Alvarez v. City of Brownsville, No. 16-40772

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Citation904 F.3d 382
Decision Date18 September 2018
Parties George ALVAREZ, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. The CITY OF BROWNSVILLE, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 16-40772

904 F.3d 382

George ALVAREZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
The CITY OF BROWNSVILLE, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 16-40772

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

September 18, 2018


Eduardo Lucio, Brownsville, Paul Whitfield Hughes, Mayer Brown, L.L.P., Washington, Brian Wolfman, Appellate Courts Immersion Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, for Plaintiff–Appellee.

Ramon Gustave Viada, III, Viada & Strayer, The Woodlands, Heather Scott, Guerra, Leeds, Sabo & Hernandez, P.L.L.C., Brownsville, for Defendant–Appellant.

Vijay Shanker, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Washington, for Amicus Curiae United States of America.

Jason Neal Jordan, Christopher Knight, Benjamin Lee Mesches, Haynes & Boone, L.L.P., Dallas, Joshua L. Dratel, Esq., Law Offices of Joshua L. Dratel, P.C., New York, for Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Umer Ali, Olivia Radin, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, L.L.P., New York, for Amicus Curiae Fair Trials International.

Alysson Leigh Mills, Esq., Kristen Diane Amond, Fishman Haygood, L.L.P., New Orleans, for Amicus Curiae Innocence Project, Incorporated, Innocence Project of Texas, Innocence Project New Orleans, University of Mississippi School Of Law George C. Cochran Innocence Project.

William Trunk, Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber, L.L.P., Washington, for Amicus Curiae Mary Beth Buchanan, Ann Campbell Flannery, John Gleeson, Bruce A. Green, Steven H. Levin, Ronald H. Levine, Caren Myers Morrison, William N. "Bill" Nettles, Julie Rose O'Sullivan, Terry L. Pechota, Paul Shechtman.

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and JOLLY, JONES, SMITH, WIENER, DENNIS, CLEMENT, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK, HAYNES, GRAVES, HIGGINSON, COSTA, WILLETT, and HO, Circuit Judges.*

CARL E. STEWART, Chief Judge, joined by JOLLY, JONES, SMITH, WIENER, CLEMENT, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK, HAYNES, HIGGINSON, WILLETT, and HO, Circuit Judges:**

904 F.3d 385

This case was reheard en banc after the Appellee, George Alvarez, had his $2.3 million judgment reversed and his claims against the City of Brownsville dismissed by a panel of this court. The en banc court has carefully considered two important questions as to the merits of this case: (1) whether the City of Brownsville should have been subjected to municipal liability for Alvarez's claim under Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) ; and (2) whether Alvarez was precluded from asserting his constitutional Brady claim for his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the City of Brownsville because he pled guilty. For the reasons set forth below, we REVERSE the district court's judgment, and RENDER judgment in favor of the City of Brownsville. Alvarez's action against the City of Brownsville is DISMISSED with prejudice.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Factual Background

1. The Incident Between Alvarez and Officer Arias at the Jail

On November 27, 2005, Alvarez, a then-seventeen year old ninth grade special education

904 F.3d 386

student, was arrested by the Brownsville Police Department and taken to a detention center in Brownsville, Texas on suspicion of public intoxication and burglary of a motor vehicle. After being placed in one of the holding cells, Alvarez attempted to use a telephone located in the cell. Initially, Alvarez was able to place a call but the phone eventually stopped working. Alvarez then banged the phone's handset against the phone's switch hook mounted on the wall, and made an obscene gesture towards a camera. Because Alvarez became somewhat disruptive, officers removed Alvarez from his cell and attempted to transfer him to a padded cell to calm down. To move Alvarez to the padded cell, the officers had to walk him across the jail's central lobby booking area.

After reaching the booking area, Alvarez engaged in a conversation with a group of officers. Alvarez primarily spoke to Officer Jesus Arias who took the lead in trying to direct Alvarez to the padded cell. As the conversation continued, Alvarez was reluctant to move towards the padded cell and obey Officer Arias's instructions to walk towards the cell. When recalling the conversation with Officer Arias, Alvarez indicated, "I understand I wasn't compliant."

A scuffle between Alvarez and Officer Arias soon ensued. The altercation began when Officer Arias grabbed Alvarez's left arm and maneuvered Alvarez to the ground. Officer Arias then placed Alvarez in a choke hold and eventually a head lock. Officers assisting Officer Arias subdued Alvarez by shackling Alvarez's legs and handcuffing him. Throughout the struggle, Alvarez squirmed and flailed his arms. Alvarez, handcuffed and legs shackled, was then carried and placed in the padded holding cell. All of the events that took place at the jail before, during, and after Alvarez's incident with Officer Arias were captured on video.

2. Investigations Conducted by the Brownsville Police Department

The Brownsville Police Department utilizes separate investigative tracks for internal disciplinary investigations of its officers and alleged crimes committed by detainees at the jail. An internal administrative investigation was conducted to determine if Officer Arias violated the Brownsville Police Department's use of force policy during the altercation with Alvarez. Additionally, a criminal investigation was conducted by the Brownsville Police Department to determine if there was probable cause for recommending that the district attorney's office criminally charge Alvarez for assaulting Officer Arias.

Generally, the Brownsville Police Department's internal administrative affairs division does not share information with the criminal investigation division. If information is to be shared between the internal administrative affairs division and the criminal investigation division, Police Chief Carlos Garcia is usually the individual who authorizes the exchange. However, Sergeant David Infante, the jail supervisor who downloaded the videos of the incident for the internal administrative investigation of Officer Arias, stated that "if something would have been asked of me by the criminal investigation, I would have submitted it." Police Chief Garcia further added that Sergeant Infante should have provided the videos of the incident to the criminal investigation division if he knew criminal charges were being brought against Alvarez. Commander Roberto Avitia, also a supervisor of Sergeant Infante, similarly stated that Sergeant Infante should have disclosed the videos to the criminal investigation division.

For the internal investigation, Sergeant Infante evaluated the videos and Officer Arias's report of the incident. Four different

904 F.3d 387

videos were reviewed: (1) a video of Alvarez in the initial holding cell that he was placed in; (2) a video of the officers at the central command post in the detention center before, during, and after the incident; (3) a video of the altercation between Alvarez and Officer Arias that occurred in the lobby booking area; and (4) a video of Alvarez in the padded cell after he was transported. After conducting the investigation, Sergeant Infante came to the conclusion that Officer Arias used proper force and that no further action should be taken.

Two days after the incident between Alvarez and Officer Arias, on November 29, 2005, Sergeant Infante sent a memorandum to Police Chief Garcia reiterating his recommendation that proper force was used. On December 8, 2005, another supervisor of Sergeant Infante, Commander Ramiro Rodriguez, reviewed Sergeant Infante's report and the video recordings, and submitted a report to Police Chief Garcia recommending closure of the internal administrative investigation since Officer Arias's actions were in compliance with Brownsville Police Department regulations.

Even though the reports and recommendations were stamped as received on December 8, 2005 by Police Chief Garcia's office, Police Chief Garcia did not review the reports. The materials for the internal investigation, including the videos, were never passed on to an internal affairs unit for a formal disciplinary investigation of Officer Arias or to the criminal investigation division of the Brownsville Police Department.

The criminal investigation division reviewed the incident after the internal administrative review was conducted. The criminal investigation began on November 27, 2005, with Sergeant Jim Brown preparing and filing an offense report of the incident that occurred between Alvarez and Officer Arias. Sergeant Brown was the patrol supervisor responsible for addressing issues that arose at the jail when the incident occurred.1 Sergeant Brown's report stated Alvarez allegedly assaulted Officer Arias but did not mention that there were any video recordings of the incident. Criminal investigator Officer Rene Carrejo was subsequently assigned to review Officer Arias's complaint that Alvarez assaulted him by grabbing his throat and his right inner thigh. Officer Carrejo never requested or inquired about the possible existence of a video recording of the...

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70 practice notes
  • Williams v. Seidenbach, No. 18-31159
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 4, 2020
    ...the plain language of United States statutes" to the maximum extent that Supreme Court precedent permits. Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 401 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc) (Ho, J., concurring).2 Second, the dissent is correct that, whether the parties dispute jurisdiction or not,......
  • Booth v. Galveston Cnty., Civil Action No. 3:18–CV–00104
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • January 10, 2019
    ...show direct causation, i.e., that there was a direct causal link between the policy and the violation." Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 390 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, Booth "must demonstrate that the policy was implemented w......
  • Williams v. Homeland Ins. Co. of N.Y., 20-30196
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 30, 2021
    ...(judges should follow legal texts "to the maximum extent that Supreme Court precedent permits") (citing Alvarez v. City of Brownsville, 904 F.3d 382, 401 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc) (Ho, J., concurring)); Preterm-Cleveland v. McCloud, 994 F.3d 512, 543 (6th Cir. 2021) (en banc) (Bush, J., con......
  • Richardson v. Tex. Sec'y of State, No. 20-50774
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 19, 2020
    ...confinement, the Sixth Circuit was "flirting with ... a novel alteration of [ ] constitutional doctrine." Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 397 (5th Cir. 2018) (Ho, J., concurring), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2690, 204 L.Ed.2d 1103 (2019). We decline to adopt such ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
74 cases
  • Williams v. Seidenbach, No. 18-31159
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • May 4, 2020
    ...the plain language of United States statutes" to the maximum extent that Supreme Court precedent permits. Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 401 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc) (Ho, J., concurring).2 Second, the dissent is correct that, whether the parties dispute jurisdiction or not,......
  • Booth v. Galveston Cnty., Civil Action No. 3:18–CV–00104
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • January 10, 2019
    ...show direct causation, i.e., that there was a direct causal link between the policy and the violation." Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 390 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, Booth "must demonstrate that the policy was implemented w......
  • Williams v. Homeland Ins. Co. of N.Y., 20-30196
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 30, 2021
    ...(judges should follow legal texts "to the maximum extent that Supreme Court precedent permits") (citing Alvarez v. City of Brownsville, 904 F.3d 382, 401 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc) (Ho, J., concurring)); Preterm-Cleveland v. McCloud, 994 F.3d 512, 543 (6th Cir. 2021) (en banc) (Bush, J., con......
  • Richardson v. Tex. Sec'y of State, No. 20-50774
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 19, 2020
    ...confinement, the Sixth Circuit was "flirting with ... a novel alteration of [ ] constitutional doctrine." Alvarez v. City of Brownsville , 904 F.3d 382, 397 (5th Cir. 2018) (Ho, J., concurring), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 2690, 204 L.Ed.2d 1103 (2019). We decline to adopt such ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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