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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Portland Tries Pressuring Occupy Protester Not to Appeal Pepper-Spray Case

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Hoping to ward off a federal appeal, the city of Portland has taken the unusual step of demanding more than $7,000 in court costs from an Occupy protester who lost a lawsuit seeking damages after taking a face full of pepper-spray during a chaotic anti-bank protest in late 2011.

Ben Haile, an attorney for Liz Nichols, confirmed the city's maneuver, first reported by the Oregonian. But Haile declined to immediately comment.

Nichols was sprayed by Sergeant Jeff McDaniel while shouting Officer Doris Paisley, Nichols' attorneys said. The attorneys said Paisley had driven a nightstick into Nichols' neck. Nichols, filing her suit in 2012, sought tens of thousands of dollars on account of pain and suffering caused by an eczema flareup and depression. Nichols lost her case last year.

The Oregonian, in an update to its initial story posted this afternoon, quotes a deputy city attorney laying bare the city's calculus.

Deputy city attorney David Landrum said he offered to drop the city's pursuit of costs if Nichols agreed to waive an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He called Nichols' attorneys with the offer.

"I said I don't need to drag this money out of her," Landrum said, noting that he knows Nichols is a college student at Portland State University.

Landrum said he didn't hear anything for weeks, so he called back and got his answer: Nichols decided to appeal. So the city sought its payback.

The payment order from the city, for $7,116, could increase via interest.

Update 1:55 PM: Haile phoned back to confirm Nichols has filed an appeal despite the payment order.

"She believes there were some mistakes in the trial that are reasons the trial should be redone," he says.

He also said there's no recourse for challenging a payment order. (Never mind it looking like the city is preying on a poor college student. And never mind the question of whether the city could live without the $7,000 it spent defending itself in a case that was hardly frivolous. Because it can, especially in light of the millions it's spent on legal fees in police-related lawsuits for the past two decades.)

Says Haile: "It is an unfortunate risk for seeking justice in the courts these days."

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