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Civil Rights — excessive force — qualified immunity

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Civil Rights — excessive force — qualified immunity

Where police officers shot the plaintiff four times in the leg with an SL6 baton launcher after she disregarded their orders to come out of her car, they used excessive force and are not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.

“Even assuming a lack of clarity about the propriety of shooting Phillips with the SL6 once, the officers should have known that it was unlawful to escalate force by shooting Phillips three more times when she was unresponsive, presented no immediate threat, and made no attempt to flee or even avoid police fire. That is, it was clearly established in November 2005 that officers could not use such a significant level of force on a non-resisting or passively resisting individual. Rambo v. Daley, 68 F.3d 203, 207 (7th Cir. 1995) (denying qualified immunity where police forced a handcuffed, drunk driving suspect who was verbally resisting arrest into a police car by breaking the suspect’s ribs); St. John v. Hickey, 411 F.3d 762, 772-75 (6th Cir. 2005) (denying qualified immunity to officers who injured a disabled plaintiff while placing him in police cruiser because, although the plaintiff was ‘cursing,’ ‘yelling,’ and ‘passively’ resisting, he was not violent or attempting to flee); Hill v. Miller, 878 F. Supp. 114, 116 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (‘[I]t is well established that the use of any significant force . . . not reasonably necessary to effect an arrest—as where the suspect neither resists nor flees or where the force is used after a suspect’s resistance has been overcome or his flight thwarted—would be constitutionally unreasonable.’ (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). We therefore conclude that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity, and that Phillips is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on her excessive force claim.”


10-1654 Phillips v. Community Ins. Corp.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Callahan, Mag. J., Williams, J.

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