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Heinemann v. Satterberg

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 2013

Theodore H. HEINEMANN, I, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Daniel SATTERBERG, King County Prosecutor, Defendant-Appellee.

Argued and Submitted Aug. 27, 2013.

Justin Price Wade (argued), Michael Barr King, Carney Badley Spellman, P.S., Seattle, WA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Page 915

David Eldred, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Seattle, WA, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Robert S. Lasnik, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-00125-RSL.

Before: M. MARGARET McKEOWN and RICHARD R. CLIFTON, Circuit Judges, and JED S. RAKOFF, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

CLIFTON, Circuit Judge:

This appeal presents the question of whether Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, in its current form, prohibits a district court from granting a motion for summary judgment by default based upon a local court rule when an opposing party fails to respond. We conclude that it does.

In this case, in addition to citing such a local rule, the district court considered the motion on the merits and concluded that it should be granted. We agree and affirm the judgment.

I. Background

Theodore Heinemann was a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Seattle via Chicago. Near the end of the flight, Heinemann was involved in an altercation with two flight attendants. Heinemann and the flight attendants told very different stories about the episode.

Heinemann alleged that he suffered a mild epileptic seizure just minutes prior to landing in Seattle, and that a flight attendant denied him access to the bathroom in this " emergency medical situation." He further contended that as he was disembarking after his seizure, another flight attendant followed him out of the airplane " brandishing" an ice mallet. The flight attendants denied that Heinemann said anything about a seizure and instead stated that his strongly worded complaints about the airline's customer service escalated into profanity and a physical threat.

Heinemann was arrested by the Port of Seattle Police Department when he got off the plane. A criminal complaint was later filed in state court charging Heinemann with harassment. The complaint was filed officially by the Prosecuting Attorney of King County, defendant Daniel Satterberg, and was actually signed by one of his deputy prosecuting attorneys.

A few months after he was criminally charged, Heinemann, proceeding pro se, initiated a civil action against United Airlines in state court, alleging that its personnel falsified police reports, falsely diagnosed an epileptic seizure, and threatened him with an ice mallet, among other things. United removed the case to district court on the basis of diversity, and moved for summary judgment. Reasoning that the Montreal Convention of 1999 precluded Heinemann from pursuing state law claims against United because the incident occurred on an " ...


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