Should Gay Rights Advocating Tennessee Student Assaulted By Principal Sue?
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 principalâ€™s actions would be criminal. But thereâ€™s no reason Sigler has to wait and see whether the district attorney will pursue the case â€“ a case which, in any event, wonâ€™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. Hereâ€™s a blueprint for his claims, based only on what Iâ€™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 â€“ 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. Siglerâ€™s mom says she walked in to see Moser â€œleaning over [her son] and shouting in his face.â€ Thatâ€™s an assault â€“ another tort that doesnâ€™t require proof of actual damages, because, again, the law wants to protect peopleâ€™s dignity against this sort of affront. Allowing such actions is also a deterrent against similar behavior in the future â€“ 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 arenâ€™t crazy about this tort (because it’s difficult to draw its boundaries), under certain circumstances itâ€™s entirely appropriate. Recall Albert Snyderâ€™s claim against Fred Phelpsâ€™s wackos â€“ a jury awarded him millions for the actions of Westboro Baptist â€œChurchâ€ in disrupting his sonâ€™s funeral. (He didnâ€™t end up collecting, thanks to the Supreme Courtâ€™s ill-advised ruling that these cretins were protected by the First Amendment; thereâ€™s no such issue here.)
I think the emotional distress claim has some traction here. Isnâ€™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 â€“ because this tort does require harm â€“ 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 arenâ€™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 donâ€™t generally favor civil suits as a way of dealing with the problem of bullying. Theyâ€™re an incomplete, hit-and-miss approach that doesnâ€™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 Lawyer’s ‘Critical Evidence’ Will Help DOJ Make Decision to Charge ‘Without Significant Delay’: Former Prosecutor
Donald Trump‘s attorney Evan Corcoran, who allegedly directed another Trump attorney to draft the false statement claiming all classified and sensitive documents had been returned, has been ordered to testify before a grand jury and hand over documents and records to Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents criminal investigation.
Trump appealed U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s decision ordering Corcoran to testify and hand over documents, including handwritten notes. The Appeals Court in light speed mode, rejected Trump’s appeal.
Corcoran will be testifying before the grand jury on Friday, CNN reports.
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One former top DOJ official, Brandon Van Grack, says the “Special Counsel is about to get access to the most critical evidence in the case. Should allow DOJ to make a charging decision without significant delay.”
He did not define what “without significant delay” means in terms of days, weeks, or months.
Van Grack served at Main Justice for eleven years, including as a lead prosecutor in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and later, as the Chief of the DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit.
“The announcement from a panel of three judges in the appeals court – less than a day after Trump sought to put Corcoran’s testimony on hold – adds momentum to the special counsel investigation as it seeks to secure evidence that could make or break a federal criminal case against Trump,” CNN explains. “The Justice Department has successfully argued in court that prosecutors have enough evidence that Trump’s interactions with the lawyer were part of a possible crime that they can pierce the confidentiality of the conversations between the two.”
‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs
A former top Dept. of Justice official says a federal judge’s expedited ruling ordering an attorney for Donald Trump to testify against his client before a grand jury and hand over documents very well may be related to “national security.”
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith had successfully made the case Donald Trump may have committed a crime, via his attorneys, in his classified documents case. That finding allowed her to invoke the crime-fraud exception, and order Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury investigating the ex-president’s unlawful retention and refusal to return hundreds of classified documents.
Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and headed the DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section, Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC said it’s possible Judge Howell’s expedited decisions were related to national security.
Tuesday night Judge Howell ordered DOJ to provide information by 6:00 AM Wednesday.
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Trump appealed Howell’s ruling, and Wednesday afternoon the Appeals Court denied his appeal related to the documents, Politico reports.
“I’ve never seen anything that quick. It’s very hard to know why. I have to say, to me, when I think about what can be a plausible reason– and this is pure speculation – is that there must be something in the papers that gave the judges concern about national security implications, because it’s such a short timeframe.”
“The reason this is a bombshell is you could end up with Evan Corcoran as a key, fundamental witness against Donald Trump in an obstruction of justice case and a false statements case,” Weissmann adds.
According to Politico, Wednesday’s appeals court ruling “effectively permits the Justice Department to circumvent Trump’s attorney-client privilege after a lower-court judge found that the documents likely contain evidence of a crime.”
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This article was updated to correctly spell Andrew Weissmann’s last name.
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Trump Appeals After Judge Agrees With Special Counsel on Crime-Fraud Exception and Requires His Attorney to Testify
Donald Trump’s attorneys have appealed a ruling that requires one of his lawyers to testify before a grand jury investigating his unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return classified documents from the White House.
Attorneys for the Special Counsel “said there is evidence of a deliberate effort not to turn over all the material covered by the subpoena,” The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell had reportedly agreed with Special Counsel Smith that there is sufficient evidence proving Donald Trump may have committed a crime via his attorneys, and ruled his attorney must testify before a grand jury. The ruling, which was not made public, was handed down Friday night, NBC News reported Wednesday afternoon.
Judge Howell “ruled in favor of applying the ‘crime fraud’ exception to Trump’s attorney-client privilege and ordered Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify before the federal grand jury.”
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Trump’s attorneys have already appealed the ruling.
“People familiar with the matter said an appeals panel has already begun reviewing the decision, after Trump’s lawyers appealed,” The Washington Post adds. “The extraordinarily quick timeline suggests that the judges — all nominated by Democratic presidents — intend to rule swiftly.”
Trump could take his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but The Post says it’s “not clear he would have a much better chance of success there.”
According to an NBC News report from October, Corcoran directed another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign the letter claiming a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago had been made and all classified or “sensitive” documents had been returned. That was proven untrue after federal agents, executing a search warrant, recovered hundreds of documents with classified markings.
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