Shulman & Hill Secures Its First U.S. Supreme Court Victory

by Alex

Shulman & Hill is proud to announce its first U.S. Supreme Court victory on behalf of a father who was wrongfully accused of sexually abusing his newborn daughter. Because of our firm’s persistence and dedication, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the New York Police Department for the first time in over 40 years. 

We secured postal worker Larry Thompson’s right to sue the NYPD for malicious prosecution and civil rights violations. Our team did not hesitate to see this case through to the top to protect the rights and liberties promised by the constitution.

What Does the Decision Mean for Wrongfully Accused Individuals in the Future?

The first case of its kind since 1978, Thompson v. Clark, et al. defined what a “favorable termination” of the criminal charges means for someone who wants to pursue damages related to malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution. The team at Shulman & Hill secured a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling affirming that a lack of conviction qualifies as a favorable outcome for the accused. In other words, a person who is wrongfully accused of a crime may have a valid claim for malicious prosecution if they can prove that their criminal case ended without a conviction.

Challenges to Pursuing Justice Against the NYPD

When NYPD officers appeared at Thompson’s door in response to a 911 call placed by his mentally ill sister-in-law, he told them they could not enter without a warrant, but they forcibly entered Thompson’s home anyway. According to court documents, Thompson was charged with “obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest,” even though he was fully within his rights to deny them entry without a warrant. The medical professionals examining his daughter found no signs of abuse, and Thompson was released from jail after two days.

Criminal prosecutors later moved to dismiss the case before the prosecution ended, prompting Thompson to file a claim for damages against the NYPD. However, Lanning v. Glens Falls, 908 F. 3d 19, 22 (2018) sets a legal precedent which required Thompson to prove in District Court that the end of his criminal case represented an “affirmative indication of his innocence.” 

Because the prosecution did not explain their reasoning for moving to dismiss the case, Thompson could not affirm whether their dismissal was indicative of his innocence. The District Court, therefore, ruled that the end of Thompson’s criminal case did not affirmatively indicate his innocence, but that did not stop Shulman & Hill from taking the case further to the Supreme Court, where our attorneys proved that Thompson was, in fact, maliciously prosecuted and that a lack of conviction is a favorable outcome for a maliciously prosecuted individual and should therefore qualify as grounds to sue the prosecutors under the Fourth Amendment.

Shulman & Hill’s Civil Rights Partner Cary London said, “Malicious Prosecution is a cause of action that should be recognized nationally (in all districts) but has only been recognized in certain Federal Districts. It was extremely frustrating that there was not a huge body of favorable case law on the issue, and that the districts are split on the issue.”

Shulman & Hill’s Strategy for Success in the Supreme Court

The team at Shulman & Hill spent countless hours speaking to other civil rights lawyers, going through old decisions, and researching the new Supreme Court Justices to see what we thought they may respond favorably to. Perhaps the most crucial hurdle to cross was reassuring Thompson that this legal battle would be worth his time and patience, especially since his original case was dismissed in 2014. However, our team persevered on his behalf and encouraged him to see the case through to the end with us.

Were Your Rights Violated? Call a Civil Rights Lawyer Today

We are proud to have played such an integral part in this historic civil victory and are honored to help wrongfully arrested and maliciously prosecuted individuals obtain justice. Call our firm today to learn how we may be able to help in your case.

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