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Capabilities

Team Successfully Defends Former Sheriff David Clarke at Civil Rights Trial

 
February 08, 2018

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Litigation
 
Case Study

Situation

Milwaukee County faced liability in a civil rights lawsuit alleging that former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke ordered an unlawful seizure when he requested sheriff deputies to briefly question the plaintiff at the Milwaukee airport after  an encounter between Clarke and the plaintiff on a flight. The plaintiff also alleged that Facebook posts subsequently made by Clarke calling the plaintiff a “snowflake” and dismissing the airport incident violated his free speech rights. The plaintiff’s case against the outspoken sheriff made headlines  locally and nationally, but no news outlets gave Clarke or the County much chance to win the case.

Result

Our team argued on summary judgment that the encounter at the airport was lawful and the court agreed, dismissing all claims related to the airport incident shortly before trial. At trial, with reporters from every local news station in the courtroom, our team argued that the “internet spat” between Clarke and the plaintiff had no civil rights implications and reminded jurors that the First Amendment protects all kinds of speech. The U.S. District Court jury agreed, finding that the plaintiff’s civil rights had not been violated. No damages were awarded.

Husch Blackwell Team: Charles H. Bohl, Leslie A. Gutierrez, Kurt M. Simatic and paralegal Peter F. Sewell