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7th Circuit won’t excuse IMPD officer from wrongful arrest, excessive force suit

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A man’s federal lawsuit against two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers and the city will go forward after a federal judge rejected one officer’s interlocutory appeal.

Miguel Gutierrez sued IMPD officers Michael Kermon and Jason Thalheimer in February 2011, alleging wrongful arrest, use of excessive force and malicious prosecution after an arrest.

Gutierrez, 56, was born in Nicaragua but has lived in the U.S. more than 30 years, according to court records. He was walking home one night in March 2009 after working on his truck, and because he lives in a high-crime area, he carried a golf club for his protection.

Kermon was patrolling the area in response to a call about a fight involving two African-Americans and another person, and he relied on Gutierrez’s “unsteady gait” as part of the probable cause for a stop resulting in a public intoxication charge that later was thrown out.

Gutierrez said he doesn’t drink and his gait was due to an injury. He claims in his federal suit that Kermon rolled up with headlights off and didn’t identify himself as an officer when he ordered him to stop. Gutierrez claims Kermon pepper sprayed him, kicked him and broke his ribs, and refused to give him a breath test when he asked for one.   

Kermon asked the 7th Circuit to reverse a District Court denial of his motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. Judge Diane Wood wrote the court had no jurisdiction because Kermon relied on Gutierrez’s disputed unsteadiness, and the court will not reweigh evidence.

“Officer Kermon’s entire argument is dependent upon a disputed fact. Our cases have given fair warning that an interlocutory appeal will be dismissed if the argument for qualified immunity is dependent upon disputed facts,” Wood wrote in Miguel Gutierrez v. Michael R. Kermon, 12-2934. “Officer Kermon’s unabashed reliance on that disputed fact in support of his plea for qualified immunity deprives us of jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal. We therefore dismiss this appeal.”

Wood also chastised the undisputed facts Kermon cited to make his immunity argument on appeal: Gutierrez’s dirty, disheveled appearance, his possession of a golf club; his apparent agitation and lack of cooperation, and his red, watery eyes.

“No reasonable officer could have reasonably, even if mistakenly, believed that these circumstances added up to probable cause that Gutierrez was committing the crime of public intoxication,” Wood wrote.

“The district court found that the issue of whether Gutierrez was swaying or walking with an unsteady gait is a genuine factual dispute in need of a jury’s attention.”

Gutierrez’s suit before Judge Tayna Walton Pratt in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana is Miguel Gutierrez v. The City of Indianapolis, Michael R. Kermon and Jason M. Thalheimer, 1:11-CV-0185.  A jury trial date has not yet been set.

 

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  • Down with thug cops,
    Did they really have a report of a fight or did they make that up too? More americans, need to stand up for their rights and show the moron, thug cops that their days are numbered. Let the corrupt ninnies know that their badge is not a license to break the law and violate citizens rights. America! Demand that immunity for judges, prosecutors and cops, be abolished. If they do their jobs right, they don't need immunity!!!

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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