RICARDO RODRÍGUEZ-TIRADO; ANGELICA TIRADO-VELÁZQUEZ, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
SPEEDY BAIL BONDS, Defendant, Appellee, AMERICAN RELIABLE BAIL BONDS, LLC; MICHELLE ROMÁN; DANNY DOMÍNGUEZ; ELIOENAI FERNANDEZ, Defendants.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO HON. BRUCE J. MCGIVERIN, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Guillermo Ramos Luiña on brief for appellants.
Martínez-Luciano, with whom ML & RE Law Office,
Heriberto Güivas-Lorenzo, and Güivas-Lorenzo Law
Office were on brief, for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Boudin, Circuit Judges.
BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.
present case concerns cross claims arising out of an attempt
by a bail bondsman to seize a bailed man who had failed to
appear for a court hearing. In 2010, Ricardo
Rodríguez-Tirado ("Rodríguez") was
charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey and was later
released on bail to await further proceedings.
Rodríguez left New Jersey to return to his home in
Puerto Rico, itself a violation of the bail agreement. When
Rodríguez thereafter missed a court date in New
Jersey, the bail bond, posted by American Reliable Insurance
("Reliable"), was declared forfeited by the New
Jersey Superior Court. Reliable was an Arizona-based company
acting as a corporate surety in New Jersey in concert with
its local agent, Speedy Bail Bonds ("Speedy").
Following the bond forfeiture, Speedy undertook to retrieve
Rodríguez and deliver him to New Jersey, aiming to
have the forfeited bail money returned to Reliable. This, it
appears, is a minuet well known to the world of bail bonds.
acting for Speedy traveled to Puerto Rico where, aided by an
off-duty policeman, they confronted Rodríguez, seized
him, and bundled him into a car. Speedy later claimed that
its agents calmly explained to Rodríguez that they
were there to take him back to New Jersey because he had
jumped bail, that no weapons were used to menace him, and
that the agents escorted Rodríguez to their car, using
handcuffs only as a precaution. Rodríguez claims that
he was violently seized at gunpoint without any explanation,
shackled, and thrown into the car, and that he had no
knowledge of the missed court date.
episode was witnessed by Rodríguez's mother,
Angélica Tirado-Velázquez ("Tirado").
She telephoned a local attorney, who learned that no
outstanding warrant or extradition request had been lodged
with Puerto Rico authorities against Rodríguez. On
behalf of Tirado, the attorney filed a complaint with the
warrant was issued for the arrest of the bounty hunters, who
were staying in a hotel next to the airport with their
captive, awaiting a flight to New Jersey. The bounty hunters
surrendered to the authorities, Rodríguez was
released, and the bounty hunters were charged with kidnapping
and gun offenses--charges ultimately dropped.
filed suit in federal court in Puerto Rico against Speedy and
various other defendants, seeking damages for his seizure and
detention by the defendants; his mother as co-plaintiff
claimed mental anguish from having witnessed her son's
"kidnapping" and "violent removal" from
the house. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed all
defendants save Speedy, which counterclaimed for breach of
the bail agreement.
a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of
Speedy, dismissing the tort claims by Rodríguez and
his mother with prejudice and awarding Speedy $1, 500 on its
counterclaim for damages caused by Rodríguez's
breach of his obligations under his bail agreement. A central
question at the trial, resolved in Speedy's favor in the
jury instructions, was the right of a bounty hunter to
pursue, seize, and return to the bailing jurisdiction a
bail-jumper like Rodríguez. Much of the argument at
trial, renewed on this appeal, centered around an oft-cited
Supreme Court case, Taylor v. Taintor, 83 U.S. 366
(1873), which ruled that at common law the authority of the
bounty hunter to pursue, seize, and return the bail jumper
was well established. Whether this was holding or dicta was
waters were further muddied because the Supreme Court has
occasionally cited and never repudiated Taylor, but
a number of states have, by statute or otherwise, narrowed
the rights of the bailer to pursue and seize a bail jumper.
The parties in this court have not cited anything that
cleanly resolves the question of what Puerto Rico judges
would say about Taylor.
appeal followed the district court judgment and, not
surprisingly, much of the parties' briefing renews the
debate about the current status of Taylor. Both
sides seem to assume that, if only the Supreme Court would
make clear its current view of the rights of bondsmen and
their agents to pursue ...