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Blake v. Katter

November 22, 1982


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 79 C 307 -- Allen Sharp, Judge.

Pell, Bauer, Circuit Judges, and Campbell,*fn* Senior District Judge.

Author: Bauer

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

The issue in this appeal is what statute of limitations applies to a § 1983 civil rights action brought against Indiana state police officers acting in their official capacities. Plaintiff-appellant Walter Allison Blake brought this action against Roderic H. Katter and Steven R. King, Indiana state police officers, alleging that the officers violated his constitutional rights during his arrest, detention, pre-trial proceedings and trial. Blake charged the officers with: (1) warrantless arrest; (2) illegal search and seizure; (3) unlawful detention; (4) failure to inform him of the charges against him or to allow him to confront witnesses; (5) cruel and unusual punishment; (6) subornation of perjured testimony; (7) proceeding to trial without a verified information; and (8) malicious prosecution.*fn1 The district court held that each of these alleged claims was analogous to a personal injury claim and, thus, subject to the two-year statute of limitations applicable to personal injury claims. We reverse.

Blake filed his complaint while he was incarcerated in the Indiana State Prison. Katter and King responded with a motion to dismiss. Holding that the complaint failed to state a cause of action for which relief could be granted, the district court ruled on the motion before Blake's time to respond had expired. Blake appealed; this court reversed and remanded. Blake then filed an amended and supplemental complaint and Katter and King made a second motion to dismiss. The district court granted this second motion on the ground that the complaint was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. It also held that Blake's claims regarding unlawful detention, perjured testimony and cruel and unusual punishment were legally insufficient. Blake again appealed.*fn2

Blake contends that the district court erred in applying the two-year statute of limitations to his civil rights claims and in holding that several of the allegations did not allege claims for which relief can be granted.


The threshold question is whether Blake's claims are time barred. Blake insists they are not for several reasons. First, he asserts that under Ind. Code § 34-1-2-2 the applicable statute of limitations is five years. Next, Blake argues that, assuming arguendo the two-year statute of limitations does apply, the statute was tolled because he was imprisoned. Finally, Blake asserts that at least some of his claims accrued within the two year period prior to the filing of his complaint.

The parties agree that because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not specify a limitations period, the state statute of limitations controls. They also agree that Ind. Code § 34-1-2-2 is the governing state statute. They disagree, however, as to which subsection, the First or the Second, applies to Blake's claims.

Ind. Code § 34-1-2-2 in part provides: Limitations of actions -- . . . The following actions shall be commenced within the periods herein prescribed after the cause of action has accrued . . . .

First. For injuries to person or character, for injuries to personal property, and for a forfeiture of penalty given by statute, within two (2) years . . . .

Second. All actions against a sheriff, or other public officer and his sureties on a public bond, growing out of a liability incurred by doing an act in an official capacity, or by the omission of an official duty, within five (5) years . . . .

Ind. Code § 34-1-2-2 (1976). Asserting that unconstitutional acts of state officials are not analogous to state torts, Blake urges that the plain meaning of the statute dictates that § 34-1-2-2 Second applies. Relying on Movement for Opportunity and Equality v. General Motors Corp., 622 F.2d 1235 (7th Cir. 1980), appellees argue that § 34-1-2-2 First governs all § 1983 actions.

Appellees' reliance on Movement for Opportunity is misplaced, for its factual situation is inapposite to the circumstances of this case. In Movement for Opportunity black and female employees filed a § 1981 class action suit charging racial and sexual discrimination at a General Motors plant. Since § 1981 contained no statute of limitations, the court followed the general rule, enunciated in Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. ...

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