Just today, a federal jury awarded two men almost 650,000 for their illegal detention for over a month by the Orleans Parish Sheriff after Hurricane Katrina. The men had been arrested just two days before Katrina on public drunk charges, which typically results in at most a night in jail. Read the Times Picayune article here:
Now, I wasn’t in court when the verdict came down, so I’m not sure of the details, but from this article it seems the jury came back with a verdict for the plaintiffs only on their state law claims. It seems that the plaintiffs may have lost on the federal constitutional claims. If that’s the case, then the plaintiffs will face the precise problem with collecting on the judgment that I flagged in my last post. That is, can you collect on a state-law claim that piggy backs into federal court on a federal civil rights claim, when you lose on the federal claim? Given Louisiana’s constitutional provisions prohibiting seizure of state property to satisfy a judgment, coupled with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69, that is a tough question to answer in the civil rights context. It will be interesting to see if this case ultimately sheds some light on that issue.