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On September 10, 2018, the United States Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of an HLERK pro bono client, Elijah Manuel. In its decision, the court determined that the date a prisoner is released from custody is when the clock begins to run for statute of limitations purposes.

In this case, the Plaintiff, Mr. Manuel, was arrested for possession of illegal drugs even though two drug tests administered by the police came back negative. Despite these negative drug tests, the police brought Mr. Manuel before a judge and testified that Mr. Manuel possessed illegal drugs. As a result, the county judge sent Mr. Manuel to jail to await trial.

After having sat in jail for two weeks, the State Police issued the results of its lab test, which found no illegal drugs. Mr. Manuel, however, remained in jail for another month before the State’s Attorney moved for dismissal.  All told, Mr. Manuel spent 47 days behind bars.

Mr. Manuel brought a federal claim of malicious prosecution against the City of Joliet and its police officers. The primary issue presented in the case was whether a malicious prosecution claim exists under Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. HLERK attorneys Stanley Eisenhammer and Pam Simaga were appointed by the District Court to represent Mr. Manuel. They took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won despite having their arguments rejected by two lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of Mr. Manuel and determined that a malicious prosecution claim does exist under the Fourth Amendment. The Court, however, sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit to determine whether Mr. Manuel’s claim was timely.

After holding oral arguments on September 19, 2017 to determine when the statute of limitations began for the federal malicious prosecution claim, the Seventh Circuit issued a decision almost a year later finding that Mr. Manuel’s claim was timely and that the clock for malicious prosecution claims would begin when the would-be plaintiff is released from custody. The court concluded, “The wrong of detention without probable cause continues for the duration of the detention. That’s the principal reason why the claim accrues when the detention ends.” Additionally, the court pointed out that the would-be plaintiff isn’t entitled to sue until the end of the detention because “the existence of detention forbids a suit for damages contesting the detention’s validity.”

The Seventh Circuit sent the case back to the District Court for further proceedings. The Defendants, however, may request for a hearing en banc, which means that all of the Seventh Circuit judges will consider the case, or the Defendants may attempt to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court again. Stan Eisenhammer and Pam Simaga will continue to represent Mr. Manuel until justice is served.