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7th Circuit blasts counsel, tosses race-based traffic-stop appeal

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An Elkhart man failed to show a traffic stop and drunken-driving arrest was unconstitutional in an appeal that a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected with an opinion blasting his lawyer’s work.

The panel affirmed summary judgment on behalf of the city of Elkhart, city police officers and others involved in the arrest in Kenny A. Jones, Sr. v. City of Elkhart, Indiana, et al., 12-3912.

Judge Theresa Springmann of the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond had ruled for the city on Jones’ claims that his arrest violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and that his race was a factor in the stop.

Jones was stopped in the early morning hours of Oct. 22, 2008, when Elkhart police said he was driving more than 50 mph in a 35-mph zone and that he crossed the center line. He appeared to be intoxicated, and a breath test revealed a blood alcohol content of .09 percent, just above the legal limit. He was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
 
Jones argued Elkhart police stopped him without probable cause and alleged the city had an institutionalized practice of “stopping of citizens without probable cause based on race.”

But Judge John Tinder wrote for the 7th Circuit panel that Springmann rightly found for the city by granting summary judgment on her own motion, noting that the panel was perplexed by Jones’ appeal that seemed to have waived the race argument.

“Counsel for Jones stated his claims broadly and vaguely. He listed a series of irrelevant facts untethered to any legal claims, and asserted constitutional injury without specifying what provisions of the Constitution were violated and how,” Tinder wrote.

“Unfortunately, on appeal, counsel fashioned his brief in a similar manner. … The argument section of Jones’s brief recite legal standards for the elements of the case but offer us no analysis on how to apply them to the facts at hand,” he wrote.

Springmann’s grant of summary judgment on her own motion was not improper, the panel held, noting defendants didn’t brief Jones’ equal protection argument in essence because it wasn’t clear from the pleadings what exactly he alleged.

“It is not difficult to see why Defendants had difficult grappling with the legal claims at play in this case,” Tinder wrote. “The complaint is drafted in broad, generalized strokes. … (I)t is by no means a clearly presented argument to which Defendants failed to respond, either out of irresponsible lawyering or some tactical decision to conceal the equal protection claim.”

       
 

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  • Overlooked Info here, Jose
    Justicia reveals the plaintiff counsel: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/circuit-courts/ca7/12-3912/
  • Agreed
    Agreed.
    • Permissive parenting-like
      This paper, and even the Seventh Circuit, blames Mr Jones for the fault of his greedy counsel. The attorney is charged with the duty of knowing if a case passes Rule 11 plausibility, which this one seems to fail, not the client. Yet whose name is tied to this total waste of judicial resources? Only Mr Jones, the client. His greedy attorney, seeking a payoff under 42 usc 1983, an attorney who evidently knows little about how to plead or defend such a claim, is rightly called to account, but done so, in the Court opinion on in this article, without a name. Where is the accountability in that? How can the market forces work? This is like the permissive parenting of the Sixties and beyond, and look how badly that is serving us as a social order.

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    1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

    2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

    3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

    4. I am sorry to hear this.

    5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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