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Appellate Jurisdiction – Qualified Immunity

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Joseph S. Ferguson v. Ryan McDonough

Case No.: 20-2741

Officials: MANION, ST. EVE, and KIRSCH, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Appellate Jurisdiction – Qualified Immunity

Our jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal turns on a police dashcam video that captured police officer Ryan McDonough’s arrest of Joseph Ferguson, including the moment he tased Ferguson. Ferguson sued Officer McDonough under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer McDonough violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force to effectuate his arrest. Following discovery, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment, both asserting that the dashcam video supported granting summary judgment in their favor. The district court disagreed that the video resolved the parties’ factual disputes and denied both motions.

This appeal concerns only the denial of Officer McDonough’s motion, which asserted that he was entitled to summary judgment because qualified immunity shielded him from civil liability for any damages Ferguson sustained from the arrest. The district court concluded that when the facts were viewed in a light most favorable to Ferguson, one reasonable interpretation of the dashcam video was that Ferguson was not actively resisting arrest when Officer McDonough tased him. It further concluded that a reasonable officer would have known by the time of Ferguson’s tasing that an officer’s escalation of force in response to an individual not actively resisting violated the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against excessive force. Because one view of the evidence supported that Ferguson was not actively resisting when Officer McDonough tased him, a jury could reasonably find that Officer McDonough’s use of the taser was unreasonably excessive under the circumstances. Accordingly, the district court held that Officer McDonough was not entitled to summary judgment on his qualified immunity defense.

On appeal Officer McDonough argues that the dashcam video contradicts the district court’s finding that the video is open to interpretation because the video clearly shows that Ferguson was actively resisting arrest moments before Officer McDonough tased him, and that Ferguson continued to argue with Officer McDonough while raising his hands. Under these circumstances, Officer McDonough contends that his deployment of the taser was objectively reasonable, and hence, he is entitled to qualified immunity.

We have jurisdiction to review the merits of Officer McDonough’s appeal only if the dashcam video utterly discredits the district court’s finding that there was a factual dispute over whether Ferguson was actively resisting when Officer McDonough tased him. It does not, so we must dismiss his appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

Dismissed

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Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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