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Freeman v. Thompson

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 6, 2019

Kirk S. Freeman, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Tricia L. Thompson, Appellee-Defendant.

          Appeal from the Tippecanoe Superior Court The Honorable Robert B. Mrzlack, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 79D04-1806-SC-2140

          APPELLANT PRO SE Kirk S. Freeman Law Office of Kirk Freeman Lafayette, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Natalie F. Weiss Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          NAJAM, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Kirk S. Freeman, a Lafayette-based attorney, appeals the trial court's dismissal of his defamation complaint against Tippecanoe Superior Court Magistrate Tricia L. Thompson for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Freeman raises a single issue for our review, which we restate as whether Magistrate Thompson has immunity from Freeman's allegation that she defamed him when she reported to courthouse law enforcement officers that Freeman was in possession of a firearm inside the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in violation of state law and local ordinance. We hold that Magistrate Thompson is immune from Freeman's allegation, and, as such, we affirm the trial court's dismissal of Freeman's complaint.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On June 28, 2018, Freeman filed his complaint against Magistrate Thompson, which Freeman later amended. According to his amended complaint, on May 17, 2017, Magistrate Thompson informed law enforcement officers inside the Tippecanoe County Courthouse that Freeman was carrying a firearm inside the courthouse in violation of Indiana Code Section 35-47-2-1 (2018)[1] and Tippecanoe County Code § 130.01(C).[2] Freeman alleged that Magistrate Thompson's report "was a false accusation of a crime" and, as such, "was defamatory per se." Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 28-29. Freeman sought "[p]unitive damages" from Magistrate Thompson for her allegedly "extreme and outrageous" report, which he claimed was "done in retaliation for a lawful inquiry into a matter of public record in his government," namely, a prior Access to Public Records Act ("APRA") request Freeman had made "concerning the establishment/creation of the courtroom in the County office annex building . . . ." Id. at 7-10, 30. Freeman also alleged that Magistrate Thompson's report was in retaliation for Freeman having "openly discussed" the Indiana Supreme Court's recent opinion in Pinner v. State, 74 N.E.3d 226 (Ind. 2017).

         [¶3] Thereafter, the State, on behalf of Magistrate Thompson, moved to dismiss Freeman's complaint under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In particular, the State asserted that Magistrate Thompson's report to law enforcement, as alleged in Freeman's complaint, was a judicial act that entitled her to immunity from Freeman's claim. After a hearing, the trial court agreed with the State and dismissed Freeman's complaint. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶4] Freeman appeals the trial court's dismissal of his complaint pursuant to Trial Rule 12(B)(6). As the Indiana Supreme Court has stated:

A 12(B)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, requiring that we accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint. We review 12(B)(6) motions de novo and will affirm a dismissal if the allegations are incapable of supporting relief under any set of circumstances. We will also affirm the dismissal if the decision is sustainable on any basis in the record.

Esserman v. Ind Dep't of Envtl. Mgmt., 84 N.E.3d 1185, 1188 (Ind. 2017) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         [¶5] And as ...


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