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Federal judge rebuffs requests for additional consideration from attorney for Little Rock police chief

by Joseph Flaherty | September 30, 2021 at 6:44 a.m.
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey is shown speaking at a news conference earlier this year. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

A federal judge rebuffed motions filed by Michael Laux, the attorney for Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey, asking for additional consideration and more time to respond to a pending motion for sanctions after Humphrey's countersuit targeting his opponents was dismissed Sept. 15.

In one motion filed Monday, Humphrey's attorney acknowledged that "the prosecution of this complex matter has been rocky at times but [Humphrey]'s case was brought in total good faith and his allegations, while perhaps inventive or novel-seeming, are surely grounded in the law."

In his Sept. 15 decision, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. wrote that a claim of free-speech retaliation filed by Humphrey was not applicable because the statements at issue were made pursuant to his official duties while he was a public employee -- namely, the police chief in Norman, Okla.

And claims of a civil-rights conspiracy against the police chief were unsupported because Humphrey did not show underlying constitutional violations, Moody ruled. He declined to rule on state-law claims of abuse of process and defamation.

On Friday, Laux filed a motion for reconsideration of Moody's order dismissing the suit.

Laux wrote that the court "erred" with the Sept. 15 decision by accepting an "unsupported argument regarding a dispositive matter" made by attorneys for a local police union, the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 17.

In a brief in support of his motion, Laux wrote that the court accepted the union's unsupported argument that a certain speech made by Humphrey was given not while he was a private citizen, but when he was in fact the chief of public in Norman.

The judge denied the request for reconsideration Monday.

A sworn declaration signed by Humphrey was included as an exhibit with the motion Laux filed Monday asking for leave to file the declaration opposing sanctions.

In it, Humphrey said his last day working for Norman was April 3, 2019. A farewell speech Humphrey gave to a group of people where he discussed topics that comprise his policing philosophy was delivered April 5, he wrote.

In an order signed Tuesday, Moody denied the motion from Laux for leave to file a declaration in opposition to the pending motion for sanctions against the chief and Laux, which was made on Aug. 26 by attorneys for the police union.

Moody wrote that the day a response was originally due, Humphrey's lawyer had filed a motion asking for more time and received an extension until Sept. 23.

Another request for more time to respond came Sept. 23, Moody wrote, after the judge had granted the motions to dismiss the case. The second request was denied Monday.

"Now, out of time and for the third time, Plaintiff is again asking to extend his time to respond to the motion for sanctions on the basis that he has a 'meritorious response,'" Moody wrote. "Meritorious or not, Plaintiff has not shown good cause why he could not have responded in a timely manner."

Humphrey's suit was originally filed in September 2020.

It followed lawsuits against the chief from a series of police officials who claimed that retaliation occurred in the wake of the investigation of the 2019 fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire by then-officer Charles Starks.

Laux did not respond to a request for comment via email Wednesday.

Print Headline: Motions in chief's case earn rejection

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