COA affirms dismissal of complaint

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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An Anderson man who filed a complaint against the officers that arrested him and two police departments filed his civil action outside of the statute of limitation, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled April 28.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court in Jon S. Johnson v. Stephon Blackwell, et al., No. 49A02-0709-CV-759, that Johnson filed his four-count complaint against two detectives, the Madison County Sheriff's Department, and the Anderson Police Department after the two-year statute of limitations expired.

After receiving a tip in late February 2003 that Johnson had a large amount of drugs in his home, detectives Stephon Blackwell and Cliff Cole went to Johnson's house to investigate. The detectives told Johnson about the anonymous tip and asked to search his home. Johnson denied drugs were inside and started down a hallway, which caused Blackwell to draw his gun and tell Johnson that his walking away was a safety issue for the detectives. Johnson came back toward the detectives and allowed them to enter the home and search. The detectives found a package of crack cocaine in a dresser.

Johnson was charged in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, with possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine. In March, Johnson moved to suppress the evidence, arguing his consent was involuntary. The District Court denied his motion and convicted him in May. Johnson appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed Johnson's conviction and remanded the case to the District Court in October 2005. The indictment was dismissed in July 2006.

In November 2006, Johnson filed his complaint against the defendants alleging civil rights violations, false imprisonment/false arrest, wrongful infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy by intrusion. All the counts were based on the February 2003 search of his home. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) because his complaint was barred by the two-year statute of limitations governing injury to person.

Indiana Code Section 34-11-2-4 says an action for injury to a person must start within two years after the cause of action accrues. The appellate court determined the start dates for each of Johnson's counts, finding the start date for the civil rights violation, wrongful infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy by intrusion counts began on the day the police searched his home.

Citing Livingston v. Consolidated City of Indianapolis, 398 N.E.2d 1302, 1303 (Ind. Ct. App. 1979) and Wallace v. Kato, 127 S. Ct. 1091 (2007), the Court of Appeals found Johnson's cause of action for false imprisonment/false arrest accrued when he was bound for trial in March 2003, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Even though Johnson's criminal litigation was still pending within the two-year statute of limitations, he should have filed the civil litigation, which would have been stayed until the outcome of his criminal case, she wrote.

"There is nothing that prevented Johnson from filing his civil complaint while his criminal case was pending. ... This is especially so given that when the Seventh Circuit remanded Johnson's criminal case in 2004, which was still within the statute of limitations, the court said that it was a "close question" of whether the detectives had reasonable suspicion to seize Johnson," she wrote.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues