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Should Gay Rights Advocating Tennessee Student Assaulted By Principal Sue?

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A Tennessee high school student was allegedly assaulted by his principal. Why? Because the kid, one Chris Sigler, had the temerity to continue pushing for the school to establish a gay-straight alliance.

If proven, the principal’s actions would be criminal. But there’s no reason Sigler has to wait and see whether the district attorney will pursue the case – a case which, in any event, won’t directly benefit Sigler. Instead, he might want to file a civil claim against Moser. He potentially has three distinct claims: battery; assault; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here’s a blueprint for his claims, based only on what I’ve read:

In tort law, a defendant commits a battery where he intends to make an unprivileged contact against someone, and contact results. No damages are needed for this tort claim to be successful, because this ancient tort also protects our personal dignity. If Sigler was indeed grabbed, shoved, and chest-bumped, he has a claim.

He also could sue for assault – confusingly, assault means two quite different things under criminal and tort law, and we usually think of assault in the criminal law sense: a physical attack against another person. Under civil (tort) law, though, that’s a battery. Assault, for tort purposes, means that the defendant intends to cause, and causes, the victim to apprehend (not quite the same as fear) imminent contact. Sigler’s mom says she walked in to see Moser “leaning over [her son] and shouting in his face.” That’s an assault – another tort that doesn’t require proof of actual damages, because, again, the law wants to protect people’s dignity against this sort of affront. Allowing such actions is also a deterrent against similar behavior in the future – by this defendant, and by like-minded miscreants.

Finally, Sigler might have a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. This tort requires conduct that is extreme and outrageous, that is at least reckless in causing emotional distress, and that actually does cause severe emotional distress.

Although courts aren’t crazy about this tort (because it’s difficult to draw its boundaries), under certain circumstances it’s entirely appropriate. Recall Albert Snyder’s claim against Fred Phelps’s wackos – a jury awarded him millions for the actions of Westboro Baptist “Church” in disrupting his son’s funeral. (He didn’t end up collecting, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ill-advised ruling that these cretins were protected by the First Amendment; there’s no such issue here.)

I think the emotional distress claim has some traction here. Isn’t a principal pushing and shoving a student, and screaming at him, extreme and outrageous? And why was he doing it, if not to cause fear and emotional distress? If Sigler can prove that severe distress resulted – because this tort does require harm – he can recover for this, as well. And this tort, unlike the others, would examine the whole course of conduct by Moser, not just the incident giving rise to the assault and battery claims.

There might also be a claim against the school district for its actions in allowing the kind of bullying that led students to push for a gay-straight alliance in the first place, and perhaps even for the actions of Moser if he was found to be acting within the scope of his employment.

What might Sigler get out of this, if his damages aren’t great?

Plenty. Courts and juries really disfavor defendants who commit intentional torts. Punitive damages are available to punish people like Moser and to send a message to others that this kind of crap will no longer be tolerated. The publicity that such a suit would generate would draw attention to the unconscionable way that an educator was treating a student, and might have the added benefit of forcing Moser out of his job. And he might end up having to pay Chris Sigler thousands of dollars in actual and (mostly) punitive damages. If the case were proved, such a result would be justice.

As I detailed in this on-line article, I don’t generally favor civil suits as a way of dealing with the problem of bullying. They’re an incomplete, hit-and-miss approach that doesn’t necessarily lead to systemic change. But where a high school principal is himself the bully? By all means: Sue him. And get him out of there.

 
Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.
 

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Trump Goes on Wild Rant Targeting Judge and Attorney General After Being Found Liable for Fraud

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Donald Trump unleashed a wild rant Wednesday morning, targeting the New York attorney general and the Manhattan Supreme Court judge in the State of New York’s $250 million civil case against him. The judge on Tuesday declared the ex-president had committed fraud for years in building his real estate empire and ordered his business certificates revoked and holdings dissolved.

Trump has been warned to not make public attacks against or attempts to intimidate witnesses or officers of the court, or prejudice jurors in one of the criminal cases he is currently facing. Two weeks ago, after appearing to not heed those warnings, the Special Counsel prosecuting the ex-president for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election asked the judge presiding over that case to limit his speech.

Wednesday morning, Trump called New York Attorney General Letitia James “Racist.” He called Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron “Deranged,” and “Trump Hating,” alleging he had “made up this crazy ‘KILL TRUMP’ decision, assigning insanely low values to properties.” Trump wrote the judge valued his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence at $18 million, and claimed (in all-caps) “it is worth possibly 100 times that amount.”

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The judge, however, according to The Hill, “found Trump consistently overvalued Mar-a-Lago, inflating its value on one financial statement by at least 2,300 percent. The ruling pointed to a Palm Beach County Assessor’s appraisal from 2011-2021, which estimated Mar-a-Lago’s value between $18 million and $27.6 million.”

“In his order,” The New York Times reported Tuesday, “Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. ‘In defendants’ world,’ he wrote, ‘rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.'”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” the judge concluded.

At the end of his diatribe Wednesday, Trump declared: “There is also an IRONCLAD DISCLAIMER CLAUSE!”

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General
 

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Trump Organization Given ‘Corporate Death Penalty’ and Ordered Dissolved by Judge After ‘Persistent Fraud’: Legal Experts

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A New York judge has ordered Donald Trump’s business entities in the state of New York, including The Trump Organization, dissolved, and his business certificates canceled, according to legal experts, after ruling that the ex-president for years committed fraud and deceived banks and insurers by inflating the value of his assets.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron “has ordered cancellation of all [NYS] business [certificates] of ‘any entity controlled or beneficially owned by Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr, Eric Trump, Alan Weisselberg, & Jeffrey McConney. An independent receiver will manage the dissolutions,” writes former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega.

The Messenger reports Judge Engoron’s “blockbuster ruling found that the former president and his business leaders failed to correct course after warned of a ‘propensity to engage in persistent fraud,'” and ordered “a quick timeline to dissolve the Trump Organization and other corporate entities.”

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MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin explains that the “New York trial court judge has found that Trump, his adult sons, and Allen Weisselberg engaged in a persistent, years-long fraud through ‘fantasy world’ valuations of core Trump assets, including his own residence and various golf courses and office buildings.”

“His decision not only eliminates the need for trial on that claim, but also orders fairly dramatic relief: the cancellation of New York business certificates for all of the entities named as defendants, ‘as well as any other entity controlled or beneficially owned by the individual defendants found liable,'” she adds.

“In addition to finding that Trump committed fraud, the judge canceled the certificates of various Trump businesses, appointed a former judge as an independent monitor of the Trump Organization, and will appoint receivers to manage the canceled LLCs,” writes former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

“This is a pretty big deal,” he adds.

Professor of law Ryan Goodman, the former Dept. of Defense Special Counsel says Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered the “corporate death penalty” for the Trump organization. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance also used the term “corporate death penalty.”

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

“The leading Republican candidate has been found liable for sexual assault and fraud, his companies found guilty of fraud, and he’s charged with 91 OTHER felony counts. That he is not dismissed politically out of hand says much more about us, than about him,” observes MSNBC’s Andrew Weissmann, the well-known former lead prosecutor in Robert S. Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office and former FBI General Counsel.

Attorney, retired U.S. Air Force colonel, and former administrative law judge Moe Davis responding to the news, writes: “Trump is the eponymous fraudster. The name Trump is to fraud what Campell’s is to soup, Kleenex is to tissue, and ping is to pong.”

 

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Trump Committed Fraud and Deceived Banks While Growing His Real Estate Empire, Judge Says: Report

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Donald Trump committed fraud, deceived banks, and inflated the value of his real estate holdings a judge said Tuesday, granting New York Attorney General Letitia James partial summary judgment in her civil case against the ex-president.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron “has ruled that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House,” The Associated Press reports. Judge Engoron “found that the former president and his company deceived banks, insurers and others by massively overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.”

“The decision, days before the start of a non-jury trial in Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, is the strongest repudiation yet of Trump’s carefully coiffed image as a wealthy and shrewd real estate mogul turned political powerhouse,” The AP adds.

Attorney General James “is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York, his home state. The trial could last into December, Engoron has said.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Now Blaming Likely Shutdown on Fentanyl, President Biden, and His Own House Republicans
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