The 96-Year-Old Brooklyn Judge Standing Up to the Supreme Court

“It’s written in a way that he seems to have a larger audience in mind,” Professor Capers said. “He seems to be saying, ‘Look at what’s going on.’”

The case in question concerns the events of Jan. 15, 2014, when Camille Watson, a woman with a history of mental illness, called 911 claiming that her 2-week-old niece had been abused by Ms. Watson’s brother-in-law, Larry Thompson. Ms. Watson was staying with Mr. Thompson and his wife at their apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. When the police arrived with emergency medical workers, they said they needed to come in to see the baby, but Mr. Thompson refused to let them enter without a warrant.

According to court papers, one of the officers, Paul Montefusco, then forced his way inside, and when Mr. Thompson tried to block his path, he arrested him. Mr. Thompson also claims that Officer Montefusco threw him to the ground and started choking him while the other officers kicked and punched him.

The emergency workers were eventually able to inspect the child and found some red marks on her buttocks, which turned out to be diaper rash. Mr. Thompson was nonetheless held in custody for two days on charges of resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration. After three court hearings, the case against him was dismissed.

Within a year, Mr. Thompson sued the police with a raft of accusations including false arrest, unlawful entry, excessive force and malicious prosecution. As the case proceeded, the defendants claimed qualified immunity. That defense was first permitted by the Supreme Court in a ruling in 1967 designed to shield the police from financial liability: The court decided that if officers were not immune, they might be disinclined to do their duty.

But in two different cases — one from 2015, the other from this year — the court expanded the scope of the immunity defense in a “particularly troubling” way, Judge Weinstein wrote in his order this week. In the order, he quoted a dissent in the more recent case, Kisela v. Hughes, by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said that qualified immunity was gradually becoming “an absolute shield for law enforcement officers.”

Mr. Thompson’s suit is now set to be heard at trial scheduled to open in September.

Article source: Supreme Court

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