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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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

In CHARLES S. HOWLETT v. JEFFREY HACK, et al. (SD Ind., Pratt), a 12-page opinion, Chief Judge Wood writes:

In the early hours of October 25, 2009, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department received a 911 call reporting that someone had broken into Jeffrey Hack’s house. Officer Steven Beasley responded to the call and eventually arrested Hack’s neighbor, Charles Howlett. Howlett was later charged with a variety of offenses related to the alleged break‐in, but a jury ultimately acquitted him. He then filed this suit, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution on the part of Beasley, the City of Indianapolis, Hack, and several others. The district court granted summary judgment to all of the defendants. Howlett now appeals, though only with respect to Beasley, the City, and Hack. We affirm the district court’s resolution of all claims against Beasley and the City as well as the federal malicious prosecution claim against Hack. We conclude, however, that the court should have relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over the state‐law claims against Hack, and so we remand for that limited purpose. * * *

This resolves all of Howlett’s federal claims. What remain are his state‐law false‐arrest and malicious‐prosecution claims against Hack. In a situation like this one, where the state‐law claims have not been the focus of the litigation, the better practice is for the district court to relinquish its jurisdiction over them. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Williams Electronics Games, Inc. v. Garrity, 479 F.3d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 2007) (describing the “presumption that if the federal claims drop out before trial, the district court should relinquish jurisdiction over the state‐law claims”). The district court offered no reason for declining to dismiss the remaining supplemental claims. In our view, that is what should have happened. Once the judgment is revised to show that these claims were dismissed without prejudice, Howlett will be free to seek to pursue them in state court.

III. We conclude with a few words about Howlett’s request that we certify two state‐law issues to the Indiana Supreme Court. He would like us to ask that court to rule on whether § 34‐11‐2‐4 or § 34‐11‐2‐6 governs the statute of limitations for false‐arrest claims against police officers, and on whether the filing of a criminal case by a prosecutor effectively bars a malicious‐prosecution claim against persons (including police officers) who supplied information that led to the prosecution. These questions do not, however, meet the criteria for certification found in Circuit Rule 52.

The present case does not turn on the answers to either of those questions. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Pate, 275 F.3d 666, 672 (7th Cir. 2001). The statute of limitations question is not dispositive, because Howlett’s false‐arrest claim against Beasley and the City fails because probable cause supported the arrest, and because we are directing the district court to relinquish jurisdiction over the claim against Hack. We were able to resolve most of the malicious prosecution claims without having to delve into the issue of whether persons who supply information to a prosecutor can be liable for malicious prosecution. Finally, we have ensured that Howlett may pursue his remaining state‐law claims against Hack in state court. We see no reason to burden the Indiana Supreme Court with such matters, and we therefore deny Howlett’s request for certification.

IV. In summary, we conclude that even if Howlett’s statelaw false‐arrest claim against Beasley and the City is timely, it was properly dismissed because Beasley had probable cause to arrest Howlett. Beasley and the City are immune from Howlett’s state‐law malicious‐prosecution claim. Howlett’s § 1983 malicious‐prosecution claim against Beasley and the City cannot survive summary judgment because Howlett did not allege a separate constitutional injury and, even if he did, he has not submitted evidence that Beasley acted out of malice or lacked probable cause. Howlett cannot maintain his § 1983 malicious‐prosecution claim against Hack because Howlett has an adequate state remedy. Finally, we decline to certify any questions to the Indiana Supreme Court.

We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the defendants in all respects but one. We REMAND the case to the district court with instructions to change the dismissal of Howlett’s statelaw claims against Hack to one without prejudice, so that he may pursue them in state court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 21, 2015 02:19 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions