On the night of March 23, 2010, Sergeant Randy Baker of the Tulia, Texas Police Department followed Israel Leija, Jr., to a drive-in restaurant, with a warrant for his arrest. 773 F. 3d 712, 715-716 (CA5 2014). When Baker approached Leija's car and informed him that he was under arrest, Leija sped off, headed for Interstate 27. 2013 WL 4017124, *1 (ND Tex., Aug. 7, 2013). Baker gave chase and was quickly joined by Trooper Gabriel Rodriguez of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). 773So when the natural consequences of Leija's voluntary choices follow in due course, what does his widow do? Sue the police officer, of course. The person actually at fault is dead, and she has his estate anyway, such as it is.
F. 3d, at 716.
Leija entered the interstate and led the officers on an 18-minute chase at speeds between 85 and 110 miles per hour. Ibid. Twice during the chase, Leija called the Tulia Police dispatcher, claiming to have a gun and threatening to shoot at police officers if they did not abandon their pursuit. The dispatcher relayed Leija's threats, together with a report that Leija might be intoxicated, to all concerned officers.
Under Supreme Court precedent, police officers are immune from suit so long as the law is not clearly established that their acts are illegal under the circumstances. In immunity cases, as in habeas corpus cases, lower federal courts regularly try to avoid the rule by defining the "clearly established" law at an excessive level of generality. Summary reversal of such decisions has taken up an inordinate portion of the Supreme Court's docket for some years now. This one is reversed with only one dissent, by Justice Sotomayor.