United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division
ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
March 16, 2017, the Court issued an Order on Motions for
Summary Judgment, granting in part and denying in part
various Defendants' requests for summary judgment.
[Filing No. 324.] On April 13, 2017, all Defendants except
for Dr. Amy Burrows-Beckham filed Notices of Appeal. [Filing
No. 331; Filing No. 336.] They cite 28 U.S.C. § 1291 as
the basis for their interlocutory appeal, stating that the
Court's Order on summary judgment “is a denial of
qualified immunity . . . which is a final decision that is
immediately appealable.” [Filing No. 331 (citing
cases).] Defendants Zachary Jones and Matthew Wise have also
filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Appeal. [Filing
No. 333.] They ask this Court to stay all district court
proceedings pending appeal rather than allow this case to
proceed to the currently scheduled trial because “[a]
trial destroys the rights created by immunity” and the
benefit of that doctrine “is effectively lost if the
case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.” [Filing
No. 333 at 2.]
response, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify
Defendants' Appeals as Frivolous. [Filing No. 343.]
Plaintiffs point out that when the district court's
denial of qualified immunity turns on a dispute of fact,
“there is no right to an interlocutory appeal”
because the “Seventh Circuit does not have jurisdiction
to consider a qualified immunity appeal that turns on a
question of fact.” [Filing No. 343 at 3 (citing
cases).] Plaintiffs emphasize that this Court denied summary
judgment “because of the myriad disputes of material
fact presented by the parties” and also found that
whether Defendants acted objectively reasonably for purposes
of qualified immunity depends on whether one accepts
Plaintiffs' version of the facts or Defendants'
version of the facts. [Filing No. 343 at 2.] Plaintiffs ask
the Court to certify Defendants' appeal as frivolous,
deny Defendants' Motion to Stay, and move forward with
the currently scheduled trial. [Filing No. 343 at 11.]
reply, Defendants emphasize that immediate appeals of the
issue of qualified immunity are “usual and
customary.” [Filing No. 346 at 2.] They argue that
their appeal is not taken in bad faith and is not a sham.
[Filing No. 347 at 2-3.] They contend that they “are
not asking the Seventh Circuit to address issues of disputed
fact, ” [Filing No. 346 at 1], and they list the
following issues that they intend to raise on appeal:
A. The District Court applied the wrong legal standard in its
analysis of the qualified immunity issue. It did not properly
analyze whether the officers had arguable probable cause and
did not address this issue from the perspective of a
reasonable officer of similar training and experience in the
B. The District Court erred when it denied qualified immunity
to Jones and Wise based upon a holding that a reasonable jury
could find that the confessions were coerced.
C. The District Court erred when it denied qualified immunity
to Jones and Wise based upon a holding that a reasonable jury
could find that the police conduct shocked the conscience.
D. The District Court erred in analyzing whether the police
conduct in this case violated a Fourth. Fifth or Fourteenth
Amendment constitutional right that was clearly estabhshed at
the time of the event in question.
E. The District Court erred in not citing, considering or
applying the proper law and legal precedent regarding the
qualified immunity issues in this case.
F. The District Court erred in not applying Kentucky
qualified official irnuiiinity to all claims against the KSP
No. 346 at 2.] Accordingly, the Defendants ask the Court to
deny Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Defendants'
Appeals as Frivolous. [Filing No. 346; Filing No. 347.]
Mitchell v. Forsyth, the United States Supreme Court
held that “a district court's denial of a claim of
qualified immunity, to the extent that it turns on an issue
of law, is an appealable ‘final decision' within
the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 notwithstanding the
absence of a final judgment.” 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985);
see also Gutierrez v. Kermon, 722 F.3d 1003, 1009
(7th Cir. 2013) (“an order denying qualified immunity
on summary judgment often is immediately appealable on the
basis that it is a final decision on the defendant's
right not to stand trial”) (citing Mitchell, 472 U.S.
at 524-30). As long as the issue is a legal one, the Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals “can consider the propriety of
a denial of qualified immunity even on grounds other than
those relied on in the district court.” Hernandez
v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Office, 634 F.3d 906, 912
(7th Cir. 2011). That said, it does “not have
jurisdiction to review an order denying qualified immunity on
summary judgment if the issue on appeal is whether the record
contains sufficient evidence to create a ‘genuine'
issue of material fact.” Gutierrez, 722 F.3d at 1009.
Appellate jurisdiction in this context is nuanced, however,
because “[a] district court's finding that there
are genuine issues of material fact ‘does not always
preclude appellate review.'” Id. (citing
Sallenger v. Oakes, 473 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir.
request to certify Defendants' appeal as frivolous is
based on Apostol v. Gallion. 870 F.2d 1335 (7th Cir.
1989). In Apostol, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
consolidated various appeals to address an issue of first
impression regarding whether a district court could proceed
to trial while an interlocutory appeal from the denial of
qualified immunity proceeded. Id. at 1335. It noted
that “[a]s a rule, only one tribunal handles a case at
a time” and that “[i]t follows that a proper
[Mitchell v. Forsyth] appeal divests the district
court of jurisdiction (that is, authority) to require the
appealing defendants to appear for trial.” Id.
at 1337-38. The Seventh Circuit acknowledged, however, that
most appeals end in affirmance and that some defendants may
appeal a denial of qualified immunity “to stall because
they gain from delay at plaintiffs' expense, an incentive
yielding unjustified appeals.” Id. at 1338.
Because courts “are not helpless in the face of
manipulation” when an appeal “is a sham” or
“so baseless that it does not invoke appellate
jurisdiction, ” the district court “may certify
to the court of appeals that the appeal is frivolous and get
on with the trial.” Id. at 1338-39. The
Seventh Circuit cautioned, however, that this “power
must be used with restraint.” Id. at 1339.
Court found that numerous issues of material fact prevented
it from granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on
various bases, including on their request for qualified
immunity. [Filing No. 324.] Defendants have, however, pointed
to some legal issues that they intend to raise on appeal as
to why this Court's denial of qualified immunity was
incorrect, such as whether the Defendants' alleged
conduct violated clearly established constitutional rights
and whether the Court “applied the wrong legal standard
in its analysis of the qualified immunity issue.”
[Filing No. 346 at 2.] Plaintiffs actually admit that
“whether a constitutional right was clearly established
at a certain point in time” is “an abstract issue
of law.” [Filing No. 343 at 1-2.] Under these
circumstances, the Court cannot conclude that Defendants'
interlocutory appeal from this Court's denial of
qualified immunity is a sham, baseless, or frivolous.
Accordingly, the Court denies Plaintiffs' request to
certify it as such and must grant Defendants' request to
stay the proceedings pending the ...