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Snyder and Santoro v. City and County of San Francisco

Case Conclusion Date: 07.23.2008

Practice Area: Constitutional

Outcome: Summary Judgment for Defendant, Affirmed on Appeal

Description: This was the "fajitagate" civil rights lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department. The case was dubbed "fajitagate" by the media because plaintiffs got into an altercation with three off-duty S.F.P.D. officers (including the Chief's son), supposedly over a bag of steak fajitas. Plaintiffs attempted to hold the City liable for the off-duty altercation outside a San Francisco bar on the novel theory that the police department had a policy and practice of failing to discipline officers for on-duty use of excessive force. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled in favor of the defendants, holding that the City could only be liable if the affirmative conduct of police officials placed plaintiffs in danger. Judge White ruled as a matter of law that a purported official policy of failing to discipline on-duty conduct did not cause the off-duty incident or affirmatively place plaintiffs in danger. David Newdorf wrote and argued the summary judgment motion in the district court. Agreeing with Mr. Newdorf’s argument, Judge White stated that “Defendants persuasively argued at oral argument” that the factual record before the court was more favorable for the City than similar cases discussed in other published decisions. On appeal, Mr. Newdorf wrote the briefs defending the district court judgment and argued it in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This case was one of four selected to be argued in February 2008 before a large audience of law students and professors at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law, where the Ninth Circuit conducts a special sitting each year. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the defense judgment in July 2008. For more information on this case, visit the Newdorf Legal blog at

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