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Keaton v. Hannum

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

December 16, 2014

MARK KEATON, Plaintiff,



I. Background

Plaintiff Mark Keaton sued Reba Gardner, a paralegal in the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office alleging that she 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. He argues that Gardner, as the State's paralegal in the underlying litigation, knew or should have known that the facts she was alleging were false and that Keaton was being prosecuted for publishing his blog about Zook. His claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In ruling on Gardner's motion for summary judgment, the Court notified the parties pursuant to Rule 56(f) that absent any timely objection, summary judgment would be entered in favor of defendant Gardner on grounds not raised by either party. That is, that there is no evidence that Gardner was responsible for any violation of Keaton's constitutional rights. The parties were given a period of time in which to file any objection to this ruling along with any admissible evidence (not already in the record) necessary to support the objection. See dkt. 252.

In response, Mr. Keaton filed a motion for reconsideration which is now fully briefed. See dkts. 255, 256, 260, 263.

II. Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate when construing the facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant, in this case Keaton, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant, in this case Gardner, is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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). Further, it is important to remain mindful that "neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties... nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts... is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and internal quotations omitted).

As previously noted, this action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This statute "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). "[T]he first step in any [§ 1983] claim is to identify the specific constitutional right infringed." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). The amended complaint names Gardner in Counts II, III, and IV. See dkt. 7. Count II alleges that Gardner was responsible for violating Keaton's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights relating to his prosecution. Count III alleges the violation of Keaton's equal protection rights and Count IV alleges the violation of Keaton's First Amendment rights. Each Count will be addressed in turn.

A. Undisputed Facts

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.

On May 5, 2010, Gardner signed a charging information against Keaton as the affiant. Dkt. 130-6. It was prosecutor Jackie Dakich, however, who on May 11, 2010, filed charges against Ronald Mark Keaton for the crime of stalking in Monroe Circuit Court 2 in Bloomington, Indiana. See dkt. 151-9 (Dakich Aff.).

On August 10, 2010, Gardner signed an amended information. Dkt. 256-1. Both informations signed by Gardner were dismissed. On February 18, 2011, the State filed a second amended information (not signed by Gardner). On April 21, 2011, the State voluntarily dismissed the charges.

The only person Gardner may have spoken with regarding the original and amended charging information against Keaton was defendant Prosecutor Dakich, 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.

Keaton tries to create a material fact in dispute regarding what Gardner knew about the prosecution and when. Keaton testified that Gardner was the paralegal assigned to his case and that she delivered documents and evidence to him. For example she produced the State's first discovery packet on June 24, 2010, as well as copies of emails and voicemails. Dkt. 257 (Keaton's Aff.). As explained below, ...

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