Federal Jury in San Jose, CA Awards $3.25 Million in Damages to Family for Unlawful Seizure of Their Children Represented by The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson

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In one of the largest jury awards in San Jose in the last 20 years, a federal jury took only 90 minutes to award $3.25 million dollars to a family whose children had been unlawfully taken by San Jose police officers as retaliation for asserting their rights as citizens. Most notably, the jury assessed $2 million dollars in punitive damages for the officers’ reckless abuse of authority. The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson in Walnut Creek, CA and Robert Powell & Associates of San Jose, CA represented the family in their claims against the officers and the City of San Jose.

The jury rejected the officer's claims of exigency in seizing the children and took only 45 minutes to find they violated the entire family's civil rights.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Northern California today returned a unanimous verdict against officers from the San Jose Police Department for the violation of an entire family’s civil rights and awarded $3.25 million in damages. The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson in Walnut Creek, CA and Robert Powell & Associates in San Jose, CA represented the family in their claims against the officers and the City of San Jose.

According to a police recording entered into evidence during trial, the action stemmed from an incident on June 29, 2005 where officers William Hoyt and Craig Blank with at least five other uniformed officers responded to an unverified claim of abuse, entered the home of a San Jose family on a child welfare check, then removed two children without a warrant and later seized a third child as well.

The jury heard testimony during the week-long trial that officers in the department have never sought warrants or court orders for removing children – in violation of federal law – and then falsified their claims of an emergency to justify taking all of the children.

In one of the largest jury awards in nearly two decades in San Jose, the federal jury took only 45 minutes to find liability for all claims against Hoyt and Blank, and two days later took just 90 minutes to award $1.25 million in compensatory damages for the family plus an additional $2 million in punitive damages. The case C06-4029 RMW, Watson v. Craig Blank, William Hoyt and the City of San Jose, went to trial on March 23, 2011 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division. After a week of testimony, the jury found Blank and Hoyt liable for constitutional violations against the family on March 30, and awarded damages two days later on April 1.

“We feel this jury verdict exposes a long-standing practice of warrantless ‘snatch-and-grab’ conduct by law enforcement agencies in Santa Clara County and sends a resounding message to the San Jose Police Department, as well as all other law enforcement officers in Santa Clara County,” said Peter Johnson, attorney for the family. “They are on notice their unlawful conduct will not be tolerated, and officers will be held accountable.”

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