Back in September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unshockingly decided that it's illegal to arrest schoolchildren just to "prove a point." The Fourth Amendment demands probable cause for an arrest, even an arrest of students who have (slightly) diminished Constitutional rights.
This was Deputy Luis Ortiz's solution to a problem he shouldn't even have been attempting to solve. Ortiz decided the students he was speaking to about alleged bullying weren't taking him seriously enough, so he tossed a few in squad cars and took them to the Sheriff's office. Nothing about this was legal, but the county decided to defend this all the way to the appellate level. The Ninth Circuit's assessment of Ortiz's actions was harsh but far more fair than Ortiz deserved.
Deputy Ortiz clearly stated that the justification for the arrests was not the commission of a crime, since he did not “care who is at fault,” nor the school’s special need to maintain campus safety, but rather his own desire to “prove a point” and “make” the students “mature a lot faster.” The arrest of a middle schooler, however, cannot be justified as a scare tactic, a lesson in maturity, or a chastisement for perceived disrespect.
Deputy Ortiz faced a room of seven seated, mostly quiet middle school girls, and only generalized allegations of fighting and conflict amongst them. Even accounting for what Deputy Ortiz perceived to be nonresponsiveness to his questioning, the full-scale arrests of all seven students, without further inquiry, was both excessively intrusive in light of the girls’ young ages and not reasonably related to the school’s expressed need.
It appears this loss has finally pushed the county to accept the inevitable outcome of Deputy Ortiz's unconstitutional behavior. The Daily Bulletin reports taxpayers will be paying the arrested students for Ortiz's illegal bullying.
San Bernardino County has agreed to pay nearly $400,000 to three former middle-schoolers to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2013 arrest a federal court ruled unconstitutional.
In October 2013, a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy handcuffed, arrested and drove three seventh-grade girls from Etiwanda Intermediate School to the police station to “teach the girls a lesson.”
On Friday, Dec. 21, a lawyer for the girls announced the county has paid them $390,000 to settle their lawsuit.
This outcome was all but assured the moment Ortiz decided to start teaching students lessons by performing unconstitutional arrests. The county's decision to fight the district court's ruling doesn't reflect well on it or its legal representation. Somehow the county thought that if it just litigated hard enough, it would somehow talk a court into agreeing law enforcement can arrest people just to "teach them a lesson" -- even when those "someones" were teens who committed no crime and posed no safety threat to the school or the idiotic law enforcement officer it had hired.