Force Used to Move Woman From Court, Judge Finds

, New York Law Journal

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Excessive force was used to arrest a spectator in Bronx Supreme Court in 2010 after she did not comply with a court officer's order to stay seated, a Court of Claims judge determined.

Judge Alan Marin (See Profile) ruled from Manhattan in Harris v. State of New York, 118770, that the state was fully liable for any injuries Denise Harris suffered during an incident on June 9, 2010, in which she said her face was "slammed" against a wall. Marin said he would schedule a trial on damages.

Though Harris and Court Officer Antonio Bolorin gave significantly different accounts of the incident, the judge said he tended to believe that excessive force was involved.

"On balance here, the Court concludes that the officer (or officers) went too far and exceeded the minimum amount of force necessary to subdue the claimant, who stood five feet, four inches and weighed 125 or 130 pounds," Marin wrote.

Harris was in a courtroom to attend a bail remand hearing for her partner Willia Sykes. Bolorin, who is now a sergeant, testified that when Harris took a seat near the front of the courtroom, he warned her to stay seated. He told her to leave after she stood up, and repeated his order after she went to stand in the back of the courtroom but would not leave.

Harris was arrested outside the courtroom for disorderly conduct, a charge that was upheld by Criminal Court Judge Vincent Quattrochi in November 2010. Marin noted that Harris said she sought medical treatment at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx after her arrest.

Laurence Jacobson of Manhattan is representing Harris. Assistant Attorney General Robert Schwerdt is defending the state.

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