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Plaintiff: Sonia Atkins

Defendant: Metropolitan Police Department

Damages Sought: $40,000

Complaint: Atkins had some trouble with her neighbors. She claims that one woman from her building assaulted and robbed her and that another sicced the cops on her. “I am asking the courts to grant a restraining [order] against the Metropolitan Police Department for my safety,” Atkins writes. “There has been several times the police have come to harass me, and if continued would do harm to me.”

Quality of Representation: Modernist. Both this complaint and the first chapter of The Sound and the Fury string together incidents with no apparent connection. Faulkner writes that way to evoke Benjy Compson’s troubled mind. Atkins just writes that way. Consider this account: “I opened my door, and I asked again ‘How can I help you officer?’ He stated the lady downstairs several times. I asked him what lady are you referring to? He asked me what happened today? I asked the officer ‘What are you referring to?’ The officer said ‘You are about to be arrested.’ It was very upsetting, so I excused myself and closed my door.”

Summary Judgment: Try Hemingway next time. Atkins’ failure to lay out a coherent narrative is somewhat mitigated by the facts laid out in a court order issued in June to prohibit her from coming near one of her neighbors. With this knowledge, we can work backward through her story and infer this sequence: Atkins was checking her mail on May 16. She ran into the neighbor who asked for the stay-away order, and this woman called the police, and that’s why an officer ended up knocking on Atkins’ door. Case dismissed.