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Keaton v. Hannum

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 14, 2014

MARK KEATON, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVE HANNUM, LESLIE SLONE, CHRISTINE ZOOK, REBA GARDNER, JACKIE DAKICH, Defendants.

ENTRY DISCUSSING DEFENDANT GARDNER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DIRECTING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mark Keaton has sued Reba Gardner, a paralegal in the Monroe County Prosecutor's office. Keaton alleges that Gardner made false allegations which led to false criminal charges being filed against him. (Dkt. 7, Amend. Compl., ¶¶ 21 & 23). Specifically, Keaton argues that on May 11, 2010, and again on August 10, 2010, Gardner provided false testimony under oath in support of the State of Indiana's Informations charging Keaton with stalking his ex-girlfriend, defendant Christine Zook, in violation of his Constitutional rights. Dkt. 214 at p.1. His claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Gardner seeks summary judgment in her favor on the basis that she is entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability. Keaton has opposed that motion. See dkt. 214.

For the reasons explained below, Gardner is not entitled to absolute immunity and her motion for summary judgment [dkt. 133] is denied on this basis. Consistent with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however, the parties are given notice and a reasonable time to respond to the Court's intention to grant summary judgment in favor of Gardner because there is no evidence upon which a reasonable jury could conclude that she is responsible for any violation of Keaton's constitutional rights.

Standard of Review

The motion for summary judgment in this civil rights action, as with any such motion, must be granted if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The substantive law identifies which facts are material. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007).

Undisputed Factual Background

At all times relevant to this cause, Gardner worked as a paralegal in the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office. At some point in September of 2008, Gardner began signing charging informations as an ordinary part of her job duties. In any given month, Gardner signs between 20 and 100 charging informations; it is possible she may sign more than 100 a month, but it is less likely that she would sign less than 20 in a month.

The only person Gardner may have spoken with regarding the original and amended charging information against Keaton was defendant Dakich, the deputy prosecutor on Keaton's case and Gardner's boss. Upon the decision and at the request of the deputy prosecutor, Gardner signed Keaton's charging informations as the "affiant." The deputy prosecutor had already signed the informations when Gardner signed them.

The Information appears as follows:[1]

Indiana Code § 35-34-1-2(b)

The only action Gardner took in regards to Keaton's criminal case in Monroe County was signing the charging information and the amended charging information. Gardner testified that she signed the charging informations as required by Indiana Code § 35-34-1-2(b) and as directed by the deputy prosecutor. Keaton considers the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office procedure by which a paralegal, such as Gardner, signs a charging information pursuant to § 35-34-1-2(b) to be inappropriate. For the reasons explained below, this Court agrees with Keaton.

Indiana Code § 35-34-1-2(b) provides:

An indictment shall be signed by:
(1) the foreman or five (5) members of the ...

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