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Monday, October 21, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today, a reversal

In BILLY JULIAN v. SAM HANNA, et al. (SD Ind., Pratt), a 13-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

The plaintiff in this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 appeals from the dismissal (with prejudice) of his complaint. The complaint charges three Indiana police officers, plus the Town (Frankton) that employed two of them, plus the county sheriff, with malicious prosecution in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Other torts are alleged as well; we’ll come back to them. There are two superfluous defendants: a school that employed one of the officers, who was also employed by the Town (which is all that matters); and the County, which was dismissed but remains listed in the caption of the appeal.

The district judge dismissed the malicious prosecution claim on the alternative grounds that it was untimely and that Indiana state law provides an adequate remedy for malicious prosecution, barring recourse to section 1983. * * *

The district judge dismissed the claim as barred by Indiana’s two‐year statute of limitations. Unlike the malicious prosecution claim, the Brady claim may have accrued when Julian was granted a new trial in September 2007, more than two years before the filing of the present suit. That was before the charges against him were dropped; and ordinarily a Brady claim does not accrue until that happens. Johnson v. Dossey, 515 F.3d 778, 781–82 (7th Cir. 2008); Newsome v. McCabe, supra, 256 F.3d at 752. But although Julian’s ordeal was not over (because he was subject to being retried), his Brady claim was ripe. The exculpatory evidence had been revealed; the harm the alleged Brady violation had done could not be affected by a retrial. But it would be tidier to postpone accrual until the charges were dropped, as otherwise Julian might have had to bring a separate section 1983 suit while defending against criminal charges in a retrial.

We needn’t pursue the issue. Julian doesn’t challenge the district judge’s accrual determination; he challenges her ignoring his contention that the defendants should be equitably estopped to plead the statute of limitations as a defense to his Brady claim. A defendant who prevents a timely filing of a suit against him, for example by promising the plaintiff not to plead the statute of limitations, is estopped (that is, forbidden) to plead the statute of limitations. E.g., Shropshear v. Corporation Counsel of City of Chicago, 275 F.3d 593, 595 (7th Cir. 2001); Cada v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 920 F.2d 446, 450– 51 (7th Cir. 1990); Lukovsky v. City & County of San Francisco, 535 F.3d 1044, 1052 (9th Cir. 2008). And that is what Julian alleges happened: the defendants intimidated him into delaying the filing of his civil suit until the criminal proceeding ended with the dismissal of the charges against him in July 2010. If this is true, the limitations clock did not start to tick until then, which would place his November 2011 filing well within the two‐year limitations period. The district judge will have to address the equitable‐estoppel issue on remand.

The judgment is reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 21, 2013 06:52 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions