County of Riverside v. McLaughlin

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Court Documents
Dissenting Opinions

United States Supreme Court

500 U.S. 44

County Of Riverside  v.  McLaughlin

Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

No. 89-1817  Argued: January 7, 1991 --- Decided: May 13, 1991

Respondent McLaughlin brought a class action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that petitioner County of Riverside (County) violated the holding of Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, by failing to provide "prompt" judicial determinations of probable cause to persons who, like himself, were arrested without a warrant. The County combines such determinations with arraignment procedures which, under County policy, must be conducted within two days of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. The County moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that McLaughlin lacked standing to bring the suit because the time for providing him a "prompt" probable cause determination had already passed and he had failed to show, as required by Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, that he would again be subject to the allegedly unconstitutional conduct. The District Court never explicitly ruled on the motion to dismiss, but accepted for filing a second amended complaint—the operative pleading here which named respondents James, Simon, and Hyde as additional individual plaintiffs and class representatives, and alleged that each of them had been arrested without a warrant, had not received a prompt probable cause hearing, and was still in custody. The court granted class certification and subsequently issued a preliminary injunction requiring that all persons arrested by the County without a warrant be provided probable cause determinations within 36 hours of arrest, except in exigent circumstances. The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting the County's Lyons -based standing argument and ruling on the merits that the County's practice was not in accord with Gerstein 's promptness requirement because no more than 36 hours were needed to complete the administrative steps incident to arrest.


1. Plaintiffs have Article III standing. At the time the second amended complaint was filed, James, Simon, and Hyde satisfied the standing doctrine's core requirement that they allege personal injury fairly traceable to the County's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested injunction. See, e.g., Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3324, 82 L.Ed.2d 556. Lyons, supra, distinguished. Although the named plaintiffs' claims were subsequently rendered moot by their receipt of probable cause hearings or their release from custody, they preserved the merits of the controversy for this Court's review by obtaining class certification. See, e.g., Gerstein, 420 U.S., at 110-111, n. 11. This Court is not deprived of jurisdiction by the fact that the class was not certified until after the named plaintiffs' claims became moot. Such claims are so inherently transitory, see, e.g., id., at 110, that the "relation back" doctrine is properly invoked to preserve the case's merits for judicial resolution, see, e.g., Swisher v. Brady, 438 U.S. 204, 213-214, n. 11, 98 S.Ct. 2699, 2705-2706, n. 11, 57 L.Ed.2d 705. Pp. 50-52.

2. The County's current policy and practice do not comport fully with Gerstein's requirement of a "prompt" probable cause determination. Pp. 52-59.

(a) Contrary to the Court of Appeals' construction, Gerstein implicitly recognized that the Fourth Amendment does not compel an immediate determination of probable cause upon completion of the administrative steps incident to arrest. In requiring that persons arrested without a warrant "promptly" be brought before a neutral magistrate for such a determination, 420 U.S., at 114, 125, 95 S.Ct., at 863, 868, Gerstein struck a balance between the rights of individuals and the realities of law enforcement. Id., at 113, 95 S.Ct., at 862. Gerstein makes clear that the Constitution does not impose on individual jurisdictions a rigid procedural framework for making the required determination, but allows them to choose to comply in different ways. Id., at 123, 95 S.Ct., at 867. In contrast, the Court of Appeals' approach permits no flexibility and is in error. Pp. 52-55.

(b) In order to satisfy Gerstein's promptness requirement, a jurisdiction that chooses to combine probable cause determinations with other pretrial proceedings must do so as soon as is reasonably feasible, but in no event later than 48 hours after arrest. Providing a probable cause determination within that time frame will, as a general matter, immunize such a jurisdiction from systemic challenges. Although a hearing within 48 hours may nonetheless violate Gerstein if the arrested individual can prove that his or her probable cause determination was delayed unreasonably, courts evaluating the reasonableness of a delay must allow a substantial degree of flexibility, taking into account the practical realities of pretrial procedures. Where an arrested individual does not receive a probable cause determination within 48 hours, the burden of proof shifts to the government to demonstrate the existence of a bona fide emergency or other extraordinary circumstance, which cannot include intervening weekends or the fact that in a particular case it may take longer to consolidate pretrial proceedings. Pp. 55-58.

(c) Although the County is entitled to combine probable cause determinations with arraignments, it is not immune from systemic challenges such as this class action. Its regular practice exceeds the constitutionally permissible 48-hour period because persons arrested on Thursdays may have to wait until the following Monday before receiving a probable cause determination, and the delay is even longer if there is an intervening holiday. Moreover, the lower courts, on remand, must determine whether the County's practice as to arrests that occur early in the week—whereby arraignments usually take place on the last day possible—is supported by legitimate reasons or constitutes delay for delay's sake. Pp.58-59.

888 F.2d 1276 (CA 9, 1989), vacated and remanded.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 59. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 59.

Timothy T. Coates argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Peter J. Ferguson, Michael A. Bell, and Martin Stein.

Dan Stormer argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Richard P. Herman, Ben Margolis, and Elizabeth Spector.

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of California by John K. Van de Kamp, Attorney General, Richard B. Iglehart, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Harley D. Mayfield, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Robert M. Foster and Frederick R. Millar, Jr., Supervising Deputy Attorneys General; and for the District Attorney, County of Riverside, California, by Grover C. Trask II, pro se.

Robert M. Rotstein, John A. Powell, Paul L. Hoffman, and Judith Resnik filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the State of Hawaii et al. by Warren Price III, Attorney General of Hawaii, and Steven S. Michaels, Deputy Attorney General, Don Siegelman, Attorney General of Alabama, Ron Fields, Attorney General of Arkansas, John J. Kelly, Chief State's Attorney of Connecticut, Charles M. Oberly III, Attorney General of Delaware, James T. Jones, Attorney General of Idaho, Neil F. Hartigan, Attorney General of Illinois, Linley E. Pearson, Attorney General of Indiana, James E. Tierney, Attorney General of Maine, Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General of Michigan, Mike Moore, Attorney General of Mississippi, Marc Racicot, Attorney General of Montana, Robert M. Spire, Attorney General of Nebraska, Robert J. Del Tufo, Attorney General of New Jersey, John P. Arnold, Attorney General of New Hampshire, Hal Stratton, Attorney General of New Mexico, Brian McKay, Attorney General of Nevada, Lacy H. Thornburg, Attorney General of North Carolina, Robert H. Henry, Attorney General of Oklahoma, T. Travis Medlock, Attorney General of South Carolina, Roger A. Tellinghuisen, Attorney General of South Dakota, Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Attorney General of Vermont, and Joseph P. Meyer, Attorney General of Wyoming; for the County of Los Angeles et al. by De Witt W. Clinton and Dixon M. Holston; for the California District Attorneys Association by Michael R. Capizzi; and for the Youth Law Center by Mark I. Soler and Loren M. Warboys

Justice O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).