Camreta v. Greene, Nos. 09–1454

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation179 L.Ed.2d 1118,131 S.Ct. 2020,563 U.S. 692
Decision Date26 May 2011
Docket Number09–1478.,Nos. 09–1454
Parties Bob CAMRETA, Petitioner, v. Sarah GREENE, personally and as next friend of S.G., a minor, and K.G., a minor. James Alford, Deputy Sheriff, Deshutes County, Oregon, Petitioner, v. Sarah Greene, personally and as next friend of S.G., a minor, and K.G., a minor.

563 U.S. 692
131 S.Ct.
2020
179 L.Ed.2d 1118

Bob CAMRETA, Petitioner,
v.
Sarah GREENE, personally and as next friend of S.G., a minor, and K.G., a minor.


James Alford, Deputy Sheriff, Deshutes County, Oregon, Petitioner,
v.
Sarah Greene, personally and as next friend of S.G., a minor, and K.G., a minor.

Nos. 09–1454
09–1478.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 1, 2011.
Decided May 26, 2011.


John R. Kroger, Attorney General, Salem, OR, for petitioner.

Leondra R. Kruger, Washington, DC, for United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioners.

Carolyn A. Kubitschek, for respondents.

Christopher Dennis Bell, Counsel of Record, Assistant Legal Counsel, Steven Edward Griffin, Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of Deschutes County Legal Counsel, Bend, OR, Attorneys for Petitioner Deschutes County Deputy Sheriff James Alford.

John R. Kroger, Attorney General of Oregon, Counsel of Record, Mary H. Williams, Solicitor General, Anna Joyce, Deputy Solicitor General, Salem, OR, Counsel for Petitioner Bob Camreta.

Mikel R. Miller, Law Office of Mikel R. Miller, PC, Robert E. Lehrer, Law Offices Robert E. Lehrer, Chicago, IL, Carolyn A. Kubitschek, Counsel of Record, David J. Lansner, Lansner Kubitschek Schaffer, New York, NY, Carolyn Shapiro, Chicago, IL, for Respondents.

Justice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

563 U.S. 697

Almost a decade ago, a state child protective services worker and a county deputy sheriff interviewed a girl at her elementary school in Oregon about allegations that her father had sexually abused her. The girl's mother subsequently sued the government officials on the child's behalf for damages under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the interview infringed the Fourth Amendment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed, ruling that the officials had violated the Constitution

563 U.S. 698

by failing to obtain a warrant to conduct the interview. But the Court of Appeals further held that qualified immunity shielded the officials from monetary liability because the constitutional right at issue was not clearly established under existing law.

The two officials sought this Court's review of the Ninth Circuit's ruling on the Fourth Amendment. We granted their petitions to examine two questions. First, may government officials who prevail on grounds of qualified immunity obtain our review of a court of appeals' decision that their conduct violated the Constitution? And second, if we may consider cases in this procedural posture, did the Ninth Circuit correctly determine that this interview breached the Fourth Amendment?

We conclude that this Court generally may review a lower court's constitutional ruling at the behest of a government official granted immunity. But we may not do so in this case for reasons peculiar to it. The case has become moot because the child has grown up and moved across the country, and so will never again be subject to the Oregon in-school interviewing practices whose constitutionality is at issue. We therefore do not reach the Fourth Amendment question in this case. In line with our normal practice when mootness

131 S.Ct. 2027

frustrates a party's right to appeal, see United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U.S. 36, 39, 71 S.Ct. 104, 95 L.Ed. 36 (1950), we vacate the part of the Ninth Circuit's opinion that decided the Fourth Amendment issue.

I

In February 2003, police arrested Nimrod Greene for suspected sexual abuse of a young boy unrelated to him. During the investigation of that offense, the boy's parents told police that they suspected Greene of molesting his 9–year–old daughter S.G. The police reported this information to the Oregon Department of Human Services, which assigned petitioner Bob Camreta, a child protective services caseworker, to assess S.G.'s safety. Several days later, Camreta, accompanied

563 U.S. 699

by petitioner James Alford, a Deschutes County deputy sheriff, went to S.G.'s elementary school and interviewed her about the allegations. Camreta and Alford did not have a warrant, nor had they obtained parental consent to conduct the interview. Although S.G. at first denied that her father had molested her, she eventually stated that she had been abused. Greene was indicted and stood trial for sexually abusing S.G., but the jury failed to reach a verdict and the charges were later dismissed.

Respondent Sarah Greene, S.G.'s mother, subsequently sued Camreta and Alford on S.G.'s behalf1 for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which authorizes suits against state officials for violations of constitutional rights. S.G. alleged that the officials' in-school interview had breached the Fourth Amendment's proscription on unreasonable seizures.2

The District Court granted summary judgment to Camreta and Alford, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Court of Appeals first ruled that the interview violated S.G.'s rights because Camreta and Alford had "seize[d] and interrogate [d] S.G. in the absence of a warrant, a court order, exigent circumstances, or parental consent." 588 F.3d 1011, 1030 (2009) (footnote omitted). But the court further held that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity from damages liability because no clearly established law had warned them of the illegality of their conduct. Id., at 1031–1033.

The Ninth Circuit explained why it had chosen to rule on the merits of the constitutional claim, rather than merely hold that the officials were immune from suit. By addressing the legality of the interview, the court said, it could "provide

563 U.S. 700

guidance to those charged with the difficult task of protecting child welfare within the confines of the Fourth Amendment." Id., at 1022. That guidance came in no uncertain terms: "[G]overnment officials investigating allegations of child abuse," the court warned, "should cease operating on the assumption that a ‘special need’ automatically justifies dispensing with traditional Fourth Amendment protections in this context." Id., at 1033.

Although the judgment entered was in their favor, Camreta and Alford petitioned this Court to review the Ninth Circuit's ruling that their conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. S.G. declined to cross-petition for review of the decision that the officials have immunity. We

131 S.Ct. 2028

granted certiorari. 562 U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 456, 457, 178 L.Ed.2d 285 (2010).

II

We first consider our ability to act on a petition brought by government officials who have won final judgment on grounds of qualified immunity, but who object to an appellate court's ruling that they violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. Camreta and Alford are, without doubt, prevailing parties. The Ninth Circuit's decision shielded them from monetary liability, and S.G. chose not to contest that ruling. So whatever else follows, they will not have to pay S.G. the damages she sought. The question we confront is whether we may nonetheless review the Court of Appeals' holding that the officials violated the Constitution.

The statute governing this Court's jurisdiction authorizes us to adjudicate a case in this posture, and S.G. does not contend otherwise. The relevant provision confers unqualified power on this Court to grant certiorari "upon the petition of any party." 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1) (emphasis added). That language covers petitions brought by litigants who have prevailed, as well as those who have lost, in the court below. See E. Gressman, K. Geller, S. Shapiro, T. Bishop, &

563 U.S. 701

E. Hartnett, Supreme Court Practice 87 (9th ed.2007) (hereinafter Stern & Gressman).

S.G., however, alleges two impediments to our exercise of statutory authority here, one constitutional and the other prudential. First, she claims that Article III bars review because petitions submitted by immunized officials present no case or controversy. See Brief for Respondent 31–39. Second, she argues that our settled practice of declining to hear appeals by prevailing parties should apply with full force when officials have obtained immunity. See id., at 24–27. We disagree on both counts.

A

Article III of the Constitution grants this Court authority to adjudicate legal disputes only in the context of "Cases" or "Controversies." To enforce this limitation, we demand that litigants demonstrate a "personal stake" in the suit. Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, ––––, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 1148–1149, 173 L.Ed.2d 1 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 395–397, 100 S.Ct. 1202, 63 L.Ed.2d 479 (1980). The party invoking the Court's authority has such a stake when three conditions are satisfied: The petitioner must show that he has "suffered an injury in fact" that is caused by "the conduct complained of" and that "will be redressed by a favorable decision." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, ...

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1025 practice notes
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    ...a legally cognizable interest, or " ‘personal stake,’ " in the outcome of the action. See Camreta v. Greene, 563 U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 2028, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, 493, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 173 L.Ed.2d 1 (2009) ). This require......
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    ...June 18, 2018) (Miller, J.) (quoting Crockett v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. , 436 F.3d 529, 533 (5th Cir. 2006) ).111 Camreta v. Greene , 563 U.S. 692, 709 n.7, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting 18 Lawrence B. Solum , Moore's Federal Practice - Civil § 134.02[1][d] (3d ed. 201......
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    ...Article III Standing Standing under Article III requires plaintiffs to "demonstrate a ‘personal stake’ in the suit." Camreta v. Greene, 563 U.S. 692, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 2028, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 1148–1149, 173 L.Ed.2......
  • Corrigan v. Dist. of Columbia, No. 15-7098
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    • November 8, 2016
    ...272 (2001) )). We address both questions to avoid “leav[ing] the standards of official conduct permanently in limbo.” Camreta v. Greene , 563 U.S. 692, 706, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011). A. The Fourth Amendment provides:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, house......
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1024 cases
  • Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, No. 11–1059.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 16, 2013
    ...a legally cognizable interest, or " ‘personal stake,’ " in the outcome of the action. See Camreta v. Greene, 563 U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 2028, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, 493, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 173 L.Ed.2d 1 (2009) ). This require......
  • Ramirez v. Allstate Vehicle & Prop. Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 7:20-cv-00211
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    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • September 29, 2020
    ...June 18, 2018) (Miller, J.) (quoting Crockett v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. , 436 F.3d 529, 533 (5th Cir. 2006) ).111 Camreta v. Greene , 563 U.S. 692, 709 n.7, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting 18 Lawrence B. Solum , Moore's Federal Practice - Civil § 134.02[1][d] (3d ed. 201......
  • BCC Merch. Solutions, Inc. v. Jet Pay, LLC, Civil Action No. 3:12–CV–5185–B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • September 8, 2015
    ...Article III Standing Standing under Article III requires plaintiffs to "demonstrate a ‘personal stake’ in the suit." Camreta v. Greene, 563 U.S. 692, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 2028, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011) (quoting Summers v. Earth Island Institute, 555 U.S. 488, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 1148–1149, 173 L.Ed.2......
  • Corrigan v. Dist. of Columbia, No. 15-7098
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 8, 2016
    ...272 (2001) )). We address both questions to avoid “leav[ing] the standards of official conduct permanently in limbo.” Camreta v. Greene , 563 U.S. 692, 706, 131 S.Ct. 2020, 179 L.Ed.2d 1118 (2011). A. The Fourth Amendment provides:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, house......
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