US Supreme Court cites second tort restatement
In Thompson v. Clark, No. 20-659 (April 4, 2022), petitioner Larry Thompson was wrongfully accused by his sister-in-law, who suffered from mental illness, of sexually abusing his one-week-old daughter. Although the petitioner tried to prevent the emergency medical technicians and the police from entering his apartment without a warrant, the police nevertheless entered and, after a brief scuffle, the petitioner’s baby was taken to hospital , where no signs of abuse were discovered, and the petitioner was arrested and charged with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest. The petitioner spent two days in jail before the prosecution finally decided to dismiss the charges without explanation, and the trial judge dismissed the case, also without explanation.
The petitioner then sued the officers for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, among other things, a Fourth Amendment claim for malicious prosecution, sometimes referred to as a claim for wrongful seizure under of a legal proceeding. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted judgment to the respondents on the Petitioner’s Fourth Amendment claim, finding that the Petitioner’s criminal case had not concluded in a manner that affirmatively indicated his innocence. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal of the petitioner’s claim.
Resolving a split between the circuits over how to apply the favorable termination requirement, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Fourth Amendment claim under Section 1983 for malicious prosecution did not require that the plaintiff shows that the criminal proceedings ended with an affirmative indication of innocence. , such as by an acquittal or by a dismissal accompanied by a declaration by the judge noting the insufficiency of the evidence; the plaintiff had only to show that the penal proceedings ended without a conviction. Finding that the petitioner had met this requirement, the Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Second Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who delivered the Court’s opinion, rejected the respondents’ argument based on Restatement of the Law Second, Torts § 660, which provided that, “for the purposes of a malicious prosecution, a criminal case ends “in favor of the accused” when the accusation ends in a way “which indicates the innocence of the accused”.[ed] to the elements of the most analogous tort as of 1871 when § 1983 was enacted”, and that, “in the overwhelming majority of American courts which had considered the matter from 1871, a plaintiff alleging malicious prosecution would not did not need to demonstrate that his accusation ended with an affirmative indication of innocence. According to Judge Kavanaugh, the respondents’ appeal to Restatement of the Law Second, Torts § 660, which was approved by the American Law Institute in 1976 and published the following year, was therefore in error, because § 660 did not purport describe the consensus of American law from 1871.
In a dissent, Associate Judge Samuel A. Alito argued for affirmation of the judgment below on the grounds that a malicious prosecution could not be brought under the Fourth Amendment. Judge Alito held that “an unreasonable request for seizure of the Fourth Amendment [was] not analogous to a claim for malicious prosecution,” but rather a claim for false arrest and false imprisonment under the Second Act Reform, Torts § 35.