Heinemann v. Satterberg

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-24-2013
  • Case #: 12-35404
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judge McKeown; District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

A local rule may not allow for a default grant of a motion summary judgment if the motion is unopposed; and though a lack of response may be interpreted as an undisputed fact under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, the motion may not be granted absent an assessment by the court of the motion and supporting materials.

Two different stories arose from an encounter between Theodore Heinemann and flight attendants on a United Airlines flight. Heinemann alleged he had a seizure and was denied access to the restroom during a medical emergency, while the flight attendants stated Heinemann’s complaints about customer service escalated to profanity and physical threats. The Port of Seattle police arrested Heinemann when he got off the plane, and he was criminally charged with harassment by King County prosecutor Daniel Satterberg. Heinemann then filed suit against Satterberg, alleging lack of jurisdiction because the incident occurred on an international flight. Summary judgment was granted to Satterberg, and the district court found Heinemann’s lack of response to the summary judgment motion to be an admission that the motion had merit, pursuant to a local rule. The district court also dismissed the complaint on its merits, without elaboration on its reasoning. The Ninth Circuit agreed with Heinemann’s contention that a local rule may not violate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which do not allow summary judgment to be granted based on a failure to file a motion in opposition. Rather, the panel held the local rule conflicts with Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. The federal rule allows a lack of response to be interpreted as an undisputed fact, but does not allow summary judgment to be granted absent an assessment of whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment. However, the panel also held that on the merits, Satterberg was entitled to summary judgment on any of the three bases presented in his motion. Focusing on the prosecutorial immunity argument, the panel found prosecutorial immunity protects a prosecutor for his decision to initiate prosecution, and Heinemann’s allegation of misconduct does not invade that immunity. AFFIRMED.

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