3,451 days after being seized, detained, dragged out of my vehicle & arrested at an illegal general law enforcement roadblock conducted by Tohono O'odham Police Dept. officers with the assistance of Senior Special U.S. Customs agents along with dozens of U.S. Border Patrol agents, Checkpoint USA's lawsuit has finally settled for $210,000 exactly 3,087 days after it was filed.
Originally filed in AZ Superior Court on December 19, 2003, this suit came on the heels of a year long (successful) battle in Ajo Justice Court to defend myself against several malicious charges brought against me by the defendant police officers and their enabler in the Pima County Attorney's Office, Philip Perkins. The case was removed from Arizona's Superior Court against our wishes & moved to the Tucson Federal District Court in 2004. This after the defendant police officers enlisted the aid of the U.S. Attorney's Office to certify they were federal employees due to a contract with the BIA and therefor couldn't be sued in state court.
After successfully moving the case to federal district court, the United States substituted itself in as the defendant for the malicious prosecution charge and the police defendants went on to argue they couldn't be sued in federal court on the remaining claims. The basis for their position was that despite the fact they were enforcing state law along a state highway as duly sworn state peace officers at the roadblock in question and were also operating as federal contractors with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide general law enforcement services on the reservation, they represented the Tohono O'odham Nation and therefor enjoyed sovereign immunity from suit. After several years of legal wrangling around this issue, district court judge John Roll bought into their argument and dismissed the lawsuit in 2007.
This was how the case ended up in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later that same year before being remanded back to Tucson District Court in 2009 upon a largely successful appeal of Judge Roll's dismissal two years earlier.
After the successful appeal, the case languished in Judge Roll's court for nearly two more years during which time the judge failed or refused to schedule the case for further proceedings despite multiple requests to do so. This was where we were at until semi-retired 9th Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima took over the case after Judge Roll was shot & killed by gunman Jared Loughner at a Congresswoman Giffords event in January of 2011 in Tucson, AZ. After Judge Tashima took over the case, it underwent further discovery and was moving towards trial this month until settlement was reached & finalized on May 31, 2012.
During the course of the lawsuit, over 240 legal documents related to the case became part of the official court record. This breaks down to an average of roughly one new document filed with the court every 1.8 weeks over nearly nine years. I don't know how many pages make up all these documents but I do know they take up nearly two filing cabinet drawers in my office and hundreds of megabytes of disk space on my online lawsuit repository.
In addition to all the legal documents filed by both sides over the years, attorneys working on the case on my behalf logged somewhere on the order of 1,400 hours. While I don't know how many hours were logged by the U.S. Attorney's Office during the time frame it was involved or the attorneys working directly for the police defendants, it's most likely a similar order of magnitude. If this is accurate then somewhere around 3,000 hours were spent by attorneys on this case. Additionally, I'm fairly certain I spent at least as much time on the case as my attorneys and none of this analysis considers the amount of time the various courts/judges spent on it as well.
The purpose of the above analysis is to provide some measure of the level of effort that went into this lawsuit over the years. While a full review of the lawsuit and its implications are outside the scope of this blog entry (more to come later), I did want to establish a baseline for the work involved to serve as an indicator of just how appreciative I am of the support & assistance I received from so many people over the years. This includes everything from the countless supportive emails and comments I've received, the donations made by several individuals to help offset costs - especially during the early stages of the incident & the years of pro-bono legal assistance offered by different organizations and attorneys.
I want to give special thanks to the Identity Project, through the First Amendment Project, which assisted greatly with the case - especially during the time frame it was in the 9th circuit. And most importantly, I want to recognize the efforts of my attorney David Euchner who diligently worked this case from start to finish and did the lion's share of the legal work along with Ralph Ellinwood who signed on as co-counsel in April of 2010. Without their efforts, this case wouldn't have made it very far at all.
After the dust has settled and I've had more time to reflect on the case and its aftermath, I'll write a more detailed analysis of how I think things went and where to go from here but for now I wanted to provide a relatively brief overview of the genesis of the case for those less familiar with it along with timely public notice of the lawsuit's final disposition.
Once again, my thanks go out to all those who provided support and assistance over the years. Without it, there wouldn't be much to talk about today.
Below appears the legal documentation associated with final disposition of this case: