Judith Alcocer v. Ashley Mills

Case: 17-14804 Date Filed: 10/09/2018 Page: 1 of 21 [PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 17-14804 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 6:15-cv-00094-JRH-GRS JUDITH ALCOCER 1, Plaintiff-Appellee, versus ASHLEY MILLS, JOHN STATEN, Defendants- Appellants. ________________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia ________________________ (October 9, 2018) Before JORDAN, ROSENBAUM, and DUBINA, Circuit Judges. ROSENBAUM, Circuit Judge: 1 After filing this lawsuit, Plaintiff-Appellee Judith Alcocer changed her name to Judith Hinojosa-Diaz. For purposes of clarity, we continue to refer to Plaintiff-Appellee in this opinion as Alcocer. Case: 17-14804 Date Filed: 10/09/2018 Page: 2 of 21 Much has been said about the art of diagnosis. For example, Mahatma Gandhi 2 opined, “A correct diagnosis is three-fourths the remedy.” Prashant Gupta, Wisdom of Gandhi 53 (2008). After all, a misdiagnosis can prevent a solution from ever being found. Take, for instance, the case of President James A. Garfield. After an assassin wounded President Garfield, the President’s physician became convinced that the bullet was lodged near the liver, and he performed several unsuccessful operations to remove it. CBS News, How Doctors Killed President Garfield, July 5, 2012, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-doctors-killed-president-garfield/ (last visited Oct. 9, 2018). But, in fact, the bullet was on the other side of President Garfield’s body. Id. And the unsuccessful operations—not the bullet—caused infection and ultimately felled President Garfield. Id. Not surprisingly, diagnosing the problem correctly is also crucial to resolving 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims of constitutional-rights violations: the first step in any § 1983 analysis requires identification of the precise right that is alleged to 2 Among many things for which he is remembered, Mahatma Gandhi, who formally studied the law, advocated for the civil rights of Indians and was the leader of India’s non-violent movement for independence from British rule. https://www.biography.com/people/mahatma- gandhi-9305898 (last visited Oct. 9, 2018). His ways inspired many others, including Martin Luther King, Jr., see https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/gandhi-mohandas-k (last visited Oct. 9, 2018), Nelson Mandela, see https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics- and-nation/nelson-mandela-the-gandhi-of-south-africa-had-strong-indian- connections/articleshow/26969042.cms (last visited Oct. 9, 2018), and Albert Einstein, see http://www.openculture.com/2013/01/albert_einstein_expresses_his_admiration_for_mahatma_g andhi.html (last visited Oct. 9, 2018). 2 Case: 17-14804 Date Filed: 10/09/2018 Page: 3 of 21 have been violated. Different rights prescribe different legal analyses, so accurately diagnosing the right at issue is critical to properly analyzing a § 1983 plaintiff’s claims. And correctly diagnosing the precise right involved, in turn, demands careful consideration of the alleged facts. Here, Plaintiff-Appellee Judith Alcocer was arrested and detained for the misdemeanor offense of driving with a suspended license. After Alcocer satisfied the bond requirements, the Bulloch County jail continued to detain her because jail officers became suspicious that she might be present illegally in the United States. She wasn’t. But that was not resolved to the jail’s satisfaction until after Alcocer had already spent the night there. Alcocer sued Defendants-Appellants Ashley Mills and John Staten,3 employees of the Bulloch County jail, for violating her constitutional rights. Defendants moved for summary judgment, invoking qualified immunity, and the district court denied the ...

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