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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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En Banc Rehearing for Handcuffed 11-Year-Old

(CN) - A full panel of the 9th Circuit will consider whether police violated the civil rights of a potentially suicidal 11-year-old when they took him in handcuffs from school to his uncle's workplace, the federal appeals court said Monday.

Karen Sinclair, a gym teacher in Sonora, Calif., had directed school officials to call the police on a boy referred to in the court record only as C.B. one day in 2008 when C.B. refused to speak or move.

She said C.B. had a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and had once allegedly threatened to run into traffic and kill himself.

When C.B. remained unresponsive during police questioning, an officer handcuffed the boy, drove him to his uncle's place of business, and released him.

C.B. later sued the officer, the police chief and the city for false imprisonment and emotional distress under state law, and unlawful seizure and excessive force under federal law.

At trial, a jury found that the police had not used excessive force or seized the boy unlawfully, but awarded C.B. damages on the emotional distress claim.

This led U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger to declare the verdict inconsistent and order further deliberation, after which the jury found the city and the officers liable on all the boy's claims, and awarded C.B. further damages.

A three-judge panel with the 9th Circuit vacated the jury's finding this past September, finding that the lower court had "improperly sent a message to the jurors that they got it wrong the first time."

It remanded for a new trial, but Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said Monday that the case will instead face a rehearing before an 11-judge, en banc panel. The three-judge opinion is no longer valid.

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