MRR News Alert – U.S. Supreme Court: Traffic Stops Cannot Be Overly Prolonged Or Go Beyond Their Mission

The U.S. Supreme Court held that absent reasonable suspicion, the extension of a police traffic stop to conduct a dog-sniff violates the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Reversing the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that a traffic stop becomes unlawful when it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a ticket.

In Rodriguez v. The United States, No. 13-9972, a canine officer stopped a motorist (Rodriguez) for driving on a highway shoulder in violation of Nebraska state law. After the officer completed everything related to the stop, the officer requested the motorist’s permission to walk his K-9 around the vehicle. The motorist refused and the officer detained him for seven or eight additional minutes while his dog searched for drugs. The dog found drugs. After being indicted on federal drug charges, the motorist moved to suppress the drugs seized from the vehicle because the officer had prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that prolonging the stop for the dog sniff was only a de minimus (or minimal) intrusion into the motorist’s Fourth Amendment rights and was therefore permissible.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the extension of the traffic stop violated the Constitution because it was unreasonable. The Court explained that the authority for the seizure ended when the tasks tied to the traffic infraction are, or reasonably should have been, completed. If the roadside detention extends beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing the ticket, the traffic stop becomes unlawful. The Court found that the mission of issuing a traffic ticket included checking the driver’s license, investigating the existence of outstanding warrants, and reviewing the motorist’s proof of insurance and registration documents. These checks go to the same objective as enforcing the traffic code: ensuring that vehicles on the road are operated responsibly and safely. The Court explained that a dog-sniff is not fairly characterized as part of the officer’s traffic mission. The Court found that on-scene investigation into other crimes is a departure from the officer’s traffic control mission.

Ultimately, the issue of whether the motorist’s detention will be found lawful was not completely resolved either. The Supreme Court found that the Eighth District did not review whether the district court properly determined the dog-sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion. The Court found that that question remains open for consideration of further action.

The Supreme Court made clear that traffic stops have to be reasonably short unless there is an independent, reasonable suspicion of another crime that allows further investigation and prolonging the traffic stop. Officers simply cannot prolong a traffic stop just to perform a dog-sniff drug search without otherwise having independent reasonable suspicion.

For more information on this subject matter or other appellate topics, please contact John T. McLandrich and Frank H. Scialdone.

MRR’s Todd Raskin & Cara Wright Win Defense Verdict on Behalf of Nurse Practitioner

Raskin & Wright

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015,  Todd M. Raskin and Cara M. Wright of MRR obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death medical negligence claim against a certified nurse practitioner who provided medical care and treatment to the Plaintiff’s deceased mother-in-law (decedent) at an area nursing home. The Plaintiff had alleged that the care and treatment provided by the certified nurse practitioner fell below the standard of care and caused his mother-in-law to experience dehydration which resulted in Digoxin toxicity (a condition marked by elevated blood serum levels of a medication utilized to treat atrial fibrillation and other clinical symptoms) and caused her death.

During the seven-day trial, MRR presented evidence that the care provided by the certified nurse practitioner met or exceeded the standard of care. Indeed, the evidence shown at trial demonstrated that the certified nurse practitioner performed physical examinations of the decedent on five separate occasions and responded appropriately to 12 telephone calls or requests for assistance from the RNs and LPNs employed by the nursing home during the decedent’s 13-day stay at the nursing home. Two physicians and an RN/Nursing Home Administrator with a Ph.D. in Health Policy testified that the care provided by the certified nurse practitioner was exemplary and well exceeded the standard of care.

MRR’s Raskin and Wright further produced evidence that demonstrated that the decedent did not die of dehydration or Digoxin toxicity. Instead, the testimony of five expert witnesses, including two of the decedent’s own treating physicians, demonstrated that the decedent died of post-obstructive pneumonia as a result of the decedent’s Stage IV lung cancer. These witnesses consistently testified that, while the decedent had lab values of Digoxin above the recommended therapeutic range, the decedent did not demonstrate any of the signs or symptoms exclusively associated with Digoxin toxicity. Furthermore, the witnesses indicated that her non-specific symptoms (anorexia, nausea, fatigue and weakness) were more likely caused by her recurrent post-obstructive pneumonia, particularly since those symptoms persisted after the antidote for Digoxin toxicity was administered.

Following deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense and found that the Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden to prove that the care provided for his deceased mother-in-law by the certified nurse practitioner fell below the applicable standard of care.

Solon Chamber of Commerce features MRR in April 2015 – Member Spotlight

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The Solon Chamber of Commerce features Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder in its April 2015 Member Spotlight.

Joe Nicholas, President and Managing Partner, says, “The thing we like best about being in Solon is that it lends itself to all areas of Northeast Ohio. We are situated at a great mid-point for most of our firm’s local and regional business activity. Solon, in particular, and Northeast Ohio in general, is also home to so many diverse businesses, innovators, and leaders in their respective fields and industries. The greatest value we have found from being a Chamber member is networking and connecting with our area’s talented and innovative business leaders….”

Check out the full article and e-newsletter here.

MRR’s Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr. Appointed Your House Counsel’s First Group Chair

Joseph NicholasYour House Counsel®, the national consortium of highly regarded insurance and corporate liability insurance defense law firms, announced today that Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr., President and Managing Partner of Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., L.P.A., will become the organization’s first Group Chair, a newly created position.

“Joe and his law firm represent what Your House Counsel® is all about,” said Howard S. Shafer, President and Founder of Your House Counsel® which currently has over thirty member law firms across the country. “The skills, energy and reputation for servicing that Joe brings to the Group Chair position will serve YHC well in our marketing and engagement programs,” Mr. Shafer added, referencing the position’s primary areas of focus.

“I am delighted and honored to have been selected as YHC’s first Group Chair,” Mr. Nicholas said. “From the first day that our firm joined Your House Counsel®,” Mr. Nicholas continued, “we’ve seen it as a critically important way to meaningfully expand the firm’s awareness among prospects beyond our own market. But of equal importance are the advantages YHC has given us to interact with and learn from our fellow Your House Counsel® member firms.”

The appointment of Joe Nicholas as YHC’s first Group Chair, “marks a turning point in the organization’s history,” Mr. Shafer said, adding, “We’ve grown substantially over the last few years, adding new member firms and new clients.” With the addition of a Group Chair, says Mr. Shafer, “Your House Counsel® is assured that our growth, reputation and abilities to service clients on a national basis will continue and expand.”

Your House Counsel® is based in New York, NY, and has member firms in 28 states.