A jury sided with a law enforcement officer represented by Attorney General Paxton’s Law Enforcement Defense Division in a case that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. McCoy v. Alamu resulted from an inmate throwing an object at the officer, prompting the officer to respond using chemical spray to regain control of the situation. The inmate alleged excessive use of force.  

The New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit initially found the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement officers and other civil servants from frivolous personal lawsuits that could otherwise bankrupt them. The inmate then appealed and petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.  

In response, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and sent the case back for reconsideration in light of its recent ruling in Taylor v. Riojas. In Taylor, the Court had ruled that it was error to grant an officer qualified immunity when potential Eighth Amendment violations were adequately alleged.  

Following the Supreme Court’s remand, the Fifth Circuit sent the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, for further proceedings. After a two-day trial, the jury delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of the officer. The jury did not even reach the question of the officer’s entitlement to qualified immunity; instead, finding that the officer’s actions did not amount to a constitutional violation. 

This high-profile victory by Leah O’Leary and Briana Webb in Attorney General Paxton’s Law Enforcement Defense Division is just one of many recently announced, highlighting both Attorney General Paxton’s and his staff’s tireless dedication to the law enforcement officers who keep us safe.