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Boy can't sue for lack of probable cause

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to decide whether Indiana provides a plaintiff an adequate post-deprivation remedy despite the state's recognition of an affirmative immunity defense for government workers acting in the scope of their employment.

In Michael Tully v. Rush County Prosecutor Paul Barada, et al., No. 09-3237, Michael Tully sued prosecutor Paul Barada and probation officer Catherine Custer under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, claiming they violated his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by summoning him to court and initiating juvenile proceedings without probable cause. A deputy sheriff stopped the car Tully and a friend were in to investigate shots fired in the area. In the car he found a spotlight, rifle, and dead raccoon. The boys admitted they knew it was wrong to shoot from a roadway.

Tully was adjudicated as a delinquent child, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed due to insufficient evidence. Tully then filed his federal claims. The District Court dismissed, ruling that a court summons is not a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment and there isn't a constitutional right not to be prosecuted without probable cause.

The United States Supreme Court hasn't recognized nor foreclosed the possibility of plausibly asserting a right not to be prosecuted without probable cause under Section 1983. One reason why this issue remains "uncrystallized" among Courts of Appeals is because prosecutors can render the question moot by claiming absolute immunity, wrote Judge William Bauer. But Barada and Custer failed to raise that defense in the District Court. In fact, Tully overcame the affirmative defenses of absolute immunity, the existence of probable cause, and res judicata because Barada and Custer waived all of them.

"So we must reach the merits of the issue to which the parties devote their arguments, which is whether a plaintiff may assert a federal right not to be summoned into court and prosecuted without probable cause, under either the Fourth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment's Procedural Due Process Clause," wrote the judge.

But the answer is no, because a plaintiff can't initiate a Section 1983 claim asserting only that he was summoned and prosecuted without probable cause. Judge Bauer cautioned that the holding shouldn't be misconstrued to deny rights to parties in which prosecutors or other officials falsely accuse, tamper with evidence, or commit other independent constitutional violations that Tully didn't allege in his complaint.

Tully's claim is more like one for "negligent prosecution, but the 7th Circuit elected not to decide whether he has an adequate post-deprivation remedy in Indiana, where it recognizes an affirmative immunity defense.

"We find that Tully was not seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment merely by being summoned to appear in court, and that he received procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when the state court system vindicated him. To the extent any harm to his reputation remains, his recourse is to expunge the juvenile court's records," wrote Judge Bauer.

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

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  4. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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