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7th Circuit: Woman has claim for relief

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed today with a District Court's dismissal of a woman's complaint against the federal government, finding she had stated a claim for relief following her dismissal from her job as a result of a Federal Protective Service investigation.

In Maureen Reynolds v. United States of America, No. 08-1634, Maureen Reynolds appealed the dismissal of her suit against the U.S. under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Reynolds worked as a security officer with General Security Services Corp. at the federal building in Indianapolis. She learned another security officer locked himself out on the roof naked and was let inside by another officer. She wrote up a report, but left out the fact the officer was naked because the nudity wasn't reported to her by the other two officers.

FPS investigated the incident, in which two FPS officers submitted an affidavit to the Marion County Prosecutor's Office that Reynolds had lied to them by not telling them about the nudity. Reynolds was acquitted of the charge but fired as a result of the criminal investigation.

Reynolds sued the U.S., claiming the FPS officers, acting in their official capacity as federal law enforcement officers, instigated a malicious prosecution that led to her termination.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Reynolds that her suit shouldn't have been dismissed. The alleged misconduct of the FPS investigators doesn't fall outside of the FTCA's discretionary-function exception.

The District Court also incorrectly characterized the FPS investigators as contractors, thus not allowing Reynolds to sue the U.S. under the FTCA, wrote Judge Ilana D. Rovner.

The federal appellate court also disagreed with the District Court's reasoning to dismiss the suit because the FPS investigators' actions didn't entail any searches, seizures, or arrests. The District Court was incorrect in interpreting 28 U.S.C. Section 2680(h) as requiring a law enforcement officer to commit the intentional tort while executing a search, seizure, or arrest, the judge wrote.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals also found that Reynolds had stated a claim for relief under Indiana tort law.

"We do not, of course, vouch for the accuracy of Reynolds's allegations; our holding is merely that she has stated a claim for relief," she wrote. The federal appellate court vacated the lower court's ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

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