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Ninth Circuit: Officer May Be Liable for Unlawful Seizure and Conspiracy

On September 29, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals held that a Michigan police officer who conspired to falsely arrest a man was not entitled to summary judgment.

Nidal Bazzi, a felon on federal supervised release, was temporarily employed by Marwan Haidar, who was later indicted for wire fraud. Once their working relationship terminated, their relationship became contentious after Bazzi informed Haidar's girlfriend of the indictment.

In retaliation, Haidar tried to enlist Officers Daniel Saab and Fred Thompson to fabricate charges against Bazzi for breaking a car window. When Thompson declined Saab's request to file the false report, Saab wrote the report anyway. Later, Thompson was on patrol with Officer Lindsay Cox, he received a call on his personal cell phone from Haidar, stating Bazzi was transporting drugs and guns. When Bazzi was stopped, the vehicle search produced no drugs or guns, and no citation was issued. However, Cox filed a false internal report, stating Bazzi was stopped on suspicion of driving a stolen car, which resulted in Bazzi's arrest for violating the terms of his supervised release, which was later dismissed.

After an internal investigation revealed the filing of the false report and other misconduct, Saab was forced to resign and was tried in federal court for tampering with witnesses and evidence based on Bazzi's allegations. He was found not guilty on all accounts by the jury.

Bazzi then filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Michigan federal court against Saab, Haidar, Thompson, and the City of Dearborn. Saab entered into a Consent judgment with Bazzi, who also stipulated to an order granting summary judgment. The district court granted Thompson and the City of Dearborn a summary judgment, which Bazzi appealed claiming civil conspiracy where a single plan existed in which the named parties conspired to cause Bazzi injury. The Ninth Circuit held that express agreement among all conspirators is not necessary.

Bazzi was falsely arrested, which violated his constitutional rights. Thus his supervised release revocation was without due process. The inference of Thompson being involved in the conspiracy beyond seizing Bazzi was weak. Bazzi presented no evidence to show Thompson was anything other than an involuntary participant of Saab's conspiracy to deny Bazzi his Due Process and Fourth Amendment rights by issuing a false police report. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed the portion of the judgment granting Thompson summary judgment on the claim that he conspired to violate Bazzi's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizure and affirmed the judgment on Bazzi's Due Process claims.

Bazzi was represented by Berkley, Michigan attorneys Wolfgang Mueller and Olsman Mueller. See: Bazzi v. City of Dearborn, 658 F.3d 598 (6th Cir. 2011).

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Related legal case

Bazzi v. City of Dearborn