Stafford City Council alters schedule to attend 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

By Karen Daniels 

The current meeting schedule for Stafford City Council is the first and third Wednesday of each month. The next regularly scheduled meeting, November 6, 2013, will be held one week earlier so that several members of Council and Mayor Leonard Scarcella may attend oral arguments in the Hobart v. Estrada hearing at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Councilmember Felecia Evans-Smith spoke about the need for this date change. “It’s very important that we show our support.” Mayor Scarcella added, “Having been there on three other cases, it does help to have a presence.” This case is strictly to present to a three-panel judge the argument for the removal of Chief Bonny Krahn’s and Officer Jesus Estrada’s name as individuals from a pending case that involves the City of Stafford. The grounds are qualified immunity that can be applied to public officials from being civilly sued for damages unless they violated “clearly established law” of which a “reasonable official in his position would have known.”

This stems from the tragic incident that occurred on February 18, 2009, when Stafford police were called to assist at the Hobart home. According to court documents, the Hobart family “was calling for help to get (their) son, Aaron Hobart, to the hospital” to assist in administering his medication that he refused to take. In a press release issued by the City of Stafford in October of 2009, “The officer believed his life was in jeopardy due to Mr. Hobart’s violent and unprovoked assault, the officer fired in self defense to stop Mr. Hobart’s potentially deadly attack.” Officer Estrada fired his gun six times, killing Aaron Hobart.

In the past, the Supreme Court has used a two-prong system to determine qualified immunity. First, is to determine if a constitutional right was violated; then, and only if the answer to the first inquiry is yes, does the question of whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. No judgment will be rendered on Nov. 6th, but will likely follow several months later. Art Pertile, Stafford’s City Attorney said, “Cases from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals have been the most clarifying cases on official immunity. Also, it would be unusual for the city council or any city official to comment on pending litigation. There are always exceptions but it is not the norm for a city to try its case outside the Courthouse.” In light of these circumstances, Stafford City Council will move their regularly scheduled meeting to Wednesday, October 30 at 7:00pm.

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Posted by on Oct 24 2013. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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