City & Police Face Federal Lawsuit

Pre-trial hearing in federal civil lawsuit. The rulings by United States Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett left two key plaintiff counts intact but granted three of the defense motions to dismiss.

The suit filed by David Koven Sr. and Roxanne Koven, formerly of Plattsmouth and now of California, claims their federal civil rights were violated on June 27th of 2009.The Cassgram reports the suit claims the Koven home in Plattsmouth was searched illegally by police without probable cause and that David was falsely certified as mentally ill and dangerous and as a result spent 17 days in a psychiatric treatment facility. Six Plattsmouth police officers and the City of Plattsmouth were named as defendants. (For the previous Cassgram reports, visit the Archives 4/16/10 and 10/13/10.)

The defense had filed motions stating reasons why the suit should be dismissed. Gossett ruled on individual points:

-The defendant’s request that summary judgment be granted because qualified immunity applies to the police officers who took Koven into custody was denied. (“Qualified immunity shields government officials from suit unless their conduct violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right… -per a 1996 federal ruling.)

-The ruling said “…it could be found that no probable cause or exigent circumstances existed to search Plaintiff’s home without a warrant and that the officers acted unreasonably in doing so.” The defense request to dismiss the illegal search allegation was denied.

-The court ruled qualified immunity did apply in the placing of two children in foster care because police acted reasonably when Koven was in custody and no longer able to care for the children.

-Gossett dismissed the claim that the officers conspired to violate the plaintiffs’ civil rights.

-Summary judgment on behalf of the defendants was also granted on the assertion that the city’s “policies, practices and customs caused the alleged violations” of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. That finding removes the City of Plattsmouth from the lawsuit.

The counts that were dismissed were done so without prejudice which means they could be reinstated if new evidence is brought forward.

A telephone conference later this month will set the schedule as the case head towards trial.

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