Seventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgement and No Liability Trial Verdict in Section 1983 Police Case

Today the Seventh Circuit issue an opinion in the case of Peals, Robert v. Terre Haute Police et. al. Plaintiff alleged "defendants had performed an unlawful search, falsely arrested him, initiated a retaliatory pros- ecution against him and used excessive force against him." Defendants won summary judgment on the unlawful search, false arrest and retaliatory prosecution claims and received a no liability verdict on the excessive force claim. The Seventh Circuit agreed that plaintiff presented no questions of fact - or any evidence - to survive summary judgment. Interesting issue: On appeal plaintiff raised that the district refused to turn over personnel files. The district court reviewed "in camera the personnel files of the officers. The court held" "All right. The court has examined the personnel files of the two defendant police officers and there is nothing in those files that indicate any discipline or any type of complaints regarding excessive force. There is a notation in there about one of them being late for court, and there is some information, also in there about doing a good job." Plaintiff did not file a motion to reconsider. Seventh Circuit explained: "Generally, the decisions whether to conduct an in camera review of government files in appropriate cases, whether to require discovery of materials contained therein, and in what form such materials should be produced are committed to the sound discretion of the district judge." Phillips, 854 F.2d at 277. In addition, "Mr. Peals failed to object to the district court's decision to review the files in camera instead of making them available to him. Neither did he make any offer of proof to the district court or so much as "hint that impeaching material was contained" in the files. See id. Because he failed to object and make an offer of proof, there is no basis for a finding of prejudice, which is necessary for us to hold that the district court abused its discretion. Cf. Nanda, 509 F.2d at 223; see also Fed. R. Evid. 103(a) ("Error may not be predicated upon a ruling which admits or excludes evidence unless a substantial right of the party is affected."); Fed. R. Civ. P. 61 ("Unless justice requires otherwise, no error in admitting or excluding evidence . . . is ground for granting a new trial." (emphasis added)).
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