CA3 gets a Scotus smackdown on qualified immunity

Back in May, CA3 reversed and remanded in a civil-rights case arising out of a police property entry. The panel held that the “knock and talk” exception to the warrant requirement did not apply because the police officers had gone directly to the defendant’s back door, and, further, that this rule was clearly established such that the officer was not entitled to qualified immunity from suit. The case was Carman v. Carroll, CA3 opinion here, my summary here.

Today, the not-a-mere-error-correction-Court-except-when-we-are Supreme Court summarily reversed on qualified-immunity grounds in a unanimous per curiam opinion. The Court “assum[ed] for the sake of argument that controlling circuit precedent could constitute clearly established federal law” for qualified immunity purposes, but held that the case relied upon by CA3 was insufficient to clearly establish. In a line that’s no doubt causing a little squirming today in my favorite circuit, the opinion says “The Third Circuit’s decision is even more perplexing” in light of cases from other circuits and states that came out differently on the 4th Amendment issue.

The Court today expressly did not reach the 4th Amendment issue of whether an officer can start a knock-and-talk at the back door.

Thanks to Peter Goldberger for bringing today’s ruling to my attention.