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What was the issue in James v. City of Douglas, 941 F.2d 1539 (11th Cir. 1991)?

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natralee | Student, Graduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted March 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM via web

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What was the issue in James v. City of Douglas, 941 F.2d 1539 (11th Cir. 1991)?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM (Answer #1)

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There were two main issues in this case.  One had to do with qualified immunity for government officials and the other had to do with the right to privacy.

In this case, Ms. James was being threatened with extortion through a sexually explicit videotape that had been made of her without her knowledge.  She turned the tape over to the police.  The police officers who were in charge of the tape and should have kept it closely controlled instead allowed it to be widely viewed by other members of the police force.  She sued these two police officers.

The first claim was of qualified immunity.  The officers claimed they were immune from this suit because they were acting as state officials.  However, this claim is not absolute.  It can only be sustained if the actions of the officers did not violate clearly established law.  In other words, if officers are acting in a gray area, they are immune, but if their actions clearly violate an established constitutional right, the officers are not immune.  This meant that James then revolved around the question of the right of privacy.  The court held that showing the sexually explicit tape of her to people who did not need to see it clearly violated her constitutional right to privacy.

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