Seifert v United Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas

Seifert sued Government, sheriff and deputy sheriff under 42 USC 1983, 42 USC 1985 and Kansas law alleging his commission as reserve deputy was revoked because he testified on behalf of a civil plaintiff seeking damages for excessive force against Government. The district court granted summary judgment on all claims to all defendants. The panel affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. It reversed on the 1983 and 1985 claims as testimony in court is typically protected when done outside the normal course of employment and testifying for a civil plaintiff seeking damages against law enforcement for excessive force is outside the duties of a reserve deputy; there was circumstantial evidence of retaliatory motive as the grounds given at the time or termination were different than those given during discovery and both were suspect, concerns about Seifert’s credibility as a witness were overblown as the finding of dishonesty in a case 10 years ago is unlikely to come in at a federal trial and would not have come in at state trials and the deputy sheriff defendant also had a  judicial finding of dishonesty which was never used against him plus the prosecutors never raised the issue, reserve deputies almost never testify in federal court and the state prosecutor would not rule out using Seifert as witness and the revocation happened within days of the verdict in favor of the civil plaintiff; and there was circumstantial evidence sheriff knew about the upcoming testimony and it influenced the decision. The panel held Government could be liable because the sheriff’s decision to revoke was official policy. However, because it was not clearly established at the time of the revocation that the civil testimony was protected and retaliation barred, the panel affirmed judgment as to the sheriff and deputy on qualified immunity grounds. The panel finally affirmed judgment as to the Kansas law claim as 1983 provides an adequate federal remedy.