Atlanta lawyer lands SCOTUS case
4:59 pm, November 15th, 2013
SCOTUSblog reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case in which an Atlanta lawyer is representing police officers sued over the death of a fleeing motorist. Philip Savrin says he expects to handle oral argument for the officers at the high court, pending client confirmation. The argument in Plumhoff v. Rickard, expected to take place in February, would be Savrin’s second in a police-chase case handled by the Supreme Court.
Savrin represents members of the West Memphis, Ark., police department sued over the death of Donald Rickard, who lost control of his vehicle after being shot by police officers following a high-speed chase. A federal district court judge in Tennessee denied officers’ bid for qualified immunity from excessive force claims, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the ruling in November. Savrin, a lawyer at Freeman Mathis & Gary, became involved in the case after the Sixth Circuit ruled.
Savrin won a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court case, Scott v. Harris, for a Coweta County police officer sued over injuries suffered by the plaintiff during a high-speed chase. In his certiorari petition for the West Memphis officers, Savrin criticized the Sixth Circuit’s attempts to distinguish the Scott decision, with Savrin contending the only significant difference between the two cases is that at the time police used force in Scott, the suspect was driving at a high rate of speed, whereas Rickard had turned his car around and was trying to speed away. Savrin argued that an officer still had to step out of the way to avoid being hit by Rickard’s car, and, by then, Rickard had shown he was “determined to elude capture at all costs.”
Memphis lawyer Gary Smith, who represents Rickard’s minor child, argued in his response that the most important difference between the two cases is that Scott involved an officer ramming a suspect’s vehicle, while Rickard’s case involved gunfire by police.