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122634cv

Garciav.Jane&JohnDoes

UNITEDSTATESCOURTOFAPPEALS
FORTHESECONDCIRCUIT

AugustTerm,2012
(Argued:April22,2013Decided:August21,2014
RehearingFiled:December18,2014Amended:February23,2015)

DocketNo.122634cv

KARINAGARCIA,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfofherselfandotherssimilarly
situated,YARIOSORIO,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfofherselfandothers
similarlysituated,BENJAMINBECKER,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfofhimself
andotherssimilarlysituated,CASSANDRAREGAN,asClassRepresentativeon
behalfofherselfandotherssimilarlysituated,YAREIDISPEREZ,asClass
Representativeonbehalfofherselfandotherssimilarlysituated,TYLERSOVA,as
ClassRepresentativeonbehalfofhimselfandotherssimilarlysituated,
STEPHANIEJEANUMOH,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfofherselfandothers
similarlysituated,MICHAELCRICKMORE,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfof
himselfandotherssimilarlysituated,BROOKEFEINSTEIN,asClassRepresentative
onbehalfofherselfandotherssimilarlysituated,
PlaintiffsAppellees,
MARCELCARTIER,asClassRepresentativeonbehalfofhimselfandothers
similarlysituated,

Plaintiff,

v.
JANEANDJOHNDOES140,individuallyandintheirofficialcapacities,
DefendantsAppellants,
RAYMONDW.KELLY,individuallyandinhisofficialcapacity,CITYOFNEWYORK,
MICHAELR.BLOOMBERG,individuallyandinhisofficialcapacity,
Defendants.*

Before:
CALABRESI,LIVINGSTON,andLYNCH,CircuitJudges.
__________________
Defendantsappellants,NewYorkPoliceDepartmentofficers,appealfrom
anorderoftheUnitedStatesDistrictCourtfortheSouthernDistrictofNewYork
(JedS.Rakoff,Judge)denyingtheirmotionpursuanttoRule12(b)(6)todismiss
plaintiffsappelleescomplaintagainstthemonqualifiedimmunitygrounds.
Defendantsarguethatthedistrictcourterredinconcludingthatplaintiffs
complaint,andothermaterialsthatcouldproperlybeconsideredonamotionto
dismissforfailuretostateaclaim,didnotestablishthatdefendantshadarguable

TheClerkofCourtisrespectfullydirectedtoamendtheofficialcaptionin
thiscasetoconformwiththecaptionabove.
2

probablecausetoarrestplaintiffsfordisorderlyconduct.OnAugust21,2014,
weissuedanopinionaffirmingthedistrictcourtsjudgment.OnDecember17,
2014,thisopinionwaswithdrawn.Onappellantspetitionforrehearing,wenow
grantthepetition,reversethejudgmentofthedistrictcourt,andremandwith
instructionstodismissthecomplaint.
REVERSED.

MARA VERHEYDENHILLIARD (Andrea Hope Costello and Carl


Messineo,onthebrief),PartnershipforCivilJusticeFund,Washington,
D.C.,forPlaintiffsAppellees.
RONALD E. STERNBERG, Assistant Corporation Counsel (Leonard
KoernerandArthurG.Larkin,AssistantCorporationCounsel,onthe
brief),forMichaelA.Cardozo,CorporationCounseloftheCityofNew
York,NewYork,NewYork,forDefendantsAppellants.

GERARDE.LYNCH,CircuitJudge:
Plaintiffsappellees,participantsinademonstrationwhowerearrested
afteraconfrontationwithpoliceattheManhattanentrancetotheBrooklyn
Bridge,broughtthisactionforfalsearrestinviolationoftheirFirst,Fourth,and
FourteenthAmendmentrights.Defendantappellantpoliceofficersappealfrom

arulingoftheUnitedStatesDistrictCourtfortheSouthernDistrictofNewYork
(JedS.Rakoff,Judge)denyingtheirmotiontodismissthecomplaintpursuantto
Rule12(b)(6)ongroundsofqualifiedimmunity.Byadividedvote,weinitially
affirmedthedistrictcourtsjudgment.OnDecember17,2014,theCourtentered
anordergrantingappellantspetitionforrehearingenbancandwithdrawingour
prioropinion.Onappellantspetitionforrehearing,wenowconcludethat
appellantsareentitledtoqualifiedimmunity.Accordingly,weGRANTthe
petitionforrehearing,REVERSEthejudgmentbelow,andREMANDthecase
withinstructionstodismissthecomplaint.
BACKGROUND
Plaintiffsbroughtthisactionforfalsearrestunder42U.S.C.1983
followingtheirarrestsduringademonstrationinsupportoftheOccupyWall
Streetmovement.1Plaintiffsattachedfivevideoexcerptsandninestill
photographsasexhibitstotheSecondAmendedComplaint(theComplaint),
whichweconsiderwhendecidingthisappeal.SeeDiFolcov.MSNBCCable
L.L.C.,622F.3d104,111(2dCir.2010).Wealsoconsidervideossubmittedby
defendants,whichplaintiffsconcedearesimilarlyincorporatedintothe

Althoughplaintiffsbringtheirsuitasaputativeclassaction,noclasshas
beencertified.Accordingly,weaddressonlytheclaimsmadebythetennamed
plaintiffs.
4

Complaintbyreference.2Forpurposesofthisappeal,wetakeastruethefactsset
forthintheComplaint,seeAlmontev.CityofLongBeach,478F.3d100,104(2d
Cir.2007),totheextentthattheyarenotcontradictedbythevideoevidence.
I.

TheProtestandPlaintiffsArrests
OnOctober1,2011,thousandsofdemonstratorsmarchedthroughLower

ManhattantoshowsupportfortheOccupyWallStreetmovement.Themarch
beganatZuccottiParkinManhattanandwastoendinarallyatBrooklynBridge
ParkinBrooklyn.Althoughnopermitforthemarchhadbeensought,theNew
YorkCityPoliceDepartment(NYPD)wasawareoftheplannedeventin
advance,andNYPDofficersescortedmarchersfromZuccottiParktothe
ManhattanentrancetotheBrooklynBridge(theBridge),attimesflankingthe
marcherswithofficersonmotorscootersormotorcycles.Thoseofficersissued
ordersanddirectivestoindividualmarchers,attimesdirectingthemtoproceed
inwaysordinarilyprohibitedundertrafficregulationsabsentpolicedirectiveor
permission.J.Appxat165.Theofficersblockedvehiculartrafficatsome
intersectionsandonoccasiondirectedmarcherstocrossstreetsagainsttraffic
signals.Asfarasappearsfromthevideoexcerpts,neitherthedemonstrationnor
theactionsoftheofficersincontrollingorfacilitatingitcausedanysignificant

WehaveneveraddressedwhetherFed.R.Civ.P.10(c),whichprovides
thatawritteninstrumentincludedasanexhibittoapleadingisapartofthe
pleadingforallpurposes,extendstovideosofthesortpresentedinthiscase.
BecausenopartyconteststheinclusionofthevideosintheCourtsreviewofthe
Complaint,however,wehavenooccasiontoreachthatissuehere.
5

disruptionofordinarytrafficpatternsduringthisstageofthemarch.
WhenthemarcharrivedattheManhattanentrancetotheBridge,thefirst
marchersbeganfunnelingontotheBridgespedestrianwalkway.Police,
includingcommandofficials,andothercityofficialsstoodintheroadway
entrancetotheBridgeimmediatelysouthofthepedestrianwalkwayand,atleast
atfirst,watchedastheprotesterspouredacrossCentreStreettowardstheBridge.
Abottlenecksoondeveloped,creatingalargecrowdattheentrancetothe
Bridgespedestrianwalkway.Whilevideofootagesuggeststhatthecrowd
waitingtoenterthepedestrianwalkwayblockedtrafficonCentreStreet,
defendantsdonotcontendthattheyhadprobablecausetoarrestplaintiffsfor
theirobstructionoftrafficatthatpoint,asopposedtotheirlaterobstructionof
trafficontheBridgeroadway.Indeed,plaintiffsallegedintheirComplaintthat
thepolicethemselvesstoppedvehiculartrafficonCentreStreetneartheentrance
totheBridge3beforethemajorityofthemarchersarrivedattheentrance.
Whileasteadystreamofprotesterscontinuedontothewalkway,agroup
ofprotestersstoppedandstoodfacingthepoliceontherampconstitutingthe
vehicularentrancetotheBridgeatadistanceofapproximatelytwentyfeet.By
thistime,alargecrowdofdemonstratorshadpooledbehindthatleadgroup.
Giventhesizeanddensityofthecrowd,itwouldclearlyhavebeenimpossible
forvehiclestoenterthebridgeusingtherampatthatlocation.Someofthe

TherearethreeeastboundentryrampstotheBridgeontheManhattan
side.Therampreferredtohereisthenorthernmostramp.
6

protestersbeganchantingTakethebridge!andWhosestreets?Ourstreets!
Atthispoint,allthevideoevidenceconfirmsthatthemarchhaddivided;one
groupwasproceedingacrosstheBridgeviathepedestrianwalkway,whilea
secondgrouphadmovedontothevehicularroadway,wheretheywereblocked
byalineofpolice.4
Anofficeronthevehicularrampsteppedforwardwithabullhornand
madeanannouncement.InthevideotakenbytheNYPDsTechnicalAssistance
ResponseUnit,theofficercanclearlybeheardrepeatingseveraltimesintothe
bullhorn:Iamaskingyoutostepbackonthesidewalk,youareobstructing
traffic.Plaintiffsallegethatthesestatementweregenerallyinaudible,J.
Appxat166,andthevideoexcerptstheyhaveprovidedareconsistentwiththat
allegation.Twominuteslaterthesameofficerannouncedintothebullhorn:
Youareobstructingvehiculartraffic.Ifyourefusetomove,youaresubjectto
arrest,andIfyourefusetoleave,youwillbeplacedunderarrestandcharged
withdisorderlyconduct.Whileitisclearthatatleastsomemarchersatthe
frontofthecrowdheardthisannouncement,plaintiffsallegethattheofficers
knewthattheirwarningsororderstodispersewouldnothavebeenaudibleto

Althoughthisdivisionwasclearatthefrontofthemarch,additional
demonstratorswerebackedupbehindthedividedleadgroups.Thepedestrian
walkwaywascrowded,andthegrouponthevehicularroadwaywasblockedby
police,creatingabottlenecksuchthatsomedemonstratorswerenotclearlypart
ofeithergroup.
7

thevastmajorityofthoseassembled.Therewasconsiderablenoiseand
confusionatthescene.
Aminuteandahalfafterthesecondannouncement,theofficersandcity
officialsintheleadgroupturnedaroundandbeganwalkingunhurriedlyonto
theBridgeroadwaywiththeirbackstotheprotesters.Theprotestersbegan
cheeringandfollowedtheofficersontotheroadwayinanorderlyfashionabout
twentyfeetbehindthelastofficer.Theprotestersontheroadwaythen
encouragedthoseonthepedestrianwalkwaytocomeover,andthevideos
showseveralprotestersjumpingdownfromthepedestrianwalkwayontothe
roadway,thoughforthemostpartthemarchersonthepedestrianwalkway
continuedtheirprogressonthewalkwayanddidnotenterthevehicularlanes.
ProtestorsinitiallywalkeduptheBridgeviathefirst(northernmost)entryramp,
buttheyeventuallyblockedthesecondandthirdrampsaswellandoccupiedall
oftheBridgeseastboundtrafficlanes,preventinganycarsfrommovingontothe
Bridgeinthatdirection.
MidwayacrosstheBridge,theofficersinfrontofthelineofmarchers
turnedandstoppedallforwardmovementofthedemonstration.Anofficer
announcedthroughabullhornthatthoseontheroadwaywouldbearrestedfor
disorderlyconduct.Plaintiffsallegethatthisannouncementwasalsoinaudible.
OfficersblockedmovementinbothdirectionsalongtheBridgeroadwayand
preventeddispersalthroughtheuseoforangenettingandpolicevehicles.J.
Appxat173.Theofficersthenmethodicallyarrestedoversevenhundredpeople
8

whowereontheBridgeroadway.Theseindividualswerehandcuffed,taken
intocustody,processedandreleasedthroughoutthenightintotheearlymorning
hours.J.Appxat174.
Plaintiffsallegethattheofficersledthemarchacrossthebridge,andthat
themarcherssawtheofficersmovementontotheroadwayasanactualand
apparentgrantofpermissiontofollow.J.Appxat168.Theyallegethatthe
combinationofthoseofficersinfrontleadingtheprotestersontotheroadway
andtheofficersonthesideescortingthemalongtheroadwayledthemtobelieve
thattheNYPDwasescortingandpermittingthemarchtoproceedontothe
roadway,asithadescortedandpermittedthemarchthroughLowerManhattan
earlierintheday.
Officersattheroadwayentrancedidnotinstructtheongoingflowof
marchersnottoproceedontotheroadway.Otherofficerswalkedcalmly
alongsidetheprotestersontheroadwayanddidnotdirectanyprotestersto
leavetheroadway.Thenamedplaintiffsallegethattheydidnothearany
warningsorordersnottoproceedontheroadway,andunderstoodtheirpassage
ontotheBridgeroadwaytohavebeenpermittedbythepolice.5Nevertheless,
plaintiffsdonotallegethatanyofficerexplicitlystatedthatthemarcherswould
bepermittedtoadvancealongthevehicularlanesoftheBridge.Nordoesany

Whileoneplaintiff,CassandraRegan,acknowledgesthatshewastoldto
leavetheroadway,sheallegesthatthewarningwasgivenonlyafterdefendants
hadblockedofftheroadwayandnoexitwaspossible.
9

plaintiffallegethatheorsheobservedanyofficerbeckontothedemonstratorsor
statebywordorgesturethattheywerewelcometoproceed.TheComplaints
allegationthatthepolicehadgivenactualandapparentpermissionofthe
marchtoproceed,J.Appxat173,isalegalconclusionbasedentirelyon
inferencesdrawnfrom(a)theofficershavingfollowedalongthecourseofthe
marchbeforethearrivalattheBridgewithoutinterferingwith,andoccasionally
facilitating,minorbreachesoftrafficrules;(b)theofficersretreatfromtheir
initiallocationblockingtheprotestersadvanceontotheBridgeroadwayafterthe
bullhornannouncementtodisperse;and(c)thefailureofofficerswalkingin
frontofthedemonstratorsoralongsidethemastheyprogressedacrossthe
Bridgetorepeatanywarnings,untiltheultimatecommencementofthearrests.
II.

DistrictCourtProceedings
PlaintiffssuedtheunidentifiedNYPDofficerswhoparticipatedintheir

arrests,6aswellasMayorMichaelR.Bloomberg,PoliceCommissionerRaymond
W.Kelly,andtheCityofNewYork,allegingthatthearrestsviolatedplaintiffs
rightsundertheFirst,Fourth,andFourteenthAmendments.Defendantsmoved
todismissplaintiffsSecondAmendedComplaintonqualifiedimmunity
groundsandpursuanttoMonellv.DepartmentofSocialServices,436U.S.658

Elevenofthese40JohnandJaneDoeshavesincebeenidentifiedandtheir
nameshavereplacedJohn/JaneDoes##111inthecaptionofthedistrictcourt
proceedings.WhentheComplaintwasfiledandtherelevantdistrictcourt
opinionwasissued,however,noneoftheNYPDofficerswhoparticipatedinthe
arrestshadbeenidentified.
10

(1978),arguing,inpart,thattheComplaintandthevideosdemonstratethatthey
hadprobablecausetoarrestplaintiffsfordisorderlyconduct.7
Thedistrictcourtdeniedthemotiontodismisstheclaimsagainstthe
individualofficersandgrantedthemotiontodismisstheclaimsagainsttheCity,
Bloomberg,andKelly.8Garciav.Bloomberg,865F.Supp.2d478(S.D.N.Y.2012).
ThedistrictcourtheldthattheallegationsintheComplaint,iftrue,established
thatareasonableofficerwouldhaveknownthathedidnothaveprobablecause
toarrestplaintiffs.Thedistrictcourtfurtherheldthatwhileplaintiffshadclearly
violatedthelawbyenteringtheBridgeroadwayandblockingvehiculartraffic,
basedonthefactsalleged,noreasonablepoliceofficercouldbelievethat
plaintiffshadreceivedfairwarningthattheirbehaviorwasillegal,asrequiredby
law.ThedistrictcourtconcludedthatwhileNewYorksdisorderlyconduct
7

Whiledefendantsinitiallyarrestedmanyoftheplaintiffsforfailureto
obeyalawfulorder,theoffensethatanofficercitesatthetimeofthearrestneed
notbethesameas,orevencloselyrelatedto,theoffensethattheofficerlater
citesasprobablecauseforthearrest.SeeDevenpeckv.Alford,543U.S.146,154
55.Defendantsnowarguethatplaintiffsengagedindisorderlyconduct,defined
toincludetheconductof,withintenttocausepublicinconvenience,annoyance
oralarm,orrecklesslycreatingariskthereof[,]...obstruct[ing]vehicularor
pedestriantraffic.N.Y.PenalLaw240.20(5).Whiledefendantsarguedbefore
thedistrictcourtthattheyalsohadprobablecausetoarrestplaintiffsfor
marchingwithoutapermitinviolationofNewYorkCityAdministrativeCode
10110(a),defendantshaveabandonedthatargumentonappeal.
8

PlaintiffsarguedthattheCityofNewYorkmaintainsapolicy,practice,
and/orcustomoftrappingandarrestingpeacefulprotesterswithoutprobable
cause.Thedistrictcourtheldthatplaintiffshadnotplausiblyallegedanysuch
policy,practice,orcustom.Thatinterlocutoryrulingisnotbeforeus,andwe
havenooccasiontoaddressitsmerits.
11

statutewouldnormallyhavegivenprotestersfairwarningnottomarchonthe
roadway,itdidnotdosohere,wheredefendants,whohadbeendirectingthe
marchalongitsentirecourse,seemedimplicitlytosanctiontheprotesters
movementontotheroadway.9
Defendantsnowappealthedenialoftheirmotiontodismissonqualified
immunitygrounds,arguingthatunderthecircumstances,anobjectively
reasonablepoliceofficerwouldnothaveunderstoodthatthepresenceofpolice
officersontheBridgeconstitutedimplicitpermissiontothedemonstratorstobe
ontheBridgeroadwayincontraventionofthelaw.10AppellantsBr.at3.
DISCUSSION
I.

AppellateJurisdiction
Wehavejurisdictionoveranappealfromadistrictcourtsdenialof

qualifiedimmunityatthemotiontodismissstagebecausequalifiedimmunity
whichshieldsGovernmentofficialsfromliabilityforcivildamagesinsofaras
theirconductdoesnotviolateclearlyestablishedstatutoryorconstitutional

Thedistrictcourtstressedthatitsconclusiondidnotdependinanyway
onafindingthatthepoliceactuallyintendedtoleaddemonstratorsontothe
bridge.Garcia,865F.Supp.2dat491n.9.Indeed,thecourtconsidereditfar
morelikelythatdefendantshaddecidedtomovetheprotesterstoapointwhere
theybelievedtheycouldbettercontrolthemthanthatdefendantshad
orchestratedacharadetocreateapretenseforarrest.Id.
10

Defendantsalsomovedtodismissplaintiffsclaimsforfailuretostatea
claimandforfailuretoproperlynotifytheCityoftheclaims.Defendantsdonot
appealthedenialofthosemotions.
12

rightsisbothadefensetoliabilityandalimitedentitlementnottostandtrialor
facetheotherburdensoflitigation.Ashcroftv.Iqbal,556U.S.662,672(2009)
(citationandinternalquotationmarksomitted).Provideditturnsonanissueof
law,adenialofqualifiedimmunityisafinalreviewableorderbecauseit
conclusivelydetermine[s]thatthedefendantmustbeartheburdensof
discovery;isconceptuallydistinctfromthemeritsoftheplaintiffsclaim;and
wouldproveeffectivelyunreviewableonappealfromafinaljudgment.Id.
(internalquotationmarksomitted)(alterationinoriginal);seealsoLocurtov.
Safir,264F.3d154,164(2dCir.2001)(notingthatdenialsofimmunityare
conclusivewithregardtoadefendantsrighttoavoidpretrialdiscovery,solong
asthevalidityofthedenialofthequalifiedimmunitydefensecanbedecidedasa
matteroflawinlightoftherecordonappeal)(emphasisinoriginal).
II.

StandardofReview
Wereviewadistrictcourtsdenialofqualifiedimmunityonamotionto

dismissdenovo,acceptingastruethematerialfactsallegedinthecomplaint
anddrawingallreasonableinferencesinplaintiffsfavor.Johnsonv.Newburgh
EnlargedSch.Dist.,239F.3d246,250(2dCir.2001).
III.

QualifiedImmunity
Qualifiedimmunityprotectspublicofficialsfromliabilityforcivil

damageswhenoneoftwoconditionsissatisfied:(a)thedefendantsactiondid
notviolateclearlyestablishedlaw,or(b)itwasobjectivelyreasonableforthe
defendanttobelievethathisactiondidnotviolatesuchlaw.Russov.Cityof
13

Bridgeport,479F.3d196,211(2dCir.2007)(internalquotationmarksomitted);
seealsoHunterv.Bryant,502U.S.224,229(1991)(Thequalifiedimmunity
standardgivesampleroomformistakenjudgmentsbyprotectingallbutthe
plainlyincompetentorthosewhoknowinglyviolatethelaw.)(internal
quotationmarksomitted).Defendantsbeartheburdenofestablishingqualified
immunity.Vincentv.Yelich,718F.3d157,166(2dCir.2013).Althoughwe
generallylooktoSupremeCourtandSecondCircuitprecedentexistingatthe
timeoftheallegedviolationtodeterminewhethertheconductviolatedaclearly
establishedright,Okinv.Vill.ofCornwallOnHudsonPoliceDept,577F.3d
415,433(2dCir.2009),theabsenceofadecisionbythisCourtortheSupreme
Courtdirectlyaddressingtherightatissuewillnotprecludeafindingthatthe
lawwasclearlyestablishedsolongaspreexistinglawclearlyforeshadow[s]a
particularrulingontheissue,Tellierv.Fields,280F.3d69,84(2dCir.2000)
(internalquotationmarksomitted).
Anofficerisentitledtoqualifiedimmunityagainstasuitforfalsearrestif
hecanestablishthathehadarguableprobablecausetoarresttheplaintiff.
Zalaskiv.CityofHartford,723F.3d382,390(2dCir.2013)(internalquotation
marksomitted).Arguableprobablecauseexistsifeither(a)itwasobjectively
reasonablefortheofficertobelievethatprobablecauseexisted,or(b)officersof
reasonablecompetencecoulddisagreeonwhethertheprobablecausetestwas
met.Id.,quotingEscalerav.Lunn,361F.3d737,743(2dCir.2004).Indeciding
whetheranofficersconductwasobjectivelyreasonable...,welooktothe
14

informationpossessedbytheofficeratthetimeofthearrest,butwedonot
considerthesubjectiveintent,motives,orbeliefsoftheofficer.Amorev.
Novarro,624F.3d522,536(2dCir.2010)(internalquotationmarksomitted).
Therelevant,dispositiveinquiryindeterminingwhetherarightisclearly
establishediswhetheritwouldbecleartoareasonableofficerthathisconduct
wasunlawfulinthesituationheconfronted.Saucierv.Katz,533U.S.194,202
(2001).
UnderbothfederalandNewYorklaw,anofficerhasprobablecauseto
arrestwhenheorshehasknowledgeorreasonablytrustworthyinformationof
factsandcircumstancesthataresufficienttowarrantapersonofreasonable
cautioninthebeliefthatthepersontobearrestedhascommittedoris
committingacrime.Dickersonv.Napolitano,604F.3d732,751(2d.Cir.2010)
(internalquotationmarksomitted);seealsoMichiganv.DeFillippo,443U.S.31,
37(1979)(holdingthatapoliceofficerhasprobablecausetoarrestwhenthe
factsandcircumstanceswithintheofficersknowledge...aresufficientto
warrantaprudentperson,oroneofreasonablecaution,inbelieving,inthe
circumstancesshown,thatthesuspecthascommitted,iscommitting,orisabout
tocommitanoffense).
IV.

WhatReasonablePoliceOfficersWouldHaveUnderstood
Itisnotsubjecttoseriousdisputethatthedefendantsinthiscasehad,from

theirpersonalobservations,sufficientevidencetoestablishprobablecauseon
eachoftheelementsofadisorderlyconductviolation.Asnotedabove,that
15

offenseincludestheconductof,withintenttocausepublicinconvenience,...or
recklesslycreatingariskthereof[,]...obstruct[ing]vehicularorpedestrian
traffic.N.Y.PenalLaw240.20(5).Plaintiffswerepartofalargegroupthat
hadgatheredonavehicularrampapproachingtheBridgeandonthestreet
behindit,locationsgenerallyreservedforvehiculartraffic,makingitimpossible
forvehiclestoproceed.Theydonotchallengetheconclusionthatitwouldbe
reasonableforapoliceofficertoinferthatplaintiffseitherintendedtoblock
trafficontheBridgeaspartoftheirprotest,orataminimumwereawareofa
substantialandunjustifiableriskthattheyweredoingso.SeeN.Y.PenalLaw
15.05(3)(definingrecklessly).Rather,theycontendthatreasonableofficersin
defendantspositionwouldalsohavebeenaware,orshouldhavebeenaware,
thatplaintiffshadareasonablebeliefthattheyhadbeenauthorizedtocrossthe
Bridgeonthevehicularroadway,basedonthefactthatpoliceofficerswhohad
beenblockingtheirprogresssubsequentlyretreatedandledthemarchacross
thebridge,whichtheyconstruedasanactualandapparentgrantofpermission
tofollow.J.Appxat168.
Wearenotconcernedwithwhetherplaintiffsassertedbeliefthatthe
officersbehaviorhadgiventhemimpliedpermissiontoviolatetrafficlaws
otherwisebanningpedestriansfromtheroadwaywouldconstituteadefenseto
thechargeofdisorderlyconduct;thatissuewouldbepresentedtoacourt
adjudicatingthecriminalchargesagainstplaintiffs.Instead,wearefacedwith
thequiteseparatequestionofwhetheranysuchdefensewassoclearly
16

establishedasamatteroflaw,andwhetherthefactsestablishingthatdefense
weresoclearlyapparenttotheofficersonthesceneasamatteroffact,thatany
reasonableofficerwouldhaveappreciatedthattherewasnolegalbasisfor
arrestingplaintiffs.SeeMalleyv.Briggs,475U.S.335,341(1986)(anofficeris
entitledtoqualifiedimmunityifofficersofreasonablecompetencecould
disagreeonthelegalityoftheactioninitsparticularfactualcontext).Wecannot
answerthatquestionintheaffirmative.
Itiswellestablishedthatapoliceofficerawareoffactscreatingprobable
causetosuspectaprimafacieviolationofacriminalstatuteisnotrequiredto
exploreandeliminateeverytheoreticallyplausibleclaimofinnocencebefore
makinganarrest.Curleyv.Vill.ofSuffern,268F.3d65,70(2dCir.2001)
(internalquotationmarkomitted);seealsoPanettav.Crowley,460F.3d388,398
(2dCir.2006)(Onceanofficerhasprobablecause,heorsheisneitherrequired
norallowedtocontinueinvestigating,siftingandweighinginformation.)
(internalquotationmarksomitted).Atmost,probablecausemaybedefeatedif
theofficerdeliberatelydisregard[s]factsknowntohimwhichestablish
justification.Jocksv.Tavernier,316F.3d128,136(2dCir.2003)(emphasis
added).
Itcannotbesaidthattheofficersheredisregardedknownfactsclearly
establishingadefense.Intheconfusedandboisteroussituationconfrontingthe
officers,thepolicewereawarethatthedemonstratorswereblockingtheroadway
inviolationof240.20(5).Theywerealsocertainlyawarethatnoofficialhad
17

expresslyauthorizedtheprotesterstocrosstheBridgeviatheroadway.Tothe
contrary,theofficerswouldhaveknownthatapoliceofficialhadattemptedto
advisetheprotestorsthroughabullhornthattheywererequiredtodisperse.
Whilereasonableofficersmightperhapshaverecognizedthatmuchormostof
thecrowdwouldbeunabletohearthewarningduetothenoisecreatedbythe
chantingprotesters,itwasalsoapparentthatthefrontrankofdemonstrators
whopresumablywereabletohearexhibitednosignsofdispersing.The
Complaintandvideotapesaredevoidofanyevidencethatanypoliceofficer
madeanygestureorspokeanywordthatunambiguouslyauthorizedthe
protesterstocontinuetoblocktraffic,andindeedtheComplaintdoesnotallege
thatanyoftheplaintiffsobservedanysuchgesture.
PlaintiffsrelyontheSupremeCourtsdecisioninCoxv.Louisianatoargue
that,inlightoftheirapparentearlierpassivityinthefaceofthemarch,police
officershadtoprovidetheprotestorswithfairwarningbeforechangingcourse
andeffectinganyarrests.11See379U.S.559,574(1965).Butthefactsofthatcase

11

PlaintiffsalsorelyonourholdinginPapineauv.Parmley,465F.3d46
(2dCir.2006),whichdeniedqualifiedimmunitytoofficerswhoarrestedpeaceful
protesterswithoutfirstgivingthemfairwarningthroughanordertodisperse.
Id.at60.Papineauisinapposite,however.InPapineau,plaintiffswere
protestingonprivatepropertyborderingapublichighwaywhenahandfulof
protestersbrieflyenteredthehighwaytodistributepamphlets.Onceall
participantswerebackontheproperty,policeofficersenteredandbegan
arrestingprotestersindiscriminatelyandwithoutadvancewarning.Id.at53.
BecausetheprotestinPapineauoccurredonprivatepropertyandposedno
dangerofimminentharmatthetimeofthearrests,id.at6061,plaintiffs
18

differsignificantlyfromthoseatissuehere.InCox,alargegroupof
demonstratorsprotestingonthestreetoppositeacourthousewerearrestedand
chargedwithviolatingastatutethatprohibitedpicket[ing]orparad[ing]inor
nearabuildinghousingacourtoftheStateofLouisiana.Id.at560(emphasis
added);seealsoid.at564.TheCourtnotedthatthestatute,whilenot
unconstitutionallyvague,wassufficientlyunspecific...withrespecttothe
determinationofhownearthecourthouseaparticulardemonstrationcanbe,[as
to]foresee[]adegreeofonthespotadministrativeinterpretationbyofficials
chargedwithresponsibilityforadministeringandenforcingit.Id.at568.
AccordingtotheCourt,therecordclearlyshow[ed]thatsuchonthespot
interpretationhadbeenexercisedinCoxtoauthorizethedemonstration.Id.
Cox,theleaderofthedemonstrators,testifiedtoanexplicitconversationwith
policeofficialsinwhichhehadbeengivenpermissiontoconductthe
demonstrationonthefarsideofthestreet,some101feetfromthecourthouse
steps.Id.at56971.TheChiefofPoliceeffectivelycorroboratedthataccount,as
didanindependentobserver.Id.at570.AstheSupremeCourtconcluded,
thehighestpoliceofficialsofthecity,inthepresenceof
theSheriffandMayor,ineffecttoldthedemonstrators
thattheycouldmeetwheretheydid,101feetfromthe
courthousesteps,butcouldnotmeetclosertothe
neitherneededpermissionfromthepolicetoengageinthatprotestnor,absent
clearorderstodisperse,hadanynoticethattheymightbeengaginginunlawful
conduct.Papineaudoesnotstandforthepropositionthatpoliceofficersmust
providefairwarningbeforeeffectinganyarrestswhenindividualsareclearly
violatinganapplicablecriminalstatute.
19

courthouse.Ineffect,[Cox]wasadvisedthata
demonstrationattheplaceitwasheldwouldnotbeone
nearthecourthousewithinthetermsofthestatute.
Id.at571.Onthosefacts,theCourtconcludedthatconvictingthedemonstrators
ofdemonstratingnearthecourthouseviolateddueprocess,becausethe
demonstratorswereentitledtorelyuponthepolicesinterpretationofthestatute,
andthuslackedfairwarningthattheywereviolatingthelaw.
Thecircumstancesinthiscasearequitedifferent.Unliketheunspecific
statutorycommandinCox,240.20(5)sprohibitionagainstobstructingtrafficis
hardlyvague,anditwouldhavebeencleartoanyperson(andcertainlytoa
reasonablepoliceofficer)thattheprotesterswereoccupyingalocationwhere
theywerenotordinarilypermittedtobe.AlsounlikeCox,therewasnoexplicit
consultationbetweentheleadersofthedemonstrationandthepoliceaboutwhat
conductwouldbepermitted.Norwasthereanyexpressstatementfromany
policeofficialauthorizingtheprotesterstocrosstheBridgeonthevehicular
roadway,opiningthatdoingsowouldbelawful,orwaivingtheenforcementof
anytrafficregulation.Mostimportantly,noplaintiffallegesintheComplaint
thatheorsheheardanystatementfromanypoliceofficerauthorizingthe
protestorstocrosstheBridgeviathevehicularroadway,orobservedany
unambiguousindicationfromanypoliceofficerinvitingtheprotesterstocross
theBridgeinthatmanner.Norisanysuchstatementorgesturerecordedinthe
videotapessubmittedbythepartiesandincorporatedintotheComplaintby
reference.Indeed,mostoftheplaintiffsallegethattheydidnotseeanythingthe
20

policeofficersdid,andsimplyfollowedthemarchasitproceededacrossthe
Bridge.J.Appxat171(quotingplaintiffGarcia).SeegenerallyJ.Appxat169
72.
Plaintiffsneverthelessinsistthat,byceasingtoblockthedemonstrators
advanceandinsteadturningandwalkingtowardtheBrooklynsideofthe
Bridge,theofficersimplicitlygavethempermissiontoproceed.Thataction,
however,isinherentlyambiguous.Itiscertainlytruethat,byremoving
themselvesfromthedemonstratorspath,policeallowedtheprotestersto
advance,inthesensethattheystoppedphysicallyblockingthem.Butsuchan
actiondoesnotconvey,implicitlyorexplicitly,aninvitationtogoahead.The
failureofathinlineofpoliceofficerstophysicallyimpedealargegroupthat
basedontheactionsofthoseimmediatelyonthefrontlinewouldreasonablybe
understoodtobeintentonadvancingacrosstheBridgeevenabsentpermission
doesnotsuggestthatthoseofficersunderstoodthattheconducttheyhadceased
physicallyblockingwaslawful,orhadbeenaffirmativelyauthorizedbythe
police.12

12

Plaintiffsalsocitetwooutofcircuitcasesdenyingqualifiedimmunityto
officerswhoarrestedprotestersafterarguablysanctioningtheirtrafficviolations
throughtheirowndirectives.SeeVodakv.CityofChicago,639F.3d738,74344
(7thCir.2011);Buckv.CityofAlbuquerque,549F.3d1269,1283(10thCir.2008).
Wehavenotbeenaltogetherunequivocalastotherelevanceofoutof
circuitcasesinourassessmentofwhetherarightisclearlyestablishedforthe
purposesofqualifiedimmunity.Compare,e.g.,Scottv.Fischer,616F.3d100,105
(2dCir.2010)(Evenifthisorothercircuitcourtshavenotexplicitlyheldalaw
21

Evenconcedingthatamajorityofpoliceofficerswouldnotreasonably
haveunderstoodtheretreatasinvitingthedemonstratorstoentertheroadway,
plaintiffssuggestthatwecannotdismisstheComplaintsolongasanyofficer
whoparticipatedinthearrestsmayreasonablyhaveanticipatedsomeprotestors
toreasonablyinterpretitassuch.Theessentialflawinplaintiffslogic,andin
thatofthepriorpanelopinion,istheextenttowhichitrequirespoliceofficersto
engageinanessentiallyspeculativeinquiryintothepotentialstateofmindof(at
leastsomeof)thedemonstrators.Neitherthelawofprobablecausenorthelaw
ofqualifiedimmunityrequiressuchspeculation.Whetherornotasuspect
ultimatelyturnsouttohaveadefense,orevenwhetherareasonableofficer
mighthavesomeideathatsuchadefensecouldexist,isnotthequestion.See

orcourseofconducttobeunconstitutional,theunconstitutionalityofthatlawor
courseofconductwillnonethelessbetreatedasclearlyestablishedifdecisionsby
thisorothercourtsclearlyforeshadowaparticularrulingontheissue,evenif
thosedecisionscomefromcourtsinothercircuits.)(internalquotationmarks
omitted),withPabonv.Wright,459F.3d241,255(2dCir.2006)(Whenneither
theSupremeCourtnorthiscourthasrecognizedaright,thelawofoursister
circuitsandtheholdingsofdistrictcourtscannotacttorenderthatrightclearly
establishedwithintheSecondCircuit.).Butweneednotresolvethattension
here,becausetheoutofcircuitprecedentcitedbyplaintiffshasnotplacedthe
questionatissueinthiscasebeyonddebate.Ashcroftv.alKidd,___U.S.___,
131S.Ct.2074,2083(2011)(Wedonotrequireacasedirectlyonpoint,but
existingprecedentmusthaveplacedthestatutoryorconstitutionalquestion
beyonddebate.).ExtendingCoxbeyonditsdueprocessholding,andagreeing
onneithertheconstitutionalrightatstakenoritscontours,VodakandBuck
evenassumingarguendothattheirholdingsmightotherwiseberelevantinthe
specificfactualcontextofthiscasedonotforeshadowthelawofwhicha
reasonableofficerinthiscircuitshouldbeaware.
22

Curley,268F.3dat70(refusingtorequireofficerstoexploreandeliminateevery
theoreticallyplausibleclaimofinnocencebeforemakinganarrest)(internal
quotationmarkomitted).Anofficerstillhasprobablecausetoarrest,and
certainlyisentitledtoqualifiedimmunity,solongasanysuchdefenserestson
factsthataresounclear,oralegaltheorythatisnotsoclearlyestablished,thatit
cannotbesaidthatanyreasonableofficerwouldunderstandthatanarrestunder
thecircumstanceswouldbeunlawful.Reichlev.Howards,___U.S.___,132S.
Ct.2088,2093(2012);seealsoMesserschmidtv.Millender,___U.S.___,132S.Ct.
1235,1244(2012)(qualifiedimmunitygivesgovernmentofficialsbreathing
roomtomakereasonablebutmistakenjudgments)(internalquotationmarks
omitted).
OnthefaceoftheComplaint,theofficerswereconfrontedwith
ambiguitiesoffactandlaw.Asamatteroffact,themostthatisplausiblyalleged
bytheComplaintandthesupportingmaterialsisthatthepolice,havingalready
permittedsomeminortrafficviolationsalongthemarchersroute,andafterfirst
attemptingtoblocktheprotestersfromobstructingthevehicularroadway,
retreatedbeforethedemonstratorsinawaythatsomeofthedemonstratorsmay
haveinterpretedasaffirmativelypermittingtheiradvance.Whetherornotsuch
aninterpretationwasreasonableontheirpart,itcannotbesaidthatthepolices
behaviorwasanythingmorethanatbestforplaintiffsambiguous,orthata
reasonableofficerwouldnecessarilyhaveunderstoodthatthedemonstrators
wouldreasonablyinterprettheretreataspermissiontousetheroadway.
23

Asamatteroflaw,Coxestablishesthat,undersomecircumstances,
demonstratorsorotherswhohavebeenadvisedbythepolicethattheirbehavior
islawfulmaynotbepunishedforthatbehavior.Theextentofthatprincipleis
lessthanclear,andweneednotdecideherehowfaritmightextend.Itisenough
tosaythatnoclearlyestablishedlawwouldmakeitcleartoareasonable
officer,Saucier,533U.S.at202,thatitwouldbeunlawfultoarrestindividuals
whowereinprimafacieviolationofastraightforwardstatutoryprohibition
becausethoseindividualsmayhavebelieved,basedoninferencesdrawnfrom
ambiguousbehaviorbythepolice,thattheywereauthorizedtoviolatethe
statute.
V.

TheProceduralPostureoftheCase
Finally,plaintiffsarguethattheComplaintmaynotbedismissedonthe

pleadingsonqualifiedimmunitygrounds.Itiscertainlytruethatmotionsto
dismissaplaintiffscomplaintunderRule12(b)(6)onthebasisofanaffirmative
defensewillgenerallyfaceadifficultroad.Whenaddressingamotiontodismiss
acomplaint,weaccept[]astruethematerialfactsallegedinthecomplaintand
draw[]allreasonableinferencesinplaintiffsfavor.Johnson,239F.3dat250.
Tosurvivesuchamotion,thecomplaintmustsimplycontainsufficientfactual
matter,acceptedastrue,tostateaclaimtoreliefthatisplausibleonitsface.
Iqbal,556U.S.at678,quotingBellAtlanticCorp.v.Twombly,550U.S.544,570
(2007).

24

Butthatdoesnotmeanthatqualifiedimmunitycanneverbeestablishedat
thepleadingstage.Tothecontrary,everycasemustbeassessedonthespecific
factsallegedinthecomplaint.TheSupremeCourthasmadeclearthatqualified
immunitycanbeestablishedbythefactsallegedinacomplaint,seeWoodv.
Moss,___U.S.___,134S.Ct.2056(2014),andindeed,becausequalified
immunityprotectsofficialsnotmerelyfromliabilitybutfromlitigation,thatthe
issueshouldberesolvedwhenpossibleonamotiontodismiss,beforethe
commencementofdiscovery,Mitchellv.Forsyth,472U.S.511,526(1985),to
avoidsubjectingpublicofficialstotimeconsumingandexpensivediscovery
procedures.Inthiscase,thefactsallegedintheComplaint,andthosedepictedin
thevideos,donotbearoutplaintiffslegalconclusionthattheofficersactions
constitutedanactualandapparentgrantofpermissiontothedemonstratorsto
utilizetheroadway.J.Appxat168.Stilllessdothosefactsplausiblydescribea
situationinwhichreasonableofficerswouldhaveclearlyunderstoodthattheir
actionswereinterpretedbythedemonstratorsasagrantofpermission,suchthat
arrestingthedemonstratorswouldviolateclearlyestablishedlaw.Accordingly,
dismissaloftheComplaintisrequired.
CONCLUSION
Fortheforegoingreasons,thedefendantspetitionforrehearingis
GRANTED,thejudgmentofthedistrictcourtisREVERSED,andthecaseis
REMANDEDwithinstructionstodismisstheComplaint.

25