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Shipman v. Hamilton

April 1, 2008

KAREN Y. SHIPMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ERIC HAMILTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 06 C 242-Michael J. Reagan, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED DECEMBER 4, 2007

Before RIPPLE, MANION, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

Karen Shipman filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Deputy Eric Hamilton of the Randolph County Sheriff's Department. In her complaint, Shipman asserted that Hamilton had violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when he arrested her while she was on duty as a nurse at the Sparta Community Hospital (the "hospital") in Sparta, Illinois. Hamilton filed a motion for summary judgment. In that motion, he argued that he had probable cause to arrest Shipman. In the alternative, Hamilton asserted that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied Hamilton's motion, and he filed this interlocutory appeal. We affirm.

I.

We begin by setting forth the facts as the district court found them, that is, in the light most favorable to Shipman. See Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 319-20 (1995). On the night of April 28, 2005, Shipman, a registered nurse, was on duty at the medical-surgical floor of the hospital. While Shipman had worked a few shifts in the hospital's emergency room, that night was Shipman's first night on duty on the medical-surgical floor.

Around midnight, Hamilton and Deputy Rod Queen entered the hospital to serve an emergency order of protection*fn1 on Roscoe Handsbury, a 60-year-old patient at the hospital who was in an "ICU-like" environment. At the time the officers arrived, Shipman was the highest-ranking nurse, and the only registered nurse, on the floor. The officers announced that they had papers to serve Handsbury and asked to speak to Handsbury's nurse. In response, Shipman told the officers that she was Handsbury's nurse.

What happened next is disputed. While Hamilton testified at his deposition that Shipman would not give the officers Handsbury's location, Shipman testified at her deposition that she pointed out to the officers the room where Handsbury was located. (Shipman's testimony is confirmed by Queen, who testified at his deposition that Shipman told them where Handsbury was and that they could see Handsbury through the window in his room.) According to Shipman, after she gave the officers Handsbury's location, Hamilton inquired about Handsbury's condition. Shipman responded that, although she was not sure of his exact condition, she thought she needed to call the doctor because the report on Handsbury stated that he had been extremely upset and crying throughout the day. Shipman then told the officers that, given his condition, she thought they should wait for the doctor to be present before serving Handsbury. Shipman was concerned about a stroke or other potential medical complication if the officers woke up Handsbury in the middle of the night to serve him. She also feared violating her obligations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act if she let the officers into Handsbury's room.

At that point, Hamilton suggested that Shipman call her supervisors. Shipman first called the on-call doctor, Dr. Elvira Salarda. Salarda told Shipman that Handsbury was not going anywhere and that the officers should come back in the morning when she was present. Salarda also suggested that Shipman call her supervisor Kathy Lehr. At her deposition, Shipman testified that, while she was on the phone with the doctor, Hamilton started to become aggravated. After getting off the phone with Salarda, Shipman called Lehr and explained to her what Salarda had said. Shipman then gave the phone to Hamilton (who, Shipman testified, was at this point "very aggravated"). Lehr told Hamilton that he ought to return to the hospital at 8:00 a.m. the next morning so he could serve Handsbury while a doctor was present.

Meanwhile, after handing the phone to Hamilton, Shipman-believing matters would be taken care of- returned to her nursing duties. As soon as Hamilton got off the phone, however, he approached Shipman, who was preparing an IV, told her she had blocked his service of process by calling the doctor, stated that he was going to arrest her, and demanded her name. According to Shipman, she did not respond to Hamilton because she was "stunned."*fn2 Hamilton then grabbed Shipman by the arms, cuffed her, and forced her down the hallway, out of the hospital. The charges filed against Shipman list "obstructing service of process" in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-3 and "obstructing a peace officer" in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-1 as the grounds for the arrest.*fn3

On March 24, 2006, Shipman filed this § 1983 action against Hamilton. She alleged that Hamilton violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by arresting her without probable cause. Hamilton moved for summary judgment. He argued that he had probable cause to arrest Shipman. In the alternative, he asserted that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion on both grounds, and Hamilton appeals.

II.

The only question before us on this appeal is whether, taking the facts as the district court presented them, the district court erred in finding that Hamilton was not entitled to qualified immunity for his arrest of Shipman. We have jurisdiction to consider this purely legal question. Via v. Lagrand, 469 F.3d 618, 623 n.2 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Johnson, 515 U.S. at 317); see also Sallenger v. Oakes, 473 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Recognizing the urgency of denials of qualified immunity, [a denial of] summary judgment on these grounds is deemed a 'final judgment' under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and is immediately appealable."). We review a district court's denial of summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds de novo. Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 546 (7th Cir. 2007).

Qualified immunity shields governmental actors performing discretionary functions from suit "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity in any particular case is a two-step inquiry. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). First, taking the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, we must consider whether the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. If no constitutional right would have been violated were the plaintiff's allegations established, our inquiry is at an end and summary judgment should be entered in favor of the officer. Id. "On the other hand, if a violation could be made out on a favorable view of the parties' submissions, the next, sequential step is to ask whether the right was clearly established." Id. "[F]or a constitutional right to be clearly established, its contours must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right"; in other words, "in the ...


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