Federal Judge Brian Miller has affirmed his decision to dismiss the city of Little Rock and former Police Chief Stuart Thomas as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the mother of Bobby Moore, killed by then-Office Josh Hastings in 2012.
In a 19-page decision filed Friday, the judge denied a motion to reconsider. He sharply contested arguments made by attorneys for Moore’s mother, Sylvia Perkins, that they had established a pattern of poor investigation of use of force by the Little Rock police and that the hiring of Hastings was a mistake sufficient to include them as defendants in the case.
The judge’s order faults Perkins’ attorney for cherry picking some facts and misrepresenting others.
The judge addressed something I’d mentioned in an earlier item on the request for reconsideration, a “phantom quote” cited by Perkins’ attorney, Mike Laux. Miller had cited an 8th Circuit case, but provided a quote from another case that said “investigation of a complaint is sufficient as a matter of law to defeat a claim that the city responded inadequately to information about . . . prior misconduct.” Miller acknowledged that the quote did not appear in the case he cited, but a different case. But he said his decision showed that he’d followed the 8th Circuit precedent that said deliberate indifference couldn’t be supported if a matter was investigated and an officer exonerated or disciplined.
Moore, a suspect in a car burglary, was shot while driving a car on an apartment complex parking lot by Hastings. The police investigation concluded Hastings hadn’t been truthful about events and he was prosecuted. Two manslaughter trials ended in hung juries and the case was dropped. He was fired from the police department and remains the sole defendant in the lawsuit alleging wrongful death.
Wrote Judge Miller:
The order granting summary judgment was based on the law of this circuit and it is the role of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the law was correctly applied. It is not the role of this court to determine whether the city of Little Rock or its police department operates perfectly. The “arbitrary parsing” of the evidence, as Perkins calls it, was based on the legal elements of her claims and on the quality of the arguments
made by the parties.
Miller said, among others, that Laux’s argument about a shoddy police investigation of Moore’s shooting was irrelevant to the question of discriminatory behavior by police in past investigations of use of force. He faulted the “conclusory” testimony of an expert witness who said a finding of excessive force in only 6 percent of more than 500 reviews of force established a “pattern and practice.” The judge said no evidence of specific cases had been offered and the expert said he had not reviewed individual cases. Bare statistics alone are insufficient, he said.
I asked Laux for a comment. He said:
“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling. However, we stand firmly by the assertions in the motion regarding the serious misstatement of the law, and we believe the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will validate our position. “