U.S. News

U.S. justices to consider police conduct in arrest of disabled woman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider whether police officers were required under federal law to accommodate a violent woman’s mental disability during an incident in San Francisco that led to her being shot multiple times.

The case concerns Teresa Sheehan, a woman with a history of mental illness who was shot and pepper sprayed by San Francisco police officers after they struggled to restrain her during a 2008 clash.

Police were called to the group home for people with mental health issues where Sheehan lived by her social worker after she threatened to kill him. The officers were seeking to detain her so she could undergo a psychological evaluation.

Sheehan objected when the officers entered her room without a warrant. She grabbed a knife and threatened to kill them, according to court documents.

She later filed a lawsuit claiming the police and city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate her disability.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, dismissed the lawsuit in 2011. But the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case in a February ruling, prompting the police officers to appeal.

The high court will now decide whether the federal disability law requires law enforcement officers to take disabilities into consideration when taking someone into custody.

The court noted in a brief order that Justice Breyer will not participate in the case, most likely due to his brother’s involvement.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

The case is San Francisco v. Sheehan, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1412.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham