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Begin v. Drouin

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 16, 2018

JASON BEGIN, Plaintiff, Appellee,
LAURA DROUIN, Defendant, Appellant, CITY OF AUGUSTA, MAINE, Defendant.


          Edward R. Benjamin, Jr., with whom Kasia S. Park and Drummond Woodsum were on brief, for appellant.

          Bradford A. Pattershall, with whom Law Office of Bradford A. Pattershall, LLC, Matthew D. Bowe, and Law Office of Matthew D. Bowe were on brief, for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.


         Officer Laura Drouin of the Augusta, Maine police department shot plaintiff Jason Begin as Begin was cutting himself with a knife in the waiting area of the Riverview Psychiatric Center's local office. Begin later sued Drouin under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a deprivation of his constitutional rights. After discovery, Drouin moved for summary judgment, arguing that she was immune to Begin's damage claims because a reasonable officer in her position would have thought that Begin posed an immediate threat to Drouin or to the Riverview employees who had been meeting with Begin just before he pulled out his knife. The district court denied her motion, and Drouin filed this interlocutory appeal. For the following reasons, we dismiss the appeal to the extent it challenges the district court's assessment of the factual record under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and we otherwise affirm the denial of summary judgment.


         An order denying a motion for summary judgment, not being a final judgment, usually provides no occasion for an appeal. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291. An exception applies when such an order rejects a qualified immunity defense tendered in response to a claim of official malfeasance in violation of section 1983. In that instance, the state official may secure interlocutory review of a district court's conclusion that the official must stand trial. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985). Such review, however, has limits. We cannot consider challenges to the district court's determination of "which facts a party may, or may not, be able to prove at trial." Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 313 (1995); McKenney v. Mangino, 873 F.3d 75, 81 (1st Cir. 2017). To the contrary, we "simply take, as given, the facts that the district court assumed when it denied summary judgment." Johnson, 515 U.S. at 319. And to the extent the district court fails to expressly articulate a relevant finding of fact, we review the record "to determine what facts the district court, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, likely assumed." Id.

         We therefore begin consideration of this appeal by describing the events not as they necessarily occurred, but rather as the district court determined that jurors might reasonably find them to have occurred, or as otherwise viewed most favorably to Begin. Id. at 311, 319.


         Between 2004 and 2014, Begin resided at a locked psychiatric hospital, Riverview Psychiatric Center, to which he had been committed following an acquittal on a felony theft charge by reason of insanity. In early 2014, he obtained a supervised release permitting him to live in a group residential program setting. One year later, questions arose concerning his compliance with the terms of his community placement. These questions led to a meeting between Begin and three members of Riverview's outpatient treatment team at their office in Augusta, Maine.

         Begin's responses and behavior during that meeting convinced the Riverview team that he needed to be recommitted. Anticipating that Begin would be upset by this decision, Gregory Smith, a member of the team, called the Augusta Police Department to request that an officer be present when they informed Begin and then to transport him to Riverview's commitment facility. When Drouin arrived at the office, Smith told her that Begin might become uncooperative upon learning that he was being recommitted. Smith also said that Begin had some history of violence, but provided no further details. Begin is a large man, weighing roughly 265 pounds. Drouin was armed with her service gun, a Taser, an expandable baton, and pepper spray.

         Meanwhile, Begin was in the office's waiting area just beginning to receive the news that he would be returned to Riverview that afternoon. Drouin waited out of sight with several other Riverview employees in an adjacent hallway that entered directly into the waiting area. While Drouin could not hear the whole conversation, she did overhear Begin say that he was not going back to the hospital, even as he was told that he had no choice in the matter and that a police officer was there to transport him. One of the Riverview employees then signaled Drouin to approach.

         The parties' stipulation and Drouin's own statement of undisputed facts indicate that when Drouin approached the entrance to the waiting area she saw two individuals: A mental health contractor named Philip Hunt, who had transported Begin to the Riverview office, and Begin. Hunt was initially seated up to six feet from Begin. A physician's assistant named Russell Kimball had previously been standing in front of Begin as he told Begin he was being ...

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