Snyder and Santoro v. City and County of San Francisco.
This high-profile lawsuit - dubbed "fajitagate" by the press --stemmed from an early-morning altercation between three off-duty San Francisco police officers and two men outside a bar. The case garnered headlines because one of the officers was the son of a high-ranking police official. The plaintiffs sued San Francisco on the theory that the City should be liable for police officer's off-duty conduct if the police department failed to enforce its policies concerning the use of reasonable force to make arrests while on-duty.
Solution: Focus On The Adversary's Weakness
Plaintiffs told a compelling story, but the law did not support the claims. Mr. Newdorf’s motion for summary judgment persuaded the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to reject plaintiffs’ legal theory and dismiss the case. Agreeing with Mr. Newdorf’s argument, Judge Jeffrey S. White stated that “Defendants persuasively argued at oral argument” that the factual record before the court was more favorable for the City than similar cases discussed in other published decisions.
On appeal, Mr. Newdorf wrote the briefs defending the district court judgment and argued it in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This case was one of four selected to be argued in February 2008 before a large audience of law students and professors at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, where the Ninth Circuit conducts a special sitting each year. For more information on this case, visit the Newdorf Legal blog.
On July 23, 2008, the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the judgment in favor of defendants. The judges wrote: �Plaintiffs did not tender sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a City policy of inadequate discipline for officers� on-duty misconduct was the proximate cause of three off-duty officers� decisions to assualt the Plaintffs for their bag of steak fajitas.�
Read the Ninth Circuit decision here.