Color of Law? Naked Boyfriend Can't Recover from Pistol-Toting Mom

By Robyn Hagan Cain on July 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here's a little tip we've picked up from reading appellate opinions all day long: When the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals starts a decision with the admonition, "You don't let a pistol-packing mother catch you naked in her daughter's closet," you keep reading.

It doesn't matter what kind of case follows. It's going to be good.

We're just going to quote the facts straight from the opinion, because there's no way we could possibly improve upon Judge Edward Carnes version:

Nineteen-year-old Uzuri Collier called Larry Butler, who was of a similar age, and invited him to her house. Butler responded to the invitation the way most young men over the age of consent would have -- he went. Once Butler was at Uzuri's house, he and she consented to watch television for a while. Then they consented to do what young couples alone in a house have been consenting to do since the memory of man (and woman) runneth not to the contrary. The record does not disclose how long these two young people had known each other in the dictionary sense, but that afternoon in Uzuri's bedroom they also knew each other in the biblical sense.

That's when Uzuri's mother, Dorethea Collier, returned home from work, wearing her uniform, gun belt, and pistol. Collier, who was a corrections officer at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, discovered Butler in her daughter's closet "wearing nothing but a look of surprise."

Collier yelled and punched Butler one time. Then she drew her gun. She told Butler that if he moved or did not follow her commands, she would shoot him.

Collier insisted that Butler must have broken in. Butler assured Collier that he had been invited. When Collier called the Sheriff's Office to find out what she charges she could file, she was told that she had to let him go if he had been invited.

Collier detained Butler a while longer before letting him get dressed and leave. As he left, she allegedly threatened to file trespassing charges against him if he reported the incident.

Since we're talking about this case in the context of an Eleventh Circuit opinion, Butler clearly filed a lawsuit.

Butler sued Collier and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for violating his civil rights by using excessive force to effect an unlawful search and seizure. The district court dismissed the federal claims, finding that Collier, though employed by the Sheriff's Department, was not acting under color of law when she threatened and detained Butler. Thus, Butler was stuck with state tort remedies.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding, "If the allegations are true, Collier's treatment of Butler was badder than old King Kong and meaner than a junkyard dog. She might even have acted like the meanest hunk of woman anybody had ever seen. Still, the fact that the mistreatment was mean does not mean that the mistreatment was under color of law."

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