Sundquist v. State of Nebraska et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER that the defendants' motion to reconsider (filing 62 ) is denied. The plaintiff's objection to the defendants' motion to reconsider (filing 66 ) is denied as moot. Ordered by Judge John M. Gerrard. (JSF)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
MARVIN DOUGLAS SUNDQUIST,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STATE OF NEBRASKA, et al.,
This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion to reconsider
(filing 62). The defendants ask the Court to reconsider its ruling (filing 61)
granting the plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion and denying the defendants' motion
for summary judgment without prejudice to reassertion after a reasonable
time for the parties to conduct discovery.
The defendants assert that discovery is improper because their
qualified immunity argument rests on "purely legal issues." Filing 63 at 1. In
other words, they contend discovery is unnecessary because questions of fact
are irrelevant here. There are two prongs to the qualified immunity analysis:
(1) whether the defendants violated a statutory or constitutional right, and
(2) whether the right was clearly established at the time of the challenged
conduct. Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 131 S. Ct. 2074, 2080 (2011).
The Court has already decided the second question; in its
Memorandum and Order granting in part and denying in part the
defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court concluded that the right was clearly
established. Filing 21 at 10. Thus, the defendants' request that the Court
"[b]efore permitting discovery to proceed . . . first determine whether the law
was clearly established at the time of the Defendants' conduct," filing 63 at 3,
is unnecessary. The defendants have already had the benefit of this
But as for the first prong, the Court cannot determine at this stage
whether the defendants' actions violated the plaintiff's rights because there is
still some question as to what the defendants' actions were. See Behrens v.
Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996) ("On summary judgment, however, the
plaintiff can no longer rest on the pleadings, and the court looks to the
evidence before it (in the light most favorable to the plaintiff) when
conducting the Harlow inquiry." (internal citations omitted)). The defendants
have presented evidence of their side of the story, but the plaintiff has not
had an opportunity to conduct the discovery necessary for him to adequately
contest the veracity of their claims.
The Court cannot accept that its responsibility to promptly decide
questions of qualified immunity requires it to simply assume the truth of the
defendants' testimony. In many, if not most cases, summary judgment on
qualified immunity is appropriate because the plaintiff has all the evidence
that would be necessary to show a genuine issue of material fact, if one
existed. But this is not such a case. And the same is true with respect to
determining whether Vierk has a right to absolute immunity: his claim to
absolute immunity depends on his own testimony, which the plaintiff should
have at least some meaningful opportunity to contest. Thus, the plaintiff is
entitled to limited discovery on this issue, as explained in the Court's ruling
granting the plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. Filing 61 at 2.
IT IS ORDERED:
The defendants' motion to reconsider (filing 62) is denied.
The plaintiff's objection to the defendants' motion to
reconsider (filing 66) is denied as moot.
Dated this 14th day of December, 2015.
BY THE COURT:
John M. Gerrard
United States District Judge
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