Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Retention of records by police

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This is an interesting one for litigation geeks.

Case: GAGAIN v. SCIRPO, Dist. Court, D. Connecticut 2013

What happened: Plaintiff sought police records of her arrest, allegedly in contemplation of a civil suit against various Wolcott, Connecticut police officers. The Wolcott police department said that the arrest records had been destroyed, so, instead of bringing a civil suit for false arrest, plaintiff sued based on the destruction of the arrest records.

Decision: Judge Haight was doubtful that the arrest records really had been destroyed, and was highly critical of the Wolcott Police Department for keeping these records away from the plaintiff. Nevertheless, it was held that plaintiff did not need the records to bring a civil suit against the Wolcott officers, that she should have brought the civil suit and then obtained the records through discovery, and that her failure to do this effectively destroyed her “backward-looking right of access claim” under the First Amendment (1A).

Criticism: I am not sure that a civil suit for false arrest would have made it to the discovery phase, so Judge Haight’s suggested course of action might well have turned out just as futile as what plaintiff did. Furthermore, it seems like, for reasons of judicial economy, courts would want plaintiffs to have access to “their” police records without the need to file a civil suit. For example, in some cases, the substance of the disclosed records might discourage the plaintiff from filing any lawsuit.

Written by Burgers Allday

January 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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