JOHNSON v. JONES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
94-455
Petitioner 
Johnson
Respondent 
Jones
Advocates
(Argued the cause for petitioners)
(Argued the cause for respondent)
(Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners)
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Facts of the Case 

Police officers found Houston Jones, a diabetic, on the street while he was having an insulin seizure. The officers arrested Jones because he appeared drunk. Later, Jones found himself with several broken ribs. Jones brought a constitutional tort action against the officers, claiming that they used excessive force when they arrested him and that they beat him at the police station. As government officials, the officers were entitled to assert a qualified immunity defense. Three of the officers moved for summary judgment arguing that he could point to no evidence that these three had beaten him or had been present during beatings. Holding that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence supporting Jones's theory of the case, the District Court denied the motion. The officers sought an immediate appeal, arguing that the denial was wrong because the evidence in the pretrial record was not sufficient to show a genuine issue of fact for trial. The Court of Appeals held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.

Question 

Is a Federal District Court's determination, in denying a summary judgment motion of police officers entitled to assert a qualified immunity defense, that the record raised a factual issue an appealable final decision?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Jones, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 29 U.S.C. 1291

No. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that a defendant, who is entitled to invoke a qualified immunity defense, may not appeal a District Court's summary judgment order insofar as that order determines whether or not the pretrial record sets forth a genuine issue of fact for trial. The Court reasoned, in part, that the competing considerations underlying questions of finality, including the inconvenience and costs of piecemeal review, the danger of denying justice by delay, the comparative expertise of trial and appellate courts, and the wise use of appellate resources, argue against allowing immediate appeals of orders of the kind in question and in favor of limiting interlocutory appeals of qualified immunity matters to cases presenting more abstract issues of law.

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JOHNSON v. JONES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_94_455>.
JOHNSON v. JONES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_94_455 (last visited June 19, 2014).
"JOHNSON v. JONES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1994/1994_94_455.