United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JANE MAGNTTS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
pending before the Court is Defendant Troy Sunier's
response to this Court's show-cause order regarding
Plaintiff James Henley's Motion for Summary Judgment on
his claim for false arrest. [Filing No. 63; Filing No. 65.]
Having considered Trooper Sunier's response and Mr.
Henley's reply, the Court determines that Mr. Henley is
not entitled to summary judgment on his false arrest claim.
Henley raises three claims arising from interactions between
himself and Trooper Sunier-a false arrest claim stemming from
an incident on February 1, 2017, and two First Amendment
claims stemming from incidents on August 24 and August 25,
2017. [Filing No. 47.] The Court denied Trooper Sunier's
motion for summary judgment as to both First Amendment
claims, and it denied Mr. Henley's motion for summary
judgment as to the August 25, 2017 First Amendment
claim. [Filing No. 63.]
Sunier and Mr. Henley both moved for summary judgment on Mr.
Henley's false arrest claim. Trooper Sunier did so on the
basis that he had probable cause, or arguable probable cause,
to arrest Mr. Henley for refusing to aid an officer in
violation of Ind. Code § 35-44.1-3-3. [See Filing No.
53.] The Court denied Trooper Sunier's Motion and
concluded that Mr. Henley's Motion could be granted,
because it found that no reasonably prudent person could have
believed that Mr. Henley violated that statute. [Filing No.
63.] It reached that conclusion, however, based on a
statutory analysis that was inadequately briefed by the
parties. As such, the Court issued a show-cause order,
offering Trooper Sunier a “final opportunity to respond
to the specific grounds upon which the Court has reached its
conclusion, before judgment is entered in favor of Mr.
Henley.” [Filing No. 63 at 21.] Trooper Sunier has
filed his response to the show-cause order, [Filing No. 65],
and Mr. Henley has filed his reply, [Filing No. 68].
response to the show-cause order, Trooper Sunier does not
address the Court's interpretation and application of
Ind. Code § 35-44.1-3-3. Instead, he argues that Mr.
Henley is not entitled to summary judgment on his
false-arrest claim because probable cause existed to arrest
Mr. Henley under a different statute, Indiana Code §
35-44.1-2-13, which prohibits a person from intentionally
obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. [Filing No. 65
probable cause exists is an objective inquiry and does not
depend on the subjective belief or motivation of the
arresting officer. See Thayer v.
Chiczewski, 705 F.3d 237, 247 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing
Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996)).
That is, the officer's “subjective reason for
making the arrest need not be the criminal offense as to
which the known facts provide probable cause.”
Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 153 (2004). The
existence of probable cause for any offense-even one that was
not identified at the scene or in the charging documents-will
defeat a false arrest claim. See, e.g., Sroga v.
Weiglen, 649 F.3d 604, 608 (citing Devenpeck,
543 U.S. at 153-54).
Court deals succinctly with Trooper Sunier's response to
the show-cause order, because Trooper Sunier acknowledges, as
did the Court in its Order on summary judgment, that the
parties dispute where Mr. Henley was standing and what he was
doing at the time of his arrest. [Filing No. 63 at 4-5;
Filing No. 65 at 8-9.] Trooper Sunier contends that Mr.
Henley was standing on the pavement of the roadway near the
I-465 westbound exit to Keystone Avenue at 86th
Street, holding a sign asking for help. [Filing No. 50 at 4;
Filing No. 48-2 at 1.] Mr. Henley agrees that he was present
at that exit on that date, but states that he had not yet
started signing when Trooper Sunier arrived. [Filing No. 48-6
at 124.] Mr. Henley attests that he was standing in the
grassy area next to the road with his back to oncoming
traffic. [Filing No. 48-6 at 125.]
Henley reiterates his claims about the failure to aid an
officer statute, citing Trooper Sunier's deposition about
that statute being the basis for his arrest. But, as noted,
Trooper Sunier's subjective belief is not relevant focus,
and at trial he may cite to another statute in support of his
claim that probable cause existed to arrest Mr. Henley. Any
determination as to whether Trooper Sunier could have
believed that Mr. Henley was intentionally obstructing
traffic depends on the resolution of the disputed material
facts noted above, and summary judgment is therefore not
appropriate. It is for the jury to make that objective
the Court DECLINES TO ENTER SUMMARY JUDGMENT
in favor of Mr. ...