Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dan Thorne Jr v City of Steubenville: A Win For The Fourth Amendment & A Family re An Improper Warrantless Search of Their Residence

The United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati just recently held

in an unpublished but unamious decision that the City of Steubenville Police were NOT entitled

to qualified immunity when they jumped over a six foot privacy fence of the City residence of

the Dan and Sharon Thorne family located in Buena Vista Blvd, Steubenville, Ohio and then

improperly pursued their only son inside his own backyard and then minutes later falsely

arrested him on unrelated underage drinking charges, inside his own residence, all unrelated to

the just prior illegal search of the backyard residence. This was all done in violation of the

plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution, according to the Sixth Circuit,

in the Court's decision upholding the original well written United State's District Court opinion

issued last December.

The case had alleged not only an improper search and false arrest but also a very serious

excessive force claim as well, within a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the Thornes and

their original civil rights lawyer, Richard A. Olivito in January of 2005.

"This decision is literally just a breathtaking win in so many ways for not only the plaintiffs

family and the hard fought efforts of the same, but for everyone who worked on the

underlying case, with all the personal hardships and risks such plaintiffs undertake and have

to endure as civil rights litigants inside an oftentimes unforgiving and uncertain riskly legal


The family who brought this case paid not only a price in terms of what happened

originally to them and their only young adult son, but in terms of just having to endure the

worst of an out of control particular insurance defense lawyer in the lower court, for the law

firm defending the city and it officers, who defended the case, at times, in an extremely

personal negative manner for the city,"
Olivito states.

What is so special is that the Bill of Rights and in particular the Fourth Amendment

safeguards were not only endorsed within this sometimes bitterly fought case, but

such protections were afforded their complete lawful due and their intended broad

interpretation as it ought to be when it comes to local police officers attempting to justify

an otherwise infirm warrantless search of a family's backyard for no real reason, where no

crime was committed and there no evidence of any kind existed to justify such an extreme set

of multiple violations of the Fourth Amendment's safeguards against unreasonable searches

and seizures as described inside this case's pleadings.

Olivito says, "This outcome is what makes everyone associated on the plaintiff's side of

such a complex constitutional case, who have had to endure so much, so worthwhile."

He adds, "the Thorne family derserves the immense credit for just simply believing deeply in

the Constitution, in themselves and being unfraid in the face of so much opposition and constant

highly orchestrated efforts to discourage them from truly bringing this case to this point. When

it works, however, at this stage, the entire legal system can be a thing of beauty."

"My own sometimes present deeply cynical world view of the present status of the

American's ability to vindicate their fundamental and special rights simply as guaranteed to

them as American citizens by our nation's first principles was completely blown away by this

very unique, practical and brilliant yet very conservative set of mainly republican federal high

court of appeals appointees.

Its simply something to behold and I wish everyone who is interested in what

is happening to the erosion of American's civil liberties could have been present

for this case's oral arguments and experience just how powerful true American

'conservative' values are and how majestic it is when a real court of law operates
in such an amazingly consistent fashion with the higher ideals and purposes of

this nation's founding fathers."

The Thorne case is now remanded back by the conservative justices of the Sixth Circuit

to the Clinton appointee U.S. District Court Judge, Judge Algenon Marbley, of Columbus, whose

thirty five page original opinion on the intricacies of the underlying issues of American's Fourth

Amendment protections was both clearly and fully upheld, but also completely vindicated.

Olivito also notes, "Attorney James McNamara picked up exactly where

we left off last fall and he deserves his usual solid praise for his appellate briefing

of the case before the Sixth Circuit and his professional presentation of the same

at the oral arguments in opposition to the chief counsel for the city insurer

defense law firm of Mazenec, Raskin and Ryder.

"Jim and I go way back, he's one who taught me much originally about such

cases years ago and it was an honor to have him come in at such a critical

juncture in this case and like a somewhat older brother and a great veteran

baseball pitcher, just do what he does and take the game and make it into yet

another save for everyone on our side."

This victory was particularly sweet since the Sixth Circuit argument and

decision came so quickly and right within the same month and week of the 10 year
anniversary of the signing of the nation's first fully federally investigated

Department of Justice consent decree regarding pattern and practice police

misconduct pertaining to the City of Steubenville, a very unique and special effort
resulting from both Attorney McNamara, Olivito's and others, like Skip

Mixon's, long and uniquely dedicated efforts regarding the same.

"It's so good to know, that even at this time in our lives, by some severe mercy,

we together can still make a difference for not only clients like the Thorne family

regarding such eggregarious police misconduct claims for the entire Steubenville

region, if not the midwest, as well, constitutionally speaking."

"It may be the last time I get to work with central Ohio's master of civil rights

police litigation" speaking of Columbus Attorney James McNamara."

Olivito, added thereafter, in his somewhat tongue in cheek fashion,

"After this unanamous conservative high court opinion, I might even have to

consider becoming a republican and join Jim this time, for one of many of those

superb Ronald Reagan-Tip Oneil' Irish toasts that he sometimes

enjoys! ...smilingly of course...

But the present smiles belie the many deeply concealed battle wounds, of

Olivito's own sacrifices along the way and such present easy moments were not

always there...for most of this case's two year journey; a odyssy only the Thorne

family themselves, Attorney Olivito and family friend Skip Mixon can fully


"No one will ever know exactly what they have all endured and how many long

nights and days it took them to get to this point." Olivito adds, when speaking

of his friend Dan Thorne Sr and his family and their friend Skip Mixon.

What is especially meaningful for me is this decision comes on the 10th

anniversary of the signing of the original consent decree concerning this

same city police department. "What a anniversay gift the Sixth Circuit

provided to us when they stood up for the average american fundamental

rights under the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment ten years

to the same week that the historical decree was formally entered into

in 1997. I'll never forget that period in my life and this is just yet another

similar kind of breakthru..."

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