Applying the Fourth Amendment to Pranks:
On Tuesday, the Tenth Circuit handed down a very interesting decision applying the Fourth Amendmemt to a prank. The case is Fuerschbach v. Southwest Airlines, and was written by Judge Lucero (joined by McConnell and Brorby). From the introduction:
  Several supervisors at Southwest Airlines convinced two Albuquerque police officers to stage an arrest of Marcie Fuerschbach, a Southwest Airlines employee, as part of an elaborate prank that included actual handcuffing and apparent arrest. This was a "joke gone bad," and turned out to be anything but funny, as Fuerschbach allegedly suffered serious psychological injuries as a result of the prank. She sued the officers and the City of Albuquerque under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. . . . We conclude that Fuerschbach's allegations are sufficient to survive the assertion of qualified immunity. Whether the characterization of the incident as a prank permits the officers to escape liability is a question for the jury to resolve.
  The case is interesting in part because Fourth Amendment "seizures" of persons are analyzed from the perspective of the person seized. The question is whether a reasonable person in that situation would have believed she wasn't free to go, not whether the officers believed that the individual was free to go. The difference is criticial in the case of a prank: the officers know it's all a joke but the person "seized" does not. A very interesting case.

  Hat tip: Decision of the Day.