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Lisker v. City of Los Angeles

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 20, 2015

BRUCE E. LISKER, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants, and ANDREW MONSUE; HOWARD LANDGREN, Defendants-Appellants

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California February 12, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:09-cv-09374-AHM-AJW. Alvin Howard Matz, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district court's order denying absolute witness immunity to two Los Angeles Police Department detectives in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Bruce Lisker who alleged, among other things, that defendants fabricated police reports, investigative notes, and photographs of a crime scene during their homicide investigation.

Lisker was convicted of second-degree murder, served over twenty-six years in custody, and was released in 2009 after a federal judge determined falsified evidence had been introduced at trial and conditionally granted a writ of habeas corpus. The State then dismissed the charges against Lisker.

The panel held that defendants' notes, investigative reports and photographs of the crime scene were analogous to the sorts of documentary and physical evidence--such as falsified videotaped interviews and forensic reports--that fall outside the protection of absolute immunity. The panel held that the same conclusion applied to the allegedly falsified reconstruction of the crime scene. The panel held that the policy interests behind absolute immunity for testimony do not apply to the investigative materials in this case. The panel concluded that defendants plainly acted in an investigative capacity in producing the notes, reports and crime-scene photographs and that qualified immunity provided sufficient protection for these activities.

The panel held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of summary judgment on the merits, specifically the district court's findings regarding the detectives' mental states and the falsity of the notes, reports and photographs. The panel held that these determinations were not inextricably intertwined with, or necessary to ensure meaningful review of, the immunity issues properly before the panel in the interlocutory appeal.

Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, Amy Jo Field (argued), Deputy City Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Barrett S. Litt (argued), Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP, Pasadena, California; William J. Genego, Law Office of William J. Genego, Santa Monica, California; Vicki I. Podberesky, Nasatir, Hirsch, Podberesky & Khero, Santa Monica, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: David Bryan Sentelle,[*] Morgan Christen, and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1238

HURWITZ, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Bruce Lisker was convicted of second-degree murder, served over twenty-six years in custody, and was released in 2009 after a federal judge determined falsified evidence had been introduced at trial and conditionally granted a writ of habeas corpus. The State then dismissed the charges against Lisker.

Page 1239

In this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 action, Lisker seeks damages from two Los Angeles Police Department detectives for fabricating reports, investigative notes, and photographs of the crime scene during the homicide investigation. The detectives also testified during preliminary proceedings and at trial, and the issue before us is whether the doctrine of absolute witness immunity, which shields the ...


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