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Ninth Circuit: Prejudgment Qualified Immunity Appeal Mooted By Trial on Merits

In a per curiam opinion, the Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot defendant A. Curtis Wright’s pretrial appeal of the district court’s denial of his motion for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity, reasoning that, since the case had already gone to trial, the benefit of a grant of qualified immunity -- namely, avoiding the burdens of litigation -- was no longer available to him.

As a rule, a pretrial appeal of an order denying qualified immunity divests the district court of jurisdiction to proceed with trial; an exception exists when the district court certifies that the appeal is frivolous. Invoking this exception to the rule, the district court allowed the case to proceed to trial, and a jury found Wright liable for deprivation of appellee Joseph Padgett’s First Amendment rights.

The Ninth Circuit noted that while Wright could still appeal the jury’s finding that he had in fact violated Padgett’s constitutional rights, the prejudgment qualified immunity appeal was moot. See: Padgett v. Wright, 583 F. 3d 1217 (9th Cir. 2009).

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Related legal case

Padgett v. Wright