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Michael J. Murphy Obtains Landmark Victory in Civil Rights Case

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United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Agrees with Carter Conboy that the Qualified Immunity Doctrine Protects Government Officials from Civil Liability

Albany law firm, Carter Conboy, today announced a landmark victory for police officers in a lawsuit involving alleged civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. §1983 including claims of illegal search, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. 

In the case of Gonzalez v. City of Schenectady, brought in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, the plaintiff sued for violation of his civil rights by police officers employed by the City. 

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a precedent-setting 34 page Decision affirming the argument made by Carter Conboy that there was arguable probable cause for the plaintiff’s arrest and strip search.  Chief Judge Jacob’s opinion also reaffirmed the United States Supreme Court's 1982 Decision in Harlow v. Fitzgerald (457 U.S. 800) which states the qualified immunity doctrine protects government officials from civil liability when their conduct does not violate clearly established rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

The Court stated that police officers are not required to “know all of [the Second Circuit’s] precedents or those of the Supreme Court, or to distinguish holding from dicta, or to put together precedents for line-drawing, or to discern trends or follow doctrinal trajectories. Otherwise, qualified immunity would be available only to the cop who is a professor of criminal procedure in her spare time. The police cannot be expected to know such things at the risk of personal liability for the policeman’s savings, home equity and college funds.”

Both the plaintiff and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) requested reconsideration from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  All requests have been denied by the Court and appellate opportunities exhausted.

“This is a landmark victory for police officers and municipalities in New York.  The Court was clear in agreeing with Carter Conboy’s position in this case and reaffirming the 1982 Harlow decision that police officers, acting with reason, are entitled to qualified immunity under the law,” said Michael J. Murphy, attorney for the City of Schenectady.  

Michael J. Murphy is a partner at Albany’s Carter Conboy.  Mr. Murphy is a trial attorney handling complex litigation with an emphasis on employment law.  He maintains an active trial practice in state and federal courts as well as before the EEOC and the New York State Division for Human Rights.  He is regularly retained by leaders in business, government and the professions to represent their interests in sensitive, high profile litigation and investigations. Mr. Murphy is currently Chair Emeritus of ALFA International, The Global Legal Network, and Past President of the Northern District of New York Federal Court Bar Association.

Carter Conboy was founded in 1920 and has law offices in Albany and Saratoga Springs, New York.  The firm serves clients in upstate New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. For additional information about the firm, visit www.carterconboy.com or contact the firm’s Director of Marketing, Stacy A. Smith, at 518-810-0516 or ssmith@carterconboy.com

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