Afternoon Briefs: State justice contracts COVID-19; $50M verdict upheld for man kept in police storage room

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Longtime North Dakota Supreme Court justice tests positive for COVID-19

North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle, who is 86 and the longest-serving justice on the state’s high court, has tested positive for COVID-19. Chief Justice Jon Jensen said Thursday that none of the other four justices have tested positive, and all the people who work closely with VandeWalle have tested negative. The court’s justices and most employees have largely been working remotely, Jensen added. VandeWalle has been on the state’s supreme court since 1978 and was its chief justice from 1993 to 2019. (The Bismarck Tribune, the Duluth News Tribune, the Associated Press)

Appeals court upholds $50M verdict for Ohio man beaten, locked in a storage room

The 8th District Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a $50 million verdict for a Cleveland man who was beaten by a police sergeant and locked in a police station storage room with no toilet or running water for four days. Arnold Black was driving through East Cleveland when he was stopped by police because his truck resembled one driven by a drug dealer who was under investigation. No drugs were found in his truck, and although a grand jury indicted Black on charges of drug possession, the charges were dropped. Black had headaches and blurred vision and underwent surgery to remove blood from his brain after the incident. The unanimous three-judge panel of the court held that the evidence in his case “demonstrated that the East Cleveland police department had an unwritten custom and practice of using violence and arrests to intimidate people.” (Cleveland.com, Aug. 6 opinion)

New York City agrees to new deal after failing to remedy excessive use of force at Rikers Island

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced Thursday that her office reached an agreement with New York City and its corrections department to reduce the use of force against inmates at Rikers Island. Under the agreement, initiatives include increasing the number of assistant deputy wardens, improving mental health evaluations of violent inmates, and developing new protocols for the deployment of emergency response teams. An independent federal monitor said the average monthly use-of-force by corrections officers more than doubled since 2016, despite a landmark deal made between the city and the Legal Aid Society, private law firms and the U.S. attorney’s office nearly five years ago. The remedial order seeks to correct the city’s noncompliance and must still be approved by a federal judge. (Law.com, Aug. 5 remedial consent order)

Federal judge urges ‘let us waste no time in righting this wrong’ in case over qualified immunity

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi invoked the names of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Eric Garner and other Black Americans who have had fatal and nonfatal encounters with police officers in his blistering opinion urging the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the legal doctrine of qualified immunity. The case in which Reeves ruled Tuesday involved Clarence Jamison, a Black man who was pulled over during a traffic stop and searched for drugs. No drugs were found after a two-hour search, and Jamison later sued the officer. Reeves held that the officer disregarded Jamison’s Fourth Amendment rights, but Jamison’s claims against him could not proceed since he was entitled to qualified immunity. “Overturning qualified immunity will undoubtedly impact our society,” Reeves wrote. “Yet the status quo is extraordinary and unsustainable. … Let us waste no time in righting this wrong.” (CNN, Slate, Bloomberg Law, Aug. 4 order)



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