The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released an opinion in BECK v. CITY OF UPLAND, No. 05-56901, a civil rights appeal. The panel consisted of Marsha S. Berzon and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges, and James K. Singleton, District Judge.
BERZON, Circuit Judge:
Kenneth Beck and the City of Upland, California, engaged for months in an escalating series of disputes arising from Beck’s protests against a city contract granted to one of his competitors. In the incident that gave rise to this case, Beck was arrested six days after he confronted two city police officers over what he felt to be unfair treatment by the city. Beck’s arrest was pursuant to a warrant for two felony violations of a California statute prohibiting threats of violence made to deter police officers from performing their duties. The warrant, we conclude — as did the state courts considering the criminal charges — was entirely without probable cause. All charges against Beck were dismissed. Beck maintains that his “First and Fourth Amendment rights . . . were violated when he was arrested and imprisoned [without probable cause] for his protected speech and then forced to incur the cost of defending himself against the crim. . .
IKUTA, Circuit Judge, concurring in part, dissenting in part: In my view, the district court’s grant of summary judgment must be reversed for two reasons. First, the district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed Beck’s Â§ 1983 cause of action based in part on its determination that the police officers had probable cause to arrest Beck. This determination was erroneous: the police officers lacked probable cause to arrest Beck as a matter of law. See In re Manuel G., 16 Cal. 4th 805, 814-15 (1997). Second, the district court determined that the officers were immune from liability under Smiddy v. Varney, 665 F.2d 261 (9th Cir. 1981), due to the prosecutor’s intervening action of filing a criminal charge against Beck. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006), casts doubt on the district court’s conclusion, at least with respect to Beck’s allegation that the police officers arrested him in retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment rights. Beck had attempted to rebut the Smiddy presumption (i.e., the presumption that a prosecutor’s filing of criminal charges constitutes an exercise of independent judgment that immu. . .