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Court denies officer's summary judgment motion

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A federal judge denied an Indiana State Police officer's motion for summary judgment in a suit alleging he violated a motorist's rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments, ruling it should be up to a jury to decide the issues because the parties' stories regarding what happened during the traffic stop differ radically.

In Sukhwinder Singh v. Indiana State Police and Timothy James, No. 1:08-CV-328, in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, ISP and Timothy James filed a motion for summary judgment on Sukhwinder Singh's Title 42, U.S.C. Section 1983 claims that James violated his rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments. Singh claimed James used excessive force in arresting him after stopping Singh for running stop signs and that his driver's license was wrongfully suspended without due process.

James said he believed Singh was trying to escape so he used defensive measures to subdue him. Singh claimed James pulled him from his car, hit him repeatedly, and threw him on the hood of the police car. A bone in Singh's eye socket was broken during the interaction.

James also provided false information in the probable cause affidavit to support charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and public intoxication charges, stating he advised Singh of the Indiana Implied Consent Law and that Singh refused to submit to a chemical test. Refusal to submit results in a suspension of a driver's license; Singh petitioned the Marion Superior Court for judicial review of his suspension and had it reinstated two months after the incident.

James' motion for summary judgment on Singh's excessive-force claim was denied because there are very different accounts regarding the altercation between the police officer and Singh, wrote Judge Sarah Evans Barker.

James' motion for summary judgment on Singh's deprivation of property claim also was denied by the judge. Singh was deprived of a protected interest - his driver's license - and that deprivation was without due process. Indiana law expressly forecloses an administrative hearing, which required Singh to initiate a review in criminal court to challenge his license suspension. He also wasn't given notice as to how to go about challenging his suspension, wrote Judge Barker.

James and the ISP also invoked a qualified immunity defense to Singh's federal claims as an alternative basis for summary judgment, but it is unavailable on both of his federal claims. The defendants provided no evidence from which the court could conclude excessive force was necessary and that Singh posed a serious threat to James or anyone else at the time. The defendants also failed to provide any legal basis giving rise to an inference that James' actions would have been constitutionally acceptable. Such force, when used in a non-threatening context has been held to be constitutionally unreasonable, she wrote.

Judge Barker did grant James' motion for summary judgment on Singh's state law claim under the Indiana Tort Claims Act because individual government employees acting within the scope of their employment can't be sued. The ISP is not protected by such immunity, and Singh may still pursue his state tort claims against ISP for alleged use of excessive force.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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