Not every family is able to sue in a wrongful death situation. Some cases are so big, so high-profile, that they get additional scrutiny. When one is trying to sue an entire city, the case better have some serious merit. It also doesn’t help when the case gets an inordinate amount of media coverage that the average wrongful death case does not get. This case fits that bill. And that is what makes it so interesting that the ninth circuit court told the family of Kate Steinle no, in their wrongful death lawsuit against the sanctuary city of San Francisco.
A U.S. Appeals Court has ruled that the parents of Kate Steinle, who died in 2015 after an undocumented man shot her as she walked with her father on a San Francisco pier, cannot sue the city whose sanctuary policies were widely blamed for the tragedy.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided to uphold a district court’s 2017 dismissal of the Steinle’s parents’ wrongful death lawsuit against San Francisco. Their lawsuit maintained that San Francisco’s so-called sanctuary policy and the sheriff shared responsibility in Kate’s death because those laws enabled Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, the shooter, to roam the streets.
In the 9th Circuit Court decision, Judge Mark Bennett, who was nominated by President Trump, said that while the facts of the case are “undeniably tragic,” the sheriff was well within his authority when he issued a memo that limited his department’s cooperation with immigration officials.
Why Were the Stienle’s Suing?
Steinle’s killer, Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, was released by the San Francisco sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, after a drug case against him was dropped. It seems like the problem started with the sheriff’s office. They had ended contact between jail employees and immigration officials and ignored a request by federal authorities to hold Garcia-Zarate until they could assume custody and did not inform them that he was being released. Three months later, Garcia-Zarate, who had been deported back to his home country, Mexico a whopping five times, was the man who murdered Steinle.
“The tragic and unnecessary death of Steinle may well underscore the policy argument against Sheriff Mirkarimi’s decision to bar his employees from providing the release date of a many times convicted felon to ICE,” Judge Bennett said. “But that policy argument can be acted upon only by California’s state and municipal political branches of government, or perhaps by Congress.”
Federal immigration laws cited by the plaintiffs also did not require Mirkarimi to provide Garcia-Zarate’s release date, Judge Bennett said.
What Was the Fallout of the Incident?
The shooting became a major campaign issue in multiple national and local races across the country. It really became a launching off point moment for the anit-illegal immigration movement. Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the shooting during his 2016 campaign to bolster his argument for his tougher immigration policies and his opposition to sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration officials, like San Francisco.
Those groups that support tougher immigration enforcement clearly were not very accepting on happy with the appeals court’s decision.
Matthew O’Brien, director of research for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Fox News that the decision marked “yet another example of judicial activism by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
“San Francisco’s prohibition on the sharing of information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was a deliberate and intentional violation of federal law,” O’Brien said. “Overall, the handling of the Steinle matter, by both the courts of the State of California and the federal courts within California, sends a clear message that the Golden State is more interested in sheltering criminal illegal aliens from ICE than it is in protecting the life and safety of U.S. citizens.”
In 2017, A San Francisco jury amazingly acquitted Garcia-Zarate of Steinle’s murder, but convicted him of illegal gun possession. Garcia-Zarate had always contested that a gun he found on the pier all parties were walking on accidentally fired when he picked it up. The gun belonged to a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger and was stolen from his parked car a week earlier.
The way the case was presented in court, the bullet ricocheted on the pier’s concrete walkway before it struck and killed Steinle. Zarate has admitted to shooting Steinle, but says it was an accident. However, the prosecution painted a very different picture, telling jurors that Zarate deliberately shot the gun towards Steinle while “playing his own secret version of Russian roulette.”
It is not all over for Garcia-Zarate. He is also facing federal gun charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Steinle’s parents also named the federal government as a defendant in their lawsuit because the ranger had allegedly left the gun in plain view in an unlocked car on a downtown street. That part of the lawsuit is moving forward. So it does seem like the Steinle family may find justice in another case. That is all they can hope for.
Not all wrongful death lawsuits get the same media scrutiny as the the Steinle’s family case. 99% of the time wrongful death cases are heard and get their days in court. We here at the Law Office of Morgan McGrath offer our legal services should your family be involved in a wrongful death situation. You can count on our staff to make sure that all bases are covered and that we are here to communicate should there be any questions or concerns.
Attorney McGrath located in West Palm Beach, Florida, and covering the entire Palm Beach County area, does not only handle wrongful death lawsuits. Her office also practices and handles cases including: personal injury, wills & trusts, and even criminal law. If you are in the Palm Beach area or anywhere in South Florida for that matter, and you need legal services in any of the following areas that were previously mentioned, you should contact the office of Attorney Morgan McGrath today. They have people standing by to set up a free in office consultation to discuss your case.