The 11th Circuit dissects summary judgment review in Brooks v. Miller. The published opinion was on August 22, 2023.
Brooks sued Miller (a police officer) for false arrest, excessive force, and deliberate indifference. The incident was recorded—part audio/video and part just audio because the video went black (Brooks claimed the video was tampered with). Officer Miller moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. There were 3 versions of the incident: Brooks’s, Officer Miller’s, and the video. The district court granted Officer Miller’s motion.
The 11th Circuit explained that, when reviewing an order on summary judgment, an appellate court ordinarily views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Brooks). But, under a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court opinion called Scott v. Harris, “when a video proves that the plaintiff can’t be telling the truth, we don’t accept the facts as he alleges them, even for purposes of deciding a summary-judgment motion.”
The 11th Circuit decided Brooks’s claims as follows.
- False Arrest (SMJ affirmed): The dashcam footage “prove[d] definitively that Miller did not falsely arrest Brooks.”
- Deliberate Indifference (SMJ affirmed): The dashcam did not resolve the issue, but Brooks failed to show that “any violation Officer Miller may have committed was clearly established.”
- Excessive Force (SMJ reversed and remanded): Video of the alleged acts of excessive force were not recorded by the dashcam, but the audio was recorded. Because the audio did not “clearly contradict” Brooks’s story, the court defaulted to the “usual rule” and accepted Brooks’s version of the events.
Judge Jordan, concurring in full, pointed out that Brooks’s claim that the video was tampered with was irrelevant because the absence of video did not factor into the court’s decision on the deliberate indifference claim nor did it matter on the excessive force claim because the court reversed as to that claim.