15 November 2006

How to know the Judge is mad at you

"The facts are remarkable. Plaintiff, Susan Frunz, and her two guests were in Frunz’s home in Tacoma, Washington, when police surrounded the house, broke down the back door and entered. The police had no warrant and had not announced their presence. Frunz first became aware of them when an officer accosted her in the kitchen and pointed his gun, bringing the barrel within two inches of her forehead. The police ordered or slammed the occupants to the floor and cuffed their hands behind their backs—Frunz for about an hour, until she proved to their satisfaction that she owned the house, at which time they said 'never mind' and left."
"In short, we must ask: Why is this case here? There may have been some justification for going to trial because there were disputed questions of fact about how the officers behaved during the course of the intrusion into Frunz’s house. But a jury made up of seven members of the community heard the evidence and unanimously ruled in Frunz’s favor. By not only finding defendants liable, but also imposing punitive damages, the jury determined that the officers acted in reckless or malicious disregard of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Only the most misguided optimism would cause defendants, and those who are paying for their defense, to appeal the verdict under these circumstances. Surely, the citizens of Tacoma would not want to be treated in their own homes the way the jury found officers Stril, Morris and Alred treated Frunz and her guests. A prompt payment of the verdict, accompanied by a letter of apology from the city fathers and mothers, might have been a more appropriate response to the jury’s collective wisdom."10

10 "Defendants and their counsel shall show cause within 14 days why they should not be assessed double costs and attorney’s fees for filing a frivolous appeal. Fed. R. App. P. 38."

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Those are the opening and closing paragraphs of Frunz v. Tacoma.

Via Eugene Volokh (with a discussion) and How Appealing.

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