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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