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Justices order trial on reasonable force issue

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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.  
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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