Monday, January 18, 2021

New study on lawsuits that have resulted in benefits to society as a whole

The Center for Justice & Democracy has a new study, called Lifesavers 2021: CJ&D’s Guide to Lawsuits that Protect Us All. The study describes over 125 lawsuits that have led to major health and safety improvements benefiting large numbers of people, spanning over 50 years. These cases have not only saved lives but also show us how to mitigate some of today’s most dire crises. 

Here is a press release that explains the study.   The PopTort has a comment here. You can download the full study here.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Eighth Circuit Strips Qualified Immunity From Cop Who Pulled Over A Driver For Flipping Her Off

As reported in TechDirt, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest to add to a body of case law that holds that "engaging in any law enforcement response to a flipped bird is unwise, at best."  This decision reminds police officers that being rude towards them isn't a crime.  

In this case a police officer conducted a traffic stop after the driver extended his middle finger at her as he drove past her.  Other officers arrived later to assist the first officer and the driver was handcuffed and detained for a short period of time. The driver later sued the officers and the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. 

The district court granted summary judgment to the officers and the City, finding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because the original officer had probable cause to conduct the traffic stop.  In support of the argument regarding probable cause, the officer claimed she had probable cause because of the plaintiff’s “disorderly conduct.”  However, the court declined to grant qualified immunity to the officer on the disorderly conduct violation, and she did not challenge the district court’s conclusion on appeal.  On the other claims, the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.  The case is called Garcia v. City of New Hope, and you can read it here.

Go here for the full story and some commentary.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Illinois approves sweeping criminal justice reforms that will have torts consquences

Last week, the Illinois General Assembly adopted sweeping criminal justice reforms that include the elimination of cash bail and a requirement that police officers in the state wear body cameras. Some of the adopted provisions are very good; others will have unintended negative consequences; but the one provision that caught my eye is one that few people have been talking about.

According to the bill, Illinois police officers will have a “duty to intervene” if they see another officer using excessive force, even if the officer outranks them.

This is not unique as other jurisdictions have adopted similar provisions in the past year.  See here, for example.  But it is interesting to me because it opens the door to a whole new possibility of civil liability by creating a duty in tort law.  What is going to happen if an officer does not intervene and then gets sued in civil court?  Will courts recognize the right to sue or will they give immunity to the police departments?  Will the court say that the duty is not one that can be enforced through tort law because it is contrary to the generally accepted view that there is no duty to help?

I have not seen the actual bill so I do not know if it addresses these questions in any way; but I will update this post when I find out...

Man misidentified by facial recognition software sues for false imprisonment and violation of civil rights

Man who was misidentified by facial recognition software and subjected to police interrogation sues a city in New Jersey, its police department, and a prosecutor for false arrest, false imprisonment and violation of his civil rights.  Go here for the story.