News

Judge dismisses Buckheit suit against Atherton

Plaintiff, Jon Buckheit, may appeal federal court ruling

A federal court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by Atherton resident Jon Buckheit against the town of Atherton, San Mateo County, and three Atherton police officers.

Buckheit filed the $10 million suit in 2008 as a result of his arrest after a domestic violence incident in his home in which he had called the police and reported that he was the victim.

He later amended his lawsuit to include additional grievances when he learned that the police report of his arrest was changed hours later to include false charges of physical abuse to a child who had been present during the domestic dispute.

Judge Joseph Spero issued his ruling Friday, April 6.

"I'm very disappointed with the decision,and seriously considering appealing it," Buckheit told the Almanac Saturday.

"He threw the whole case out, saying, the falsification of the police report didn't cause significant damage or have enough of a chilling effect on my free speech to be an actionable claim under the Civil Rights Act," he said.

"But I felt I was damaged when I had to write that check to my lawyer to expunge my record," he said, referring to having to go to court to ask for a legal declaration of factual innocence.

Atherton town officials could not be reached for comment for this report.

Buckheit was granted a declaration of factual innocence in San Mateo County Superior Court. During the 2010 trial, Judge Mark Forcum stated that "there's absolutely no basis to believe that Mr. Buckheit ever laid a finger on the child," referring to the charge added to the police report after Buckheit's arrest.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by how much?
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

How much money did this nuisance lawsuit cost the taxpayers? There was no judgement, but just defending it must have cost a lot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Nuisance lawsuit? Are you aware of the facts of this case? Very disturbing stuff. No police dept. is perfect, but APD leaves a lot to be desired, to put it mildly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tony Ciampi
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

HARPER v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES
Paul D. HARPER;  Brian D. Liddy;  Edward Ortiz, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a municipality;  Bernard Parks, Defendants-Appellants,

Nos. 06-55519, 06-55715. County of Los Angeles; ........
Argued and Submitted Nov. 7, 2007. -- July 14, 2008


 Probable cause to arrest exists when "officers have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to lead a person of reasonable caution to believe an offense has been or is being committed by the person being arrested."  United States v. Lopez, 482 F.3d 1067, 1072 (9th Cir.2007) (citing Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964)).  "While conclusive evidence of guilt is of course not necessary under this standard to establish probable cause, '[m]ere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough.' "   Id. (quoting McKenzie, 738 F.2d at 1008).   Under the collective knowledge doctrine, in determining whether probable cause exists for arrest, courts look to "the collective knowledge of all the officers involved in the criminal investigation."  United States v. Ramirez, 473 F.3d 1026, 1032 (9th Cir.2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted).   Where the facts or circumstances surrounding an individual's arrest are disputed, the existence of probable cause is a question for the jury.  McKenzie, 738 F.2d at 1008.   That is the case here.11

B. Policy, Custom, or Pattern
The question is whether there is substantial evidence to support the jury's determination that the constitutional violations were the result of an official policy set by Chief Parks.   We, (the NINTH CIRCUIT), conclude that there is.
  See McRorie v. Shimoda, 795 F.2d 780, 784 (9th Cir.1986) ("Policy or custom may be inferred if, after [constitutional violations occurred], ․ officials took no steps to reprimand or discharge the[ir subordinates], or if they otherwise failed to admit the[subordinates'] conduct was in error.").  

IV. Damages Award

 The City next challenges as "excessive" the jury's special verdict awarding each officer $5,000,001.   We review this award for substantial evidence, In re Exxon Valdez, 270 F.3d 1215, 1247 (9th Cir.2001), and afford "substantial deference to a jury's finding of the appropriate amount of damages," Del Monte Dunes, 95 F.3d at 1435.15  Unless "the amount is grossly excessive or monstrous, clearly not supported by the evidence, or based only on speculation or guesswork," we uphold the jury's award.  Id.;  see also Zhang v. Am. Gem Seafoods, Inc., 339 F.3d 1020, 1040 (9th Cir.2003).   The evidence presented at trial and viewed in the Officers' favor justify the jury's damages verdict


 Compensable injuries under  1983 include "impairment of reputation, personal humiliation, and mental anguish and suffering."   Memphis Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 307, 106 S.Ct. 2537, 91 L.Ed.2d 249 (1986);  see also Johnson v. Hale, 13 F.3d 1351, 1353 (9th Cir.1994) (discussing compensatory damages under 42 U.S.C.  1982).   The testimony of the plaintiff alone can substantiate a jury's award of emotional distress damages.   See Zhang, 339 F.3d at 1040 (9th Cir.2003);  see also Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods., Inc., 212 F.3d 493, 513 (9th Cir.2000).


According to Judge Spero and the officers probable cause exists due to the size of a person, that in and of itself is discriminatory based upon a physical characteristic and not the facts as a result of actions for no Mens Rea is present.

If that kind of logic were to hold up, then every petite woman could initiate an assault and battery on a larger male make false claims when the police arrive in order to falsely incriminate the male. The fact that the AP refused to provide a public document, the police report, and refused to discipline the officers for their violation of Jon's civil rights demonstrates a pattern and practice of civil rights violation as well as
Mens Rea to cover up the false arrest.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Abused
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

This is NOT a nuisance lawsuit! My abusive wife hits me very often and when I threaten to call the police, she sneers: "You are bigger and you are a man, no one will believe you!". I guess she is right - there is discrimination against men in such cases.


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