The police cannot violate your rights. You have the right not to be falsely arrested. You also have the right not to be subjected to excessive force. These rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Police misconduct litigation can be tricky; officers are entitled to qualified immunity, which allows them to dismiss the lawsuit if they acted in good faith, even if 20/20 hindsight says they broke the law. We have experience in handling police misconduct cases, and some of our cases have become well-known precedents in the area.
We have many success stories in this area. As a young attorney, Stephen Bergstein briefed and argued Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845 (2d Cir. 1996), one of the leading false arrest cases in our jurisdiction. More recently, in Grant v. Lockett, 2021 WL 5816245 (2d Cir. 2021), the Court of Appeals upheld a police brutality verdict that produced a verdict in the amount of $1.6 million against the City of Syracuse. The City's attorneys argued that the trial court denied them a fair trial in the introduction of certain evidence and the jury instructions. The Court of Appeals rejected those arguments, sustaining the verdict in full, entitling the plaintiff and his wife to one of the police misconduct verdicts ever upheld on appeal.
Another appellate victory in 2021 was Edwards v Quiros, 986 F.3d 187 (2d Cir. 2021), where the trial court vacated (or dismissed) a jury verdict in favor of an inmate who was denied exercise in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court of Appeals reinstated the verdict following Stephen Bergstein's oral argument.
In 2020, we assisted in sustaining a verdict won by a New York State inmate who was beaten up by several correction officers who, the jury found, assaulted him without any justification. The trial court held that the evidence supported the verdict and that the damages award, in the amount of $650,000 (including punitive damages) was not excessive. Anderson v. Osborne, 2020 WL 6151249 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 2020).
In 2018, we persuaded the Court of Appeals to reinstate a false arrest claim on behalf of a teacher who was arrested for allegedly endangering the welfare of a child, The Court of Appeals said our client can prevail at trial on her claim that she was falsely accused of mistreating a student in class (the prosecution dropped the charges against her). Pehush v. Ashworth, 757 Fed. Appx. 47 (2d Cir. 2018).
In another recent case, we upheld a jury verdict on behalf of a young plaintiff who prevailed at trial against a City of Poughkeepsie police officer who falsely arrested him. Dancy v. McGinley, 843 F.3d 93 (2d Cir. 2017). Dancy is now a well-known case on the issue of racial profiling and proper jury instructions.
And we are currently litigating a case against the City of Kingston Police Department and the County of Ulster where law enforcement separated children from their parents for one week after falsely accusing the parents of neglect. The trial court agreed with us in ruling the case may proceed on the merits. Callwood v. City of Kingston, 2020 WL 2838602 (N.D.N.Y. 2020).