not long thereafter, Buenrostro sued for damages. He alleged in his complaint that his constitutional rights had been infracted in various ways. He also asserted pendent claims. In due course, the appellants sought brevis disposition based on qualified immunity. When the district court denied their Rule 56 motion, Buenrostro v. Collazo, 777 F.Supp. 128 (D.P.R.1991), they filed this appeal.



Ordinarily, we would not entertain an immediate appeal from a denial of summary judgment. See, e.g., Fisichelli v. City Known as the Town of Methuen, 884 F.2d 17, 18 (1st Cir.1989); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1988) ("[t]he courts of appeals ... shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts") (emphasis supplied). Nevertheless, the denial of a government actor's dispositive pretrial motion premised on qualified immunity falls within a narrow exception to the finality principle and is, therefore, immediately appealable. See Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 524-30, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2814-18, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985); Roque-Rodriguez v. Lema Moya, 926 F.2d 103, 105 (1st Cir.1991); Fisichelli, 884 F.2d at 18. The window of opportunity, however, is tiny. "Notwithstanding that we have jurisdiction to review the denial of qualified immunity midstream, any additional claim presented to and rejected by the district court must independently satisfy the collateral-order exception to the final judgment rule in order for us to address it on an interlocutory appeal." Roque-Rodriguez, 926 F.2d at 105 (citations

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and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Domegan v. Fair, 859 F.2d 1059, 1061-62 (1st Cir.1988).

In this case, there is no other basis for earlier-than-usual review. It follows inexorably that, for present purposes, we must focus exclusively upon the question of whether the defense of qualified immunity, as invoked by the appellants, shielded them from liability for money damages, and from the concomitant burden of a trial, arising out of the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Roque-Rodriguez, 926 F.2d at 105-06.


Appealability aside, appellate review of district court orders granting or denying summary judgment works the same way in qualified immunity cases as in other cases. See Morales v. Ramirez, 906 F.2d 784, 785 (1st Cir.1990); Amsden v. Moran, 904 F.2d 748, 752 (1st Cir.1990), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 111 S.Ct. 713, 112 L.Ed.2d 702 (1991). Summary judgment is proper if "the 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 fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). District court orders granting or denying brevis disposition are subject to plenary review. 2 Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir.1990); Garside, 895 F.2d at 48.



Through the medium of qualified immunity, the law strives to balance its desire to compensate those whose rights are infringed by state actors with an equally compelling desire to shield public servants from undue interference with the performance of their...

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