In 2013, San Bernardino Sheriff's Deputy Luis Ortiz took the decision to arrest a group of seventh grade girls — 12 and 13 year olds — because they wouldn't speak when he demanded to know who among them had been the aggressors and who had been the victims in a series of bullying incidents; Ortiz's rationale for these arrests was that the girls were "unresponsive and disrespectful" and that by arresting them, he could "prove a point," that he wasn't "playing around" and this would "make [them] mature a lot faster," by teaching them that the law was indifferent to "who [was] at fault, who did what" because "it [was] the same, same ticket, same pair of handcuffs."
The parents of the children who had been the victims of the bullying sued.
The county of San Bernardino appealed.
They lost. (9th Circuit Court of Appeals: "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.")
Rather than ask the Supreme Court to hear the case, the county has now settled with the children, and will pay $390,000 in compensation to them. As Tim Cushing notes: "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."
County Agrees To Pay $390,000 To Students Arrested By A Sheriff 'Just To Prove A Point' [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]