TUPELO – The city hasn’t yet decided to file an appeal in the lawsuit of former Tupelo Police Capt. Cliff Hardy, but it will file some post-trial motions this week.
A jury in the U.S. District Court of Aberdeen on July 17 sided with Hardy, whose lawsuit claimed that he was unfairly pushed out of his job after he publicly criticized the police department. It awarded him $300,000.
“Post-trial motions are due to be filed 10 days from the day of that judgment, which will be, by my calculation, next Friday,” Berk Huskison, one of the city’s attorneys with Mitchell McNutt ampamp& Sams law firm, said late last week.
Huskison said he is considering several issues on which to file motions, but he declined to reveal them.
Jim Waide, one of Hardy’s attorneys, said it’s typical for the losing side to file post-trial motions and that he fully expects it.
Judge Sharion Aycock, who presided at the week-long trial, will then rule on those motions. Depending on her ruling, Huskison said, the city might appeal.
If so, the City Council would have to vote on it. And attorneys would have 30 days from the date of Aycock’s final ruling to file it with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
An appeals court is different from a regular court in that a panel of judges typically hears the case and witnesses do not testify. The judges could either uphold the current judgment or reverse it.
In that case, it could bounce back to Aberdeen for another trial.
Costs of the current trial haven’t yet been tallied, so it’s impossible to say what a new trial would cost.
As part of Hardy’s settlement, the city was ordered to pay all attorneys fees. Waide said he hasn’t figured out his final bill yet. And city interim Chief Financial Officer Kim Hanna said she has only been billed by Mitchell McNutt ampamp& Sams through May. Those bills totaled more than $26,800.
Hardy resigned from the force in early 2007 after being stripped of his previous duties. He claims he was punished for speaking out publicly against the racial discrimination in the department, which violated his First Amendment rights.
The city contends Hardy’s speech was reckless and harmful and that it violated a long-standing department policy against making public statements against the police force.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal