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7th Circuit reverses Southern District judge

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a decision by U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the Southern District of Indiana involving a former police officer’s claim that he was falsely arrested for murder following a shooting outside an Indianapolis bar.

The events leading up to this false arrest action took place during a 2007 New Year’s Eve celebration at Durty Nelly’s Pub & Eatery in Indianapolis, where Shannon McComas’s wife was a manger. McComas, an off-duty Indianapolis police officer, was present when a fight broke out about 3 a.m. It resulted in a shooting outside the bar near the front entrance. A security guard was shot and killed.

The Indianapolis detective being sued, Edward Brickley, responded to the police call, and the police investigation led to McComas being interviewed. His statements about what happened that night didn’t add up, and the police investigated and eventually determined he was involved in the fatal shooting and may have assisted another man who was a suspect. State prosecutors charged him with only false informing and assisting a criminal, but after police dropped the charges, McComas filed a false arrest action under 42 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

At the District level, Barker denied Brickley’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a genuine dispute existed as to whether Brickley’s actions were protected by the existence of probable cause and whether he was protected by qualified immunity.

Barker relied on the appellate rulings in Chelios v. Heavener Chelios, 520 F.3d 678 (7th Cir. 2008), and Clash v. Beatty, 77 F.3d 1045 (7th Cir. 1996), when she held that factual disputes prevented the application of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage. But the 7th Circuit found this case is different, because the earlier decisions involved factually intensive questions about whether officers employed excessive force, and this one did not.

Looking at all the facts together, the appellate panel found that arguable probable cause existed for an arrest on the charges of assisting a criminal and false informing based on what Brickley knew at the time of the investigation.

The 7th Circuit remanded Shannon McComas v. Edward Brickley, No. 11-2138, to Barker for further proceedings.

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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