Guy v. City of San Diego, 608 F.3d 582 (9th Cir. 2010)

This case illustrates not only the justification for innumerable reversals of the Ninth Circuit by the Supreme Court but the indefensible decision of judges who lack any understanding of jury trials. The plaintiff sued the City of San Diego and three of its officers alleging the use of excessive force in a conflict between himself and the officers. Obviously the witnesses for both sides told inconsistent stories, and the jury found two of the officers not liable. In the verdict as to the third officer, the jury found he violated plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force, and his actions caused harm to the plaintiff. The jury awarded the plaintiff no compensatory or punitive damages. Counsel for plaintiff requested attorney fees in a special verdict and the jury awarded plaintiff one dollar. The police department conducted an internal investigation and exonerated the officers. Attorney fees are awarded 1983 cases, regardless of the damages award, if the jury finds nominal damages achieved tangible results “sparking a change in policy.”