Opinion Makes Clear the Need to Address Federal and State Immunities in Dispositive Motions
In Weeks v. Grady, Civil Action 1:18-CV-01373-SDG (N.D. Ga. 7-8-2022), the defendant deputy appealed a report and recommendation recommending denial of a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, Weeks, had filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Grady violated the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights by subjecting him and other inmates to an unreasonable body cavity search in a group setting at the Fulton County Jail. Grady moved for summary judgment arguing the Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate a violation of constitutional rights and that Grady was entitled to qualified immunity. The magistrate judge found that genuine issues of material facts precluded summary judgment. Of import, the motion for summary judgment did not seek summary judgment with respect to any state law claims based on state law immunity.
On appeal, the U.S. District Court found that contradictory statements existed from other deputies with regard to the reasonableness of the decision to search. Consideration of those deputies' statements and the report from the Prison Rape Elimination Act representative was not error and raised issues as to the reasonableness of the actions of the deputy. Further, arguments in the objection to the report and recommendation that state officers (in the absence of malice) were entitled to official immunity under Georgia law were not appropriate for consideration in light of the fact that those issues were not argued in the original motion for summary judgment briefs and could not be raised at the objection stage.
This case stands for the proposition that it is appropriate and necessary to evaluate/assert all available possible defenses and present them at the Rule 56 stage of pleading, or they may be held unavailable until trial. NOTE: Non-assertion of the defenses in the motion would not likely preclude a motion for directed verdict on those issues so long as the defenses were asserted in the initial responsive pleadings. That procedural issue was not addressed in the district court’s order.
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