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Abuse of Discretion to Deny Leave to Amend

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's erroneous grant of summary judgment to police on claims that they unlawfully detained a man, then evicted him from his home. The Court also found that it was an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend the complaint to name additional defendants.

On January 6, 2000, Christopher Turner was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence against his live-in girlfriend. He was held in jail without arraignment until January 10, 2000. Throughout his confinement Turner repeatedly asked when he would be arraigned, but jailers ignored his inquiries.

While in jail, Turner was beaten by guards on two occasions. During the second incident he was maced. Paramedics were called to treat Turner for asthma attacks after each beating; they recommended hospitalization but jailers refused.

On January 10, 2000, Turner was released without arraignment or posting bond. Once home, Turner was confronted by two police officers who "told him that he had two minutes to gather his personal effects and leave ... or ... face arrest."

Turner brought suit asserting state and constitutional claims related to inadequate medical care, excessive force and failure to arraign him in a timely manner. In a Second Amended Complaint he added claims of retaliation, "extrajudicial eviction," civil conspiracy and false imprisonment.

Following discovery, Turner moved for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint to identify Doe defendants and add three other defendants. He also moved to reissue summonses for four defendants he had failed to serve within 120 days of filing the Second Amended Complaint. Both motions were denied.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court denied Turner's motion and granted the defendants' motion.

The Sixth Circuit upheld the grant of summary judgment on all claims except the unconstitutional detention and eviction claims against individual defendants. On those claims the Court found that there were genuine issues of fact in dispute, precluding summary judgment.

The Court found that "[t]here is no question that ... [Turner] was denied his conditional right to a prompt judicial determination of probable cause following his arrest." Moreover, "Defendants ... offered no justification for Plaintiff's detention for such a long period of time, and, therefore, it must be presumed that Plaintiff's confinement ... was unreasonable and unconstitutional." On the eviction claim, the appellate court found "[s]uch police action arguably was an unconstitutional seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment and a denial of procedural due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."

The Sixth Circuit further found that denial of Turner's motion to reissue summonses was not an abuse of discretion because he had failed to show excusable neglect for his failure to timely serve the added defendants. It was an abuse of discretion, however, to deny him leave to amend. See: Turner v. City of Taylor, 412 F.3d 629 (6th Cir. 2005).

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Related legal case

Turner v. City of Taylor