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Plaintiff: Joel Thomas Hall

Defendants: Police Chief “Kathy” Lanier, Metropolitan Police, Officers Jose Freeman and “Benson” Wytch, unnamed police officers

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Damages Sought: $2.5 million, plus “any other relief which this court decides is necessary in the interest of justice.”
Complaint: Hall was a college freshman with a clean record living in Brentwood, where he claims he was often harassed by cops. The night of Nov. 15, 2006, he knocked on the door of a store at the corner of 4th and T Streets NE. The cops allegedly shined a light on his face, threw him down, and smashed his head against the alley. Then, the complaint says, they arrested him without saying why, taking away his ID card and saying they could have beaten him worse. Hall told them his sister was an attorney. That got their attention; somebody asked if he wanted to go to a hospital, and he said no. They set him free.

Quality of Representation: Fair. While attorney Melodie V. Shuler laid out the facts clearly and up at the front, so many handwritten corrections have been made that the complaint is hard to read. For instance, former Chief Charles Ramsey has been crossed out and replaced with “Kathy Lanier.” (The new chief spells her name with a “C.”) Another officer’s name is illegible throughout the complaint. Then there’s this mystifying allegation: “Threaten that they could have beaten Mr. Hall like the Mexican man was beaten in a widely publicized case in Los Angelos [sic], California.”

Summary Judgment: Write a better complaint. If Hall’s case were handwritten on paper towels in a jail cell, a few crossed-out words would be tolerable. But as long as Hall or his lawyer has a word processor, this court has higher standards. If you’re going to sue someone, at least make his name readable (and spell his name right: a Google search turns up a 5th District officer named Venson Wytch, but no Benson). And there are deeper problems here: Hall says the officers harassed him over a year, but he doesn’t tell how or when; he asserts that they smashed his head, but he doesn’t detail his injuries. Case is hereby remanded to plaintiff for rewrite and copyediting.