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Robinett v. City of Indianapolis

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 9, 2018

Scott Robinett, Defendant-Appellant,
v.
City of Indianapolis, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued February 7, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 1:14-cv-01885-RLY-DML - Richard L. Young, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         Scot Robinet and the City of Indianapolis were codefendants in a civil-rights action. Robinet, a police officer, was accused of failing to intervene in an escalating domestic dispute between two fellow police officers. The dispute ended violently in a tragic murder-suicide, and the murder victim's estate asserted claims against Robinet and the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Indiana law. They won the case; the district judge rejected the estate's claims and entered summary judgment for the defendants. Robinet then asked the judge to order the City to pay his atorney's fees and costs under Indiana Code § 34-13-4-1, a public-employee indemnification statute. The judge denied the motion and Robinet appeals.

         We affirm. The indemnification statute requires a public employer to pay defense costs in a civil-rights action against an employee only if the employee was acting within the scope of his employment when he commited the act or omission in question. A mere allegation to that effect does not trigger the indemnification obligation. The judge held that Robinet acted outside the scope of his employment during the events at issue here; that is, he acted as a private person, not a police officer. Robinet does not challenge that factual determination, so his claim for costs and fees fails.

         I. Background

         Ryan Anders and Kimberlee Carmack were Indianapolis police officers. They married in October 2010 and divorced three years later. Anders soon launched an alarming campaign of harassment and intimidation, stalking Carmack while she was on police runs and calling her incessantly throughout the day. He once pursued Carmack in his police car and cornered her in a parking lot. Changing tactics, he threatened to publish naked pictures of Carmack and publicly disclose her use of anxiety medication if she did not continue to have sex with him. Carmack gave in to this demand and others, fearing that if she refused, Anders would kill her.

         The police department eventually got wind of these events and opened a criminal investigation against Anders for stalking, rape, batery, and residential entry. The department placed a GPS tracking device on his car with a warning mechanism to alert Carmack if he passed nearby. The department also obtained search warrants for Anders's home, person, and effects. Carmack began spending nights away from home so Anders could not track her whereabouts. At the department's suggestion, she also secured a protective order against Anders.

         These efforts were insufficient to protect her from her ex-husband. Anders eventually discovered the GPS device and called Robinet-his friend and fellow police officer-and asked to meet in a nearby church parking lot. Robinet arrived at that location and found Anders kneeling behind the trunk of his car. Anders pointed to an object on the bumper and asked if it was a tracking device. Robinet confirmed that it was and Anders then drove away. Robinet did not tell investigators that Anders had discovered the GPS device. Ten days later Anders drove to Carmack's house and killed her and himself. She was not alerted to his approach because he drove his grandmother's car.

         Carmack's estate sued the City, Robinet, and other officials alleging that they violated her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Indiana law. The claims against Robinet were premised on a theory of wrongful failure to intervene to protect Carmack. The judge rejected the estate's claims and entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. As relevant to this appeal, the judge held that Robinet was not liable for a constitutional violation under § 1983 because he did not act under color of state law during the events in question. The judge also held that the City was not vicariously liable on the state tort claims because Robinet acted outside the scope of his employment at all relevant times.

         Several months later Robinet asked the court to order the City to pay his atorney's fees and costs under § 34-13-4-1, an Indiana public-employee indemnification statute. The judge denied the motion, ruling that the statute obligates public employers to reimburse an employee's defense costs in civil-rights litigation only when the employee acted within the scope of his employment when he commited the acts or omissions in question. Because the claims against Robinet arose out of his acts or omissions as a private person, not a police officer, the judge held that he was not entitled to a publicly funded defense.

         II. Discussion

         Robinet does not challenge the judge's ruling that the estate's claims rested entirely on acts or omissions he com-mited outside the scope of his employment. He contests only the judge's interpretation of the public-employee indemnification statute. We r e view this legal ...


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