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Eleventh Circuit finds defendant law enforcement officer’s interlocutory appeal of trial court’s denial of summary judgment motion in civil rights case on grounds of qualified immunity was premature because appeal considered only factual issue

On September 17, 2020, in Hall v. Flournoy, No. 18-13436, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals determined that an interlocutory appeal by the defendant law enforcement officer in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case was premature for the exercise of its jurisdiction. The interlocutory appeal was of the district court’s denial of the defendant’s summary judgment motion claiming qualified immunity. The Eleventh Circuit noted that it had interlocutory jurisdiction to address factual questions when they are inherently tied to an evaluation of a legal issue subject to interlocutory review, but that the only issue raised in the interlocutory appeal was whether the district court erred in determining that a genuine factual dispute existed as to whether the defendant had planted drug evidence on the plaintiff’s property, a purely factual question. The Eleventh Circuit stated that “if the only question before the appellate court is a factual one, review must wait for a later time,” citing Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304 (1995) in support, as well as Keating v. City of Miami, 598 F.3d 753, 759 (11th Cir. 2010), Bryant v. Jones, 575 575 F.3d 1281, 1294 n.19 (11th Cir. 2009), Koch v. Rugg, 221 F.3d 1283, 1296 (11th Cir. 2000) and Stanley v. City of Dalton, 219 F.3d 1280, 1287 & n.11 (11th Cir. 2000).