Defense Verdict in Civil Rights Lawsuit

Another success for Allen, Glaessner, Hazelwood & Werth was obtained by Dale Allen with a defense verdict in David Morse v. San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District et al. This was Dale’s second defense verdict this year for a police officer.

Tried before Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, the case determined whether journalist plaintiff David Morse’s arrest was motivated by a retaliatory animus for his protected speech. After his associate Kevin Allen was successful in obtaining dismissals by summary adjudication of Fourth Amendment unlawful arrest and state-law false imprisonment claims, Dale went to trial to defend the sole remaining claim of retaliatory arrest against defendant BART Deputy Police Chief Dan Hartwig at trial.

Mr. Morse alleged that Chief Hartwig ordered his arrest during a demonstration at the Powell Street BART and MUNI station in September of 2011. The demonstration was one of a series of protests of two high profile police shootings by the BART Police. The protest was called for and took place at the Powell St. BART and MUNI station, in the heart of San Francisco, during rush hour with the avowed intent to so congest the free area that patrons would not be able to use the system unless the police opened the emergency gates of the station. Mr. Morse, a journalist with an independent media group that posted to a website called Indybay, was arrested during the demonstration on the order of Chief Hartwig as an active participant in the demonstration after he failed to leave the group that was blocking the station access and exit. Morse claimed he was unconstitutionally targeted for arrest at the demonstration in retaliation for exercising his right of free speech, including hundreds of articles highly critical of BART officials and the BART Police. Chief Hartwig testified that his sole reason for arresting Morse was because he violated the law, and testified that he told Morse that just because he had a press pass doesn’t mean he can violate the law. The jury agreed and returned a unanimous verdict rejecting Mr. Morse’s claims.