Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Villegas Case Is Headed Back to Federal District Court

Posted by on Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 5:19 AM

Back in 2008, Juana Villegas, who was pregnant and due any day, was arrested during a traffic stop and brought to jail. When she went into labor, she was brought to the hospital, where she was shackled to her bed. No one disputes these facts. A jury awarded her $200,000 to compensate for the trauma, and the city continues to be a big baby about it. So, even though $200,000 is basically peanuts, the city continues to burn through even more money appealing.

Well, it kind of paid off for them on Monday. The City Paper reports:

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the district court ruling that granted Juana Villegas summary judgment and lead to a jury awarding her $200,000 in damages after a trial.

The appeals court also remanded Juana Villegas v. The Metro. Gov’t of Nashville back to federal district court in Nashville for further proceedings.

Metro attorneys had also asked the 6th Circuit to reassign the Villegas case to another federal judge, claiming that U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes was biased against them.

The 6th Circuit Court denied Metro’s request stating that it failed to find evidence that Haynes’ criticisms of the Metro attorneys fell in the realm of favoritism or antagonism.

But the best part is Sheriff Daron Hall's quote: "We are pleased with today’s reversal. The decision highlights that issues like those in this case should be resolved by juries rather than judges, which reinforces our decision to appeal the summary judgment ruling. I believe our officers followed accepted correctional practices and we look forward to continuing the legal process.”

Lord almighty, I hope we're not letting the sheriff decide important things like whether to appeal court cases. I mean, if ever there's a public official in this town who has proven that he sometimes makes terrible decisions, it is Sheriff "I accidentally spoke to a White Pride group!" Hall.

But this part — "I believe our officers followed accepted correctional practices" — is the best/worst. Really? So, if everyone shackles laboring women to their beds (and remember, Villegas hadn't even been tried for anything and was still innocent in the eyes of the law), it makes it OK?

Here's the thing about what "everybody" does. Sometimes everybody's wrong. And even if Hall gets a new jury to vindicate his policies, it's not going to change that moral truth.

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