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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts two today

Tun, Brandon v. Whitticker, Joselyn (ND Ind., Roger B. Cosbey, Magistrate Judge) [10 pp.]

Before CUDAHY, KANNE, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.
EVANS, Circuit Judge.

* No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . . (U.S. Constitution, amendment V)

* [N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . . (U.S. Constitution, amendment XIV, § 1).

As one commentator astutely observed,
A reader of the Supreme Court’s substantive due process cases can come to feel like a moviegoer who arrived late and missed a crucial bit of exposition.

Where is the part that explains the connection between this doctrine and the text of the constitutional provisions from which it takes its name?1

This case requires that we once again wade into the murky waters of that most amorphous of constitutional doctrines, substantive due process. We start with the facts, which are undisputed insofar as they are material to the case.

Brandon Tun, a high school student and member of the wrestling team, was taking a shower in the boys’ locker room of Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when a fellow student took pictures of him and three other wrestlers. * * * From there on, events took several unfortunate turns, resulting in Tun’s being expelled from school for 6 weeks. * * *

Ripping up the pictures and telling the boys that they used bad judgment would have been more than enough medicine to cure this little ill. The overreaction by the defendants, including an overly broad reading of the district’s behavior code, was regrettable. But we can’t say that what the defendants did, considering the limitations set out in McCluskey, violated the due process clauses of the United States Constitution. But the situation does demonstrate the importance of providing procedural due process, which ultimately allowed Tun (and we assume the other boys) to prevail at the end of the day: his expulsion was set aside, his school records were cleared, and he returned to school.

Because there was no constitutional violation, we need not proceed to the second step of the qualified immunity analysis. However, even had we somehow found this incident to rise to the level of a constitutional violation, we could not find that the law was so clearly established that reasonable people would know they could not do what Whitticker and Platz did. If anything, the case law would probably reassure them that they could. They are entitled to qualified immunity.

Accordingly, the decision of the district court is REVERSED.

Brown, David v. Budz, Timothy (ND Ill.) [22 pp.]

Before COFFEY, WILLIAMS, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge. David Brown, a resident of the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Sexually Violent Persons and Detention Facility (Facility) was severely beaten several times by a fellow resident. Brown alleged that Facility employees failed to protect him in violation of his due process rights by allowing that fellow resident with allegedly violent propensities to roam Facility common areas unsupervised. He also alleged that several Facility employees violated his right to equal protection by intentionally treating him and other Caucasian residents differently from similarly situated African-American residents. The district court dismissed Brown’s complaint for failure to state a claim, but because we find that the allegations in Brown’s complaint are sufficient to state several claims on both counts, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 16, 2005 11:50 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions