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Lawyer is awarded $1 in lawyer charges, matching jury award in case of snatched pen


Tort Law

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Civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Rothman’s lawsuit towards the town of New York and two cops wasn’t a complete loss.

In a decision filed Nov. 30, Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York awarded Rothman $1 in attorney fees, matching the $1 award that he had obtained from a jury in a lawsuit stemming from impolite therapy and a snatched pen. He obtained a further $862 in prices.

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“Once upon a time,” McMahon wrote, “we urged people not to make too much of real but petty grievances by saying, ‘Don’t make a federal case out of that.’ This lawsuit was a violation of that principle writ large.”

Rothman had sued over his December 2018 go to to police headquarters in an try to serve a lawsuit, in response to McMahon’s opinion. The workplace for receipt of service was closed, and two officers refused to just accept service. One officer grabbed Rothman’s pen away from him as Rothman was making an attempt to write down down the officer’s title and defend quantity. The different officer threw the authorized papers at Rothman, in response to Rothman’s model of occasions.

A assessment by the Civilian Complaint Review Board issued “a command training instruction” to the pen-grabbing officer and located the criticism in regards to the thrown papers to be unfounded.

Rothman filed a federal lawsuit for alleged constitutional violations, as well as assault, battery, conversion of property, unreasonable detention and extreme power.

The case went to a jury, which awarded Rothman $1 for the pen snatching, the quantity of nominal damages that he had sought in his closing argument. He had claimed that the case was about “principle,” not “principal,” McMahon mentioned.

But Rothman’s request for $44,800 in lawyer charges incurred through the trial and $862 in prices proves that the case “is not really about ‘principle’ but about ‘principal,’ ” McMahon wrote.

McMahon mentioned the charge award sought by Rothman is unreasonable.

While the decision towards the pen-grabbing officer could be personally significant to Rothman, “it is not a verdict that is likely to be of great significance to the public at large,” McMahon wrote.

“The facts of this case that gave rise to the verdict—a pen seized by a police officer in a fit of pique, then returned within moments to its rightful owner—are just too trivial. Rothman’s verdict is entirely symbolic, and so does not support the award of attorney’s fees he seeks.”

Rothman informed the New York Daily News that he respectfully disagrees with the ruling.

“If they were willing to engage in this sort of abuse of power to a lawyer in the middle of police headquarters, what would they do to someone who did not have the resources I did?” he mentioned. “If a police officer in the courtroom wrenched the pen out of the judge’s hands, would she consider it to be so trivial?”


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