December 10, 2005

Section 1983 Shaq

by PG

Milbarge remarks former Laker, current Miami Heat Shaquille O'Neal's swearing in as a reserve police officer with the Miami Beach police department. He concludes, "I really don't envy the defense attorney who has to cross-examine Shaq. And no way would I file a 1983 suit against him!"

I don't know much about Section 1983 suits, which are civil actions against people who violate one's civil rights while acting under color of law and are complicated by various grants of qualified immunity. But I would have thought Shaq to be the only cop in America worth suing. Norm Pattis at Crime & Federalism, who knows much more than I, explains,

When a police officer get tagged with a civil verdict in a case arising under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, who really pays?
I've won dozens of these cases and I have never seen a case in which the tortfeasor himself or herself pays. But I have seen a lot of game playing.
A dozen years ago I won a case against two Connecticut State Troopers. They gave a man a gratuitous kick to the, er, hm, family jewels. No permanent injuries. But the jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000. I was thrilled; so was the client.
Then came the remittitur motion. The defendants' lawyer claimed that the sum was excessive, given the officers' income and assets. Of course, no such evidence had been presented.
Similarly, in Lee v. Edwards,
The Circuit remitted to $75,000. Why? Two hundred thousand was too much for a cop; they don't make that much. But the officer put on no evidence of net worth. There was nothing in the record about whether he had money in the bank or not. I still believe the decision was lawless.
Probably most cops are judgment-proof, but I can't imagine that any verdict less than the Miami Beach PD's total budget for the year would be considered excessive, given O'Neal's income and assets.

December 10, 2005 03:40 PM | TrackBack

I was just afraid of making him angry.

Posted by: Milbarge at December 10, 2005 04:51 PM

Yeah, a friend pointed out that if I got beat down by Shaq, I probably wouldn't live to file suit.

Posted by: PG at December 10, 2005 05:40 PM
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