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Civil rights - Qualified immunity - Police shooting.

Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where (1) a defendant police officer shot a plaintiff who was cutting himself with a knife in the waiting area of a psychiatric office, (2) the plaintiff later sued the officer under 42 U.S.C. 1983, (3) the officer moved for summary judgment, arguing that she was immune because a reasonable officer in her position would have thought that the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the defendant or to employees who had been meeting with the plaintiff just before he pulled out his knife, and (4) that motion was denied in U.S. District Court, the defendant's interlocutory appeal must be dismissed for want of appellate jurisdiction to the extent that the defendant challenges the judge's assessment of the record, as the evidence viewed most favorably to the plaintiff could support a verdict in his favor.

" In this case, the district court determined that the evidence could support a jury finding 'that Plaintiff did not pose an immediate threat to Defendant [Laura] Drouin and the others who were present.' That determination that the evidence was sufficient to support a jury verdict on an issue of fact is not a ruling that we can review on this interlocutory appeal.

" Given the unchallengeable Rule 56 finding that a jury could find that [plaintiff Jason] Begin posed no immediate threat to anyone but himself, and given the ambiguous record concerning precisely where each person stood at the moment Drouin decided to fire, we have no choice but to assume that Begin could not have reached out and stabbed anyone first without advancing as many as twenty feet toward the barrel of Drouin's raised gun. This reading of the ambiguous record on interlocutory review provides an unwelcoming backdrop for Drouin's immunity defense.

"None of the foregoing means that Drouin in fact did anything wrong. Rather, it simply means that we cannot set aside on this record the district court's conclusion that the evidence viewed most favorably to Begin could support a verdict for Begin. Whether the evidence actually presented at trial continues to provide that support remains to be seen.

"For the foregoing reasons, we dismiss the appeal in part for want of appellate jurisdiction to the extent Drouin challenges the district court's assessment of the record, and we otherwise affirm the district court's denial of summary judgment."

Begin v. Drouin (Lawyers Weekly No. 01-227-18) (13 pages) (Kayatta, J.) Appealed from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine (Docket No. 17-1451) (Nov. 16, 2018).

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Title Annotation:Begin v. Drouin, 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Nov 21, 2018
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