ILNews

Justices order trial on reasonable force issue

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A law enforcement officer’s use of force in excess of reasonable force authorized by statute isn't shielded from liability under the "enforcement of a law" immunity under Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-3(8), the Indiana Supreme Court held today.


The justices ruled on the issue of immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act in Richard Patrick Wilson and Billy Don Wilson v. Gene Isaacs, Sheriff of Cass County, and Brad Craven, No. 09S05-1003-CV-149. Brothers Patrick and Billy Don Wilson sued Sheriff Gene Isaacs and Deputy Brad Craven for damages after Craven used a Taser on Richard three times, two of which happened after he was already immobile on the ground. The defendants were granted summary judgment by the trial court; the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed for Craven but reversed as to Isaac.


At issue in the appeal is whether the law enforcement immunity is available to shield the government from liability on claims of excess force. The brothers argue the government isn’t immune from liability for Craven’s conduct because disputed facts exist as to whether the deputy used unreasonable and excessive force contrary to Indiana statute.


The Supreme Court held in Kemezy v. Peters that the use of excessive force is not conduct immunized by the enforcement of a law immunity of the Indiana Tort Claims Act; the defendants argued that rule no longer applies because it was based on a public/private duty test for law enforcement immunity that was later disavowed in other caselaw.


 The high court relied on Patrick v. Miresso, 848 N.E.2d 1083 (Ind. 2006), to find that the statutory provision authorizing a law enforcement officer’s use of reasonable force only if the officer reasonably believes the force is necessary for a lawful arrest restrains the statutory immunity from erecting a shield to liability for conduct contrary to the statute, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. The justice also disapproved the contrary view expressed in City of Anderson v. Davis, 743 N.E.2d 359, 365 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001).


"Although we conclude that the law enforcement immunity of the Indiana Tort Claims Act does not shield the government from liability for excessive force by police, there remain genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Deputy Craven's conduct was reasonable and whether he reasonably believed that the force he used was 'necessary to effect a lawful arrest,'" wrote the justice.


The high court summarily affirmed summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims against Deputy Craven personally. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard dissented without opinion.  
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

ADVERTISEMENT