Special thanks to John Castiglione, who argued the appeal for TCRP, assisted by Tyler Nims and Kelli Sussman, of Latham & Watkins LLP in New York and to Todd Batson and Nick Jackson who did terrific work on the case at trial level during their time at TCRP as deferred associates from New York law firms.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a local federal court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio and police detective Tony Arcuri brought by San Antonio residents Lindsey Bishop and Carolyn Clark. SAPD officers, led by Arcuri, raided the couple’s Leon Valley home, allegedly searching for methamphetamine after receiving a false tip from a confidential informant.
On April 28, 2009, SAPD officers used a battering ram to knock down Ms. Bishop and Ms. Clark’s front door. Though the officers quickly realized their informant had provided bogus information and their search warrant was bad, they continued to terrorize and harass the women for nearly two hours. The Fifth Circuit held that the officers’ failure to knock and announce their presence before entering the women’s home may have violated their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from illegal search and seizure and sent the case back for jury trial.
“This is a very important decision and calls into question the validity of SAPD’s general no-knock policy,” said Jim Harrington, TCRP Director, who is representing Ms. Bishop and Ms. Clark. “The Fifth Circuit rightly condemned the police practice of entering homes without knocking when officers have no reason to believe that there may be a threat to their safety or a risk that evidence will be destroyed. What’s more, when the officers realized the warrant was based on bogus information, they should have left and not terrorized the women.
“Police Chief William McManus testified that SAPD had a general ‘no knock’ policy that the police use all the time, and the appellate court condemned this blanket practice. We look forward to presenting this case to a jury and ending this wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of San Antonio citizens. This ‘no knock’ policy is dangerous for both occupants of houses and for the police. The U.S. Supreme Court has severely limited this practice, as did the Fifth Circuit”
The Texas Civil Rights Project is a nonprofit foundation that promotes racial, social, and economic justice in Texas through education and litigation.