AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
Back to list of subjects Back to Legal Publications Menu
After a woman's
federal civil rights claims against police officers were determined to
be frivolous, the city employing the officers asked the court to award
it $362,545.61 in attorneys' fees and costs as a sanction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1927 against the plaintiff's attorney. The attorney continued to
pursue his client's claims after it was clear that they were frivolous.
A federal appeals court ruled that the trial court could take into consideration
the attorney's claim that he had no assets and had only earned approximately
$20,000 annually in the past three years, and, if true, reduce the amount
of any sanction based on his inability to pay. Haynes v. City and County
of San Francisco, #10-16327, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 15102 (9th Cir.).
A female member of the Army and her infant child were injured while working at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 during the terrorist attacks. She filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, and a number of other senior federal government officials, claiming that they were involved in a conspiracy to cause the terrorist attacks on that day to create a "political atmosphere" in which they could pursue their desired domestic and international policies, and "conceal" an alleged misallocation of $2.3 trillion in defense appropriations. The lawsuit proposed a "fantastical alternative history" of the events of Sept. 11, 2011, including a contention that no plane crashed into the Pentagon, but that instead explosives were ignited there. Upholding the dismissal of the lawsuit, a federal appeals court found both the lawsuit and the appeal frivolous and ordered the plaintiff's counsel to show cause why double costs and damages of $15,000 should not be imposed as a sanction on both the plaintiff and her lawyer.. Gallop v. Cheney, #10-1241, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 8554 (2nd Cir.).
A federal lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges that federal agencies have her under surveillance and have conducted biomedical and genetic experiments on her was dismissed by the court.. "Claims describing fantastic or delusional scenarios fall into the category of cases whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. " McBrien v. F.B.I., #09-0197, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7360 (D.D.C.).
While a plaintiff's lawsuit, claiming that a judge, a sheriff, and a senator were all members of a terrorist organization, stole tax money, allowed a drug trafficking ring to operate, and conspired together against allowing him to file papers at the courthouse was properly dismissed as frivolous, the appeals court held that it should have been only dismissed "without prejudice," since it was possible that the plaintiff might have been able to file a more particular complaint states some non-frivolous claims stemming from the same events described in his initial complaint, which had been described by the trial court as containing only "delusional' nonsense without any factual basis. Larrimore v. Hooks, No. 08-1327, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 16835 (Unpub. 4th Cir.).
A plaintiff's $250 million lawsuit concerning the ownership of several pieces of personal property seized by a police department, asserting claims for theft, violation of civil rights, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act was frivolous and groundless. Since the plaintiff failed to present a viable case for any of his claims, the defendant was entitled to an award of $6,591 in attorneys' fees. Swiney v. State of Texas, Civil Action No. SA-06-CA-0941, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 51522 (W.D. Tex.).
Sheriff and sheriff's department were entitled to an award of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988 when an arrestee's lawsuit for harassment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with the issuance of an arrest warrant was voluntarily dismissed. The court found that the lawsuit brought had been frivolous when the arrest never took place, the sheriff's department, named as a defendant, was not a legal entity which could be sued, and there was no showing that there was any alleged violation of constitutional rights related to official county policies or practices. Evans v. Monroe County Sheriff's Department, No. 05-10077, 148 Fed. Appx. 902 (11th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Owner of dog failed to assert a viable constitutional claim in seeking damages for the loss of 60 days of the companionship of her pet on a theory that her due process property rights had been violated by the dog's detention. Plaintiff ordered to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for making a "frivolous argument in a meritless case." Wall v. City of Brookfield, No. 04-313, 406 F.3d 458 (7th Cir. 2005). [2005 LR Jul]
Trial court properly awarded $44,044 in attorneys' fees to defendants in "frivolous, unreasonable, and groundless" lawsuit filed by woman prosecuted on misdemeanor charges after refusing to obey police officer's orders to leave city council meeting when he told her the chamber was filled to capacity. Plaintiff, who was released on her own recognizance after charges were made against her, was not seized, and no motive to punish her for expressing her opinions about a proposed airport expansion was shown. Attorneys' fee award served to help deter frivolous lawsuits. Karam v. City of Burbank, No. 02-55954, 340 F.3d 884 (9th Cir. 2003). [2003 LR Dec]
Presence of officers during a court-sanctioned entry into a man's residence by his wife in connection with divorce proceedings to retrieve some of her possessions did not constitute an illegal search and seizure in violation of federal and state constitutional provisions. The plaintiff's federal civil rights claims against the city and officers were frivolous and the defendants were therefore entitled to an award of attorneys' fees. Todd v. City of Natchitoches, 238 F. Supp. 2d 793 (W.D. La. 2002). [N/R]
Arrestee's federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had surgically implanted an electronic tracking device in his body could not be dismissed as "fantastic and delusional" since it raised factual questions and the arrestee was not proceeding as a pauper, having paid a filing fee, so that the provisions of 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915 for the screening of frivolous pauper lawsuits did not apply. Official capacity claims, however, were barred against FBI and DEA agents under the Federal Tort Claims Act, FTCA, 28 U.S.C. Secs. 2401 and 2675, since the plaintiff failed to file claims with the agencies as required by the statute. Marino v. Gammel, 191 F. Supp. 2d 243 (D. Mass. 2002). [N/R]
Attorney's continued "frivolous" filings after a warning from the court warranted a $1,000 fine and other sanctions. Lawyer, reacting to the trial court's concern that his 34-page civil rights complaint against various police departments "cannot be understood" responded with a 160-page "Amended Complaint" which "compounded the difficulties" and asserted claims that were "legally and factually nonsensical." Leuallen v. Borough of Paulsboro, 180 F. Supp. 2d 615 (D.N.J. 2002). [2002 LR May]
319:102 City was entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and costs against plaintiffs and their attorney in case where it was frivolously alleged, without sufficient evidence, that city failed to evacuate black residents in the same manner as non-black residents following chemical plant explosion. Walker v. City of Bogalusa, #97-31331, 168 F.3d 237 (5th Cir. 1999).
302:24 Plaintiff and his attorney ordered to pay $3,000 each in sanctions to court clerk, as well as a total of $3,157.15 in attorneys' fees and court costs to defendant officer and judge in lawsuit court stated was "frivolous from the start." Ivy v. Kimbrough, 115 F.3d 550 (8th Cir. 1997).
307:106 Arrestee's claim that his arrests, incarcerations, and all court proceedings against him were unconstitutional because courtroom flag had a yellow fringe around it and/or an eagle on top of flag pole found "frivolous and sanctionable," trial court rejects "American flag of peace" claim. Schneider v. Schlaefer, 975 F.Supp. 1160 (E.D. Wis. 1997).
310:152 "Rambling" 28-page complaint filed by man who earlier pled guilty to misdemeanor theft charges, and who sought over a half-a-billion dollars of damages on various claims against "everybody in sight," was properly dismissed by federal court when underlying conviction had
never been overturned; appeals court also upholds award of $9,681.95 in sanctions against plaintiff's attorney. Anderson v. County of Montgomery, 111 F.3d 494 (7th Cir. 1997).
294:90 Plaintiff's claim that there was a vast conspiracy of law enforcement, entertainment, and sports figures trying to control her personal life and contaminate her with germs was "so bizarre and delusional" that court dismissed suit as not invoking its jurisdiction O'Brin v. U.S. Dept of Justice, 927 F.Supp. 382 (D.Ariz 1995), aff'd, 76 F.3d 387 (9th Cir. 1996).
298:154 Restaurant patron's lawsuit arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was threatened with arrest unless he paid for allegedly overdone steak was frivolous; appeals court imposes $18,000 attorneys' fees sanction for pursuing appeal of dismissal; U.S. Supreme Court denies review of case Schlessinger v. Salimes, 100 F.3d 519 (7th Cir. 1996), cert denied, 117 S.Ct. 2481, 1997 U.S. Lexis 3888 (June 23, 1997).
Federal court dismisses plaintiff's civil rights lawsuit against officer on its own motion after judge is convinced it is frivolous Roby v. Skupien, 762 F.Supp. 813 (N.D.Ill. 1991).
Any person signing papers submitted to court in frivolous federal lawsuits can be assessed monetary sanctions, whether or not they are an attorney Business Guides, Inc v. Chromatic Communications Enterprises, Inc, 111 S.Ct. 922 (1991); Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarax Corp, 110 S ct 2447 (1990); Paveliv & LeFlore v. Marvel Entertainment Group, 110 S.Ct. 456 (1989).
Complaint that officers failed to respond to "911" dismissed as frivolous, racially motivated Jordan v. City of Miami, Dept of Police, 720 F.Supp. 1543 (S.D.Fla 1989).
Political activists and organizations who alleged they were targets of unconstitutional police surveillance causing harm to their reputations could bring civil rights class action against city Riggs v. City of Albuquerque, 916 F.2d 582 (10th Cir. 1990).
Protest permit could be denied for white supremacist group which wished to protest on the same day previously reserved for dedication of a civil rights monument based on city officials' belief that they could not ensure public safety if both groups demonstrated at same location nor have adequate manpower to supervise both groups if the demonstration was held elsewhere Holland v. Wilson, 737 F.Supp. 82 (M.D. Ala 1989).
Federal Appeals Court finds that profanities and obscene gestures directed at police officer by car passenger were speech and conduct protected by the First Amendment Duran v. City of Douglas, Arizona, 904 F.2d 1372 (9th Cir. 1990).
Police officers violated news photographer's first amendment rights by restricting his access to accident site more than required to prevent interference with police functions Cornell v. Town of Hudson, 733 F.Supp. 465 (DNH 1990).
Ordinance allowing establishment of police lines to "prevent, suppress or contain" events allowed unconstitutional discretion to prevent events protected by first amendment Leonardson v. City of East Lansing, 896 F.2d 190 (6th Cir. 1990).
Placing of police barricade in front of abortion clinic did not violate protester's first amendment rights Thompson v. Police Dept of City of New York, 546 N.Y.S.2d 945 (Supp 1989).
Court dismisses lawsuit by woman who claimed FBI and CIA continuously "drugged and hypnotized" her; allegations appeared "to be delusional." Engle v. USA, 736 F.Supp. 670 (D.Md 1989).
Sanctions proper against attorneys who failed to reevaluate lawsuit when discovery showed it was unwarranted; good faith, however, prevented "harsh" sanctions Yancey v. Carroll County, Ky, 674 F.Supp. 572 (E.D. Ky 1987).
Rule 11 sanctions for frivolous lawsuits apply to arrestee who served as own attorney. Moore v. Surles, 673 1398 (E.D.N.C. 1987).
Defendants entitled to attorney's fees and double costs because of frivolous brief Hamblen v. County of Los Angeles, 803 F.2d 462 (9th Cir. 1986).
Tape and police photograph did not clearly require withdrawal of claim; sanctions against attorney reversed Oliveri v. Thompson, 803 F.2d 1265 (2nd Cir. 1986).
list of subjects Back
to Legal Publications Menu