Z.F. v. Adkins

A middle school student may proceed in this case alleging that the defendant, a deputy sheriff and resource officer at the plaintiff’s school, unlawfully seized his person and seized and searched his cell phone, using excessive force.

The student alleges that, during his lunch period, the officer demanded his cell phone, without giving any reason and without any wrongdoing by the student. When the student didn’t comply, the officer escorted him out of the cafeteria. When the officer again demanded the phone but would not give a reason, the student said he was going to call his father and attempted to do so. The officer then allegedly tackled the student, restrained him by lying on top of him, and took his cell phone. The officer searched the phone but didn’t find evidence of illegal activity.

The facts indicate no reason to suspect the student of any wrongdoing before and during his interaction with the officer. The facts also don’t indicate that the student posed an immediate threat to anyone’s safety or that he was resisting the seizure. Moreover, these events occurred when the student was a 14-year-old middle school student attending school. Although further development of the facts may reveal that the officer’s seizure of the student and his phone and subsequent search of the phone satisfy the reasonableness standard, the student has stated facts at this stage sufficient to proceed with his Fourth Amendment claims.

As to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, all of the evidence the defendant included in the motion is unsworn and unauthenticated. Further, summary judgment here is inappropriate before the student has had an opportunity for discovery.

Motions to dismiss and for summary judgment denied.

Z.F. v. Adkins, No. 2:18cv42, Apr. 10, 2019. WDVA at Big Stone Gap (Jones).

Categories: Opinions, U.S. District Court - Western District of Virginia

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