Government officials enjoy qualified immunity from
civil damages unless their conduct violates "clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 818 (1982); see also Behrens, 516 U.S. at 306 (describing
Harlow's standard as one of "objective legal reasonableness").
"A public official is not entitled to qualified immunity
when the contours of the allegedly violated right were sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would understand that
what he [was] doing violate[d] that right." Osolinski v. Kane,
92 F.3d 934, 936 (9th Cir. 1996) (alterations in original) (citation
and internal quotations omitted). Determining whether a
public official is entitled to qualified immunity "requires a
(1) Was the law governing the state official's
conduct clearly established?
(2) Under that law could a
reasonable state official have believed his conduct was lawful?"
Browning v. Vernon, 44 F.3d 818, 822 (9th Cir. 1995)
(citing Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 871-72 (9th
This standard " `gives ample room for mistaken
judgments' by protecting `all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law.' " Hunter v. Bryant,
502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991) (per curiam) (quoting Malley v.
Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 343 (1986)).