Court denies officer's summary judgment motion

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  4. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?