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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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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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