Dolan v. Cassella
A police officer’s presence at the scene of a motor-vehicle repossession may not be sufficient to constitute "state action" for purposes of 42 United States Code §1983. The plaintiff, Patrick Dolan, sued the chief of police of the Town of Branford and four police officers and alleged wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, unlawful search and seizure and unlawful seizure of a motor vehicle without a warrant. The District Court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and Dolan appealed pro se. Government officials who perform discretionary functions are shielded from legal responsibility for civil damages, if their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights about which a reasonable individual would have known. "If the officer reasonably believed his actions did not violate the plaintiff’s rights, he is entitled to qualified immunity even if that belief was mistaken," pursuant to Lennon v. Miller, a 1995 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Underhill, J., for substantially the reasons articulated by the District Court. The 2nd Circuit added that although one or more cops allegedly observed the repossession of the plaintiff’s motor vehicle, no evidence existed that any affirmatively assisted in the repossession or acted to intimidate the plaintiff and to prevent the plaintiff from objecting. The presence of one or more cops did not qualify as "state action" for purposes of 42 U.S.C. §1983, pursuant to Barrett v. Harwood, a 1999 decision of the 2nd Circuit. James Tallberg and Patric Allen represented the defendants.