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Rack & Roll Lawsuit Dismissed

By Greg L | 18 December 2006 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 8 Comments

The civil lawsuit filed by Dave Ruttenberg, proprietor of Rack & Roll Billards in Manassas Park was dismissed today in a federal court in Alexandria. According to Mr. Ruttenberg he won on all the legal arguments, but the city and police department was granted immunity from prosecution for some reason. I’m not clear on the details, but it certainly sounds like Mr. Ruttenberg has a good basis for appealing the decision.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, but the idea of a municipality and it’s police department being granted immunity in a civil lawsuit rather than allowing the case to be heard on it’s merits is disturbing. This deference to a municipality certainly isn’t being afforded to the City of Manassas, so it’s appearance in this instance seems surprising. If immunity for civil rights violations is appropriate in this case, what is to deter the abuse of power by any municipality anytime it finds itself confronted with a citizen who makes political trouble? And how is a citizen with limited financial resources to contest his treatment by his government if that government, with far more ability to litigate without regard to cost has the ability to obtain immunity for it’s actions regardless of the merits of the case?

There should at least be some drive-by media coverage on this tomorrow, and soon we should be able to see a copy of the court’s decision. Maybe after reading the court’s decision what’s going on will become a little clearer. It’s possible that Mr. Ruttenberg is incorrect in his description of what happened in court today, but if he’s right there’s something terribly disturbing going on. Right now there’s a lot of questions that need answers, and hopefully at least some of them will be available soon.

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  1. James Young said on 18 Dec 2006 at 11:52 pm:
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    I’ve reviewed the decision. Immunity is a rather common — if sometimes controversial — basis for dismissing lawsuits against the government, and especially those regarding claims arising from criminal investigations, and was invoked by the Court in dismissing the third count of the Complaint. The first, second, fourth and fifth counts were dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P.), meaning that the Ruttenbergs’ Federal claims were deficient as a matter of law. The remaining counts were state-law claims which could not be sustained in light of dismissal of the Federal claims.

    Ruttenberg’s claim to have “won on all the legal arguments” is incomprehensible; the Court’s ruling on a motion of this sort meant that, for the sake of argument, the Court construed all of his factual claims in a light most favorable to Ruttenberg, and he still lost on the law.

  2. Greg L said on 19 Dec 2006 at 12:22 am:
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    Thanks for taking some time to look at this. Mr. Ruttenberg clearly has his own view of what happened which is understandably going to suffer some degree of bias. Do you have a link to the decision for us to review?

  3. Anonon said on 19 Dec 2006 at 5:56 am:
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    I think that now this matter is settle, people will ask how it got this far in the first place. And they should. I would still like to know, even though I have always supported my local elected officials and law enforcement in this matter. As a member of this community, I am relieved to have this suit no longer hanging over us collectively.

  4. anonymous said on 19 Dec 2006 at 10:01 am:
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    But wait—the suit between Manassas Park and the BZA is still on.

  5. James Young said on 19 Dec 2006 at 10:51 am:
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    Can’t link to it, as it is on the Court’s docket sheet, and while it costs nothing to download, one needs to have a PACER password to access the decision. I’ll try to send it to you as a .pdf file this afternoon.

  6. Greg L said on 20 Dec 2006 at 2:57 pm:
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    Yes, I’d love to see that decision in you can forward it to me.

  7. Golem said on 20 Dec 2006 at 9:57 pm:
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    The matter is not settled Anonon. The Ruttenbergs are considering an appeal to the Fourth Circuit.

    Curiously, the Ruttenbergs did in fact win on the law as argued by the City. The Eastern District denied the City’s motion to stay or abstain per the various abstention doctrines (Younger, etc.) but then, on its own decided that the complaint’s allegations of fabrication of evidence and perjury with respect to that fabrication, was not sufficient to provide a cause of action with respect to deprivation of property without due process of law, i.e., a violation of the 14 Amendment of the Consitution. The Ruttenbergs will probably question that part of the Eastern District’s decision as an error of law.

    The Eastern District also, apparently, ignored the fact that the June 2nd raiders knew in advance that Mr. Ruttenberg’s office was not part of the licensed premises yet, even though they had no warrant, they searched the office and seized two bottles of unopened vodka. At the ABC hearing the claim that these bottles of vodka violated the RnR beer license had to be dropped by the ABC because the ABC admitted, under oath, that they were legal in Mr. Ruttenberg’s office, i.e., they admitted under oath that they had no right to search that office as part of an ABC inspection. The raiders, including the ABC inspectors, had met before the raid and knew their intrusion on the office was illegal, but this didn’t stop them. Althougth this illegal search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, is as plain as day, and was set forth in the Ruttenbergs’ complaint, the Eastern District couldn’t be bothered.

    The Ruttenbergs may not win this but they come from a tradition that never quits and I don’t think they will. Those of you who think about this should be glad. If not for people like the Ruttenbergs, who would be out there trying to preserve your rights under the Constitution the next time some local official decides he/she is going to take you down and the Constitution, and your rights under it, be damned.

  8. Howard L. said on 30 Dec 2006 at 1:03 am:
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    God Bless and keep the Ruttenbergs. My boys like to play pool in this place. I’m sad they have done everything they could to destroy his business.

    I hope, in time, that due process will prevail, and the Ruttenbergs are able to descisively punish the forces that attempted to unjustly punish them! This was not an accident. This is not an angry disgrunteled business owner with a grudge. Giving the local government immunity from prosecution… is an injustice.

    Howard L.

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