Surat v. Klamser, No. 21-1284 (10th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff-Appellee Michaella Surat filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant-Appellant Officer Randall Klamser, alleging he violated her right to be free from excessive force during her arrest for misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. Officer Klamser moved to dismiss, arguing Surat’s claim was barred by her underlying convictions. The district court granted Officer Klamser’s motion, in part, holding that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) did not bar Surat’s claim that Officer Klamser used excessive force to overcome her resistance when he slammed her face-first into the ground. Officer Klamser then moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, but the district court denied his motion. The district court concluded a reasonable jury could have found Officer Klamser used excessive force to overcome Surat’s resistance to arrest. Additionally, the district court determined Officer Klamser’s force violated clearly established law. In this interlocutory appeal of the denial of summary judgment, Officer Klamser claimed the district court erred because his use of force was reasonable and, alternatively, because the law did not clearly establish that his action during the arrest violated the Fourth Amendment. Although the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that Officer Klamser’s use of force violated the Fourth Amendment, it disagreed that clearly established law existing at the time of the incident would have put a reasonable officer on notice that his conduct was unlawful. Accordingly, judgment was reversed.