Term Year 2016

Salazar-Limon v. Houston

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins, dissenting from the denial of certiorari. Just after midnight on October 29, 2010, a Houston police officer shot petitioner Ricardo Salazar-Limon in the back. Salazar-Limon claims the officer shot him as he tried to walk away from a confrontation with the officer on an overpass. The officer, by contrast, claims that SalazarLimon turned toward him and reached for his waistband— as if for a gun—before the officer fired a shot. The question whether the officer used excessive force in shooting Salazar-Limon thus turns in large part on which man is telling the truth.

Our legal system entrusts this decision to a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record. The courts below thought otherwise. The District Court credited the officer’s version of events and granted summary judgment to respondents—the officer and the city. 97 F. Supp. 3d 898 (SD Tex. 2015). The Fifth Circuit affirmed. 826 F. 3d 272 (2016). But summary judgment is appropriate only where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56(a). The courts below failed to heed that mandate. Three Terms ago, we summarily reversed the Fifth Circuit in a case “reflect[ing] a clear misapprehension of summary judgment standards.” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U. S. , (2014) (per curiam) (slip op., at 10).