Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissent from denial of review by Supreme Court in "waistband" police shooting case

I previously wrote about my petition in the Salazar-Limon case here: Police shootings, "reaching for waistbands," summary judgment, and the right to a jury trial.

Today the Supreme Court declined to take the case. Justice Sotomayor, in an opinion joined by Justice Ginsburg, agreed with my position that Ricardo Salazar-Limon was entitled to a trial after being shot in the back while unarmed even though the officer claimed Salazar-Limon reached for his waistband. Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas, wrote separately to emphasize their view that the Supreme Court was correct not to take the case on. All the opinions are here.  Here is a New York Times article about the decision.

In addition to Justice Sotomayor's analysis of basic summary-judgment principles, two additional points are worth noting for future cases:

1. Justice Sotomayor, in footnote 2, highlighted the "waistband" issue. That is, even when a person is unarmed when shot, police frequently say the person reached for the "waistband." Justice Sotomayor emphasizes that this raises a credibility question for the jury to resolve at trial (not for a judge at summary judgment).

2. Justice Alito's opinion, while emphasizing that the Court was correct not to review the case, does not go so far as to say that the lower courts were actually correct in denying Salazar-Limon a trial. Indeed, Justice Alito stated that he agreed with Justice Sotomayor that "we have no way of determining what actually happened in Houston on the night when Salazar-Limon was shot."

Salazar-Limon was entitled to a trial where a jury would decide what actually happened, and he will not get it. But perhaps people in similar situations in the future will have their day in court.