Haralambous v. Hubbs
Although the 11th Amendment can bar civil-rights claims against a member of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force in the task force defendant's official capacity, a plaintiff who requests punitive damages alleges claims against the defendant in his individual capacity. The plaintiff, Christopher Haralambous, alleges the following facts, which have not been proven. The plaintiff pulled into the driveway of his parents' residence. Two motor vehicles pulled in behind and blocked the plaintiff's departure. Men exited the motor vehicles and yelled at the plaintiff to exit. Sergeant Brian Hubbs, a member of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force and the Middletown police department, allegedly shot into the driver's side window. The plaintiff was shot in the arm. Allegedly, officers threw the plaintiff onto a snow bank, then punched and kneed the plaintiff. The defendants moved for summary judgment and argued that the plaintiff drove his motor vehicle into and injured an officer. "[T]he reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," pursuant to Graham v. Connor, a 1979 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. "[P]olice officers," wrote the Connor court, "are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Genuine issues of material fact exist concerning whether Sergeant Hubbs' use of force was excessive, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and the court denied the motion for summary judgment. Because Sergeant Hubbs was not acting as an employee of the City of Middletown at the time of the shooting, the city was not responsible to supervise him, and the court granted the city's motion for summary judgment. To the extent that the plaintiff sued Sergeant Hubbs in his official capacity, the 11th Amendment bars his claims. Because the plaintiff's complaint requests punitive damages, the court found that the plaintiff sued Sergeant Hubbs in his individual capacity.