Judge: Memory-impaired man’s suit claiming Carmel City Hall assault may proceed in part

A man who has difficulty forming new memories and therefore records his interactions on video may proceed with a lawsuit on narrowed claims alleging he was injured after a confrontation with a city attorney in Carmel City Hall as the man recorded his interactions with staff.

Gary W. Brooks sued the city of Carmel and corporation counsel Douglas C. Haney in federal court over a confrontation with Haney three years ago. Brooks afterward went to an emergency room and was treated for a sprained wrist, according to court records.

Brooks, who the court noted is more than 60 years old, suffered a brain aneurysm in 1995 that resulted in memory loss and difficulty forming new memories. Southern District of Indiana Judge Tanya Walton Pratt described how Brooks compensates for his memory loss: “when he does anything that he thinks is important to remember, he will record himself with a Sony video recording camera. The camera is old and large, so he carries it on top of a clipboard, and he uses the clipboard to take notes for himself to remember. It is impractical for Brooks to record all his activities, so he does not record, for example, trips to the bank and pharmacy because they provide receipts of the transactions. However, Brooks typically records any personal business that he conducts with government officials. When he uses his camera to record his interactions, the camera is plainly visible.”

Brooks twice went to the city’s law department concerning zoning questions he had about a trailer on his property, and both times he was informed that he could not take video recordings in areas of the law department that are considered private. Signs in those areas of the city building that are not considered public note the policy that bars recording.

On both of Brooks’ visits, Haney positioned himself in front of Brooks’ camera in an attempt to block the recording, according to court records, and on both occasions, Haney asked Brooks to stop recording or leave. But during Brooks’ second visit in May 2017, as he recorded his interactions asking for a signed copy of a records request, Haney made physical contact with Brooks, though the parties dispute the extent.

Haney said in a deposition that he touched Brooks’ forearm “for about a second with an open palm,” court records say. Brooks told Haney after the contact, “you hurt my wrist when you pushed me.”

Brooks sued Carmel and Haney in 2018, and on Tuesday, Pratt narrowed Brooks’ claims but allowed his suit to proceed after she granted in part and denied in part the defense’s summary judgment motion.

Pratt’s ruling describes the video after Haney refuses to provide a signed copy of the document Brooks sought. “Haney told Brooks he would receive a signed copy after he turned off the recording or stepped outside the office. Brooks repeated that he needed to record the interaction, and Haney instructed his coworker to call the police. Haney pointed toward the door for Brooks to leave the office, opened the door to the office, and exclaimed, loudly, ‘I’m not going to say it again’ … ‘No’ … ‘Get out!’ When Brooks asked again if he could get a copy of the papers, Haney angrily yelled, ‘Turn it off! Turn it off!’ Haney reached toward Brooks and the video camera as he told Brooks to turn it off. The video picture flips upside down and around and Haney made physical contact with Brooks,” Pratt wrote. “Brooks then says ‘Don’t touch me, don’t touch me!’”

Pratt granted summary judgment for Haney and the city on claims Brooks raised under the Americans with Disabilities Act, his Fourth Amendment claim and a battery claim related to his first visit to the office, but she let other federal and state claims proceed.

“Summary judgment is denied as to Brooks’ First Amendment claim, and that claim may proceed against Haney and Carmel. However, Haney is entitled to qualified immunity against Brooks’ First Amendment claim, so he cannot be held liable for civil damages on that claim. Summary judgment is also denied as to Brooks’ May 2017 state law battery claim,” her order concluded.

A spokesman for the city of Carmel said the city would not comment on the pending matter. Haney and attorneys representing other parties in the case did not immediately reply Friday to messages seeking comment.

The case is Gary W. Brooks v. City of Carmel and Douglas C. Haney, 1:18-CV-613.

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