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Man's claims against officers can proceed

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of police officers in a man's civil suit, finding the man may have Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims against them.

In Larry D. Best, Jr. v. City of Portland, et al., No. 07-2765, Larry Best filed a civil suit in federal court against the city of Portland, Portland Police Department, and four police officers while Best's criminal case in state court for possession of methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine was still pending.

While the criminal case was proceeding, Best moved to suppress evidence, arguing the searches of two homes violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied his motion; the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed. Best then filed a motion to reconsider, but the court never ruled on it because the prosecutor dropped the charges against him.

The District Court granted summary judgment in the civil suit in favor of the city, the police department, and the four officers. The District Court granted summary judgment on his Fourth Amendment claims against the officers based on collateral estoppel and held his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination couldn't have been violated because the case was dismissed before it went to trial.

But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found collateral estoppel didn't bar Best's Fourth Amendment claims. Under Indiana law, rulings on pretrial motions aren't necessarily final, and the trial court's suppression ruling wasn't final because it was open to reconsideration by the trial court on Best's renewed motion and during a second appeal if he was convicted, wrote Judge Ann Claire Williams. In addition, because the prosecutor voluntarily dismissed the case, there was no "final judgment on the merits" as collateral estoppel requires, she continued.

The District Court erred in ruling that Best's Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination wasn't violated because the case didn't go to trial. The District Court understood that any statements he made to police were never used against him in a "criminal case," or trial, because the charges were dismissed. But the 7th Circuit hasn't adopted the view that "criminal case" means "at trial," wrote the judge.

Best alleges that statements he made were used in violation of the Fifth Amendment long after charges were initiated against him - at a suppression hearing - which is enough to allege they were used in a "criminal case" in violation, so summary judgment was an error, wrote Judge Williams.

The appellate judges remanded the issues to the District Court because there isn't enough of a record for them to affirm on an alternative basis and didn't enter any opinion on the merits. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals also affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city of Portland.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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