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Redwood v. Dobson
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
476 F.3d 462 (2007)
Attorney Harvey Welch (defendant) defended Erik Redwood (plaintiff) unsuccessfully on battery charges. Redwood blamed his conviction on Welch, who was Black, and called him a “shoe-shine boy.” A scuffle ensued, and Redwood sued Welch for battery. Welch counterclaimed for defamation and asked prosecutors to charge Redwood with inciting a breach of the peace. Assistant state’s attorney Elizabeth Dobson (defendant) charged Redwood with committing a hate crime by using a demeaning term that started a physical confrontation. Police officer Troy Phillips presented the evidence, and the grand jury indicted Redwood. Welch’s attorney in the civil litigation, Marvin Gerstein, suggested he could persuade Dobson to drop the hate-crime charges if the civil suit settled. Redwood and his wife (plaintiff) sued alleging Dobson, Phillips, Welch, Gerstein, and the City of Urbana (defendants) conspired to maliciously prosecute Redwood and violated his First Amendment rights by discriminating against his religion, which he claimed led him to “teach truth and righteousness to all persons” including Welch. Attorney Charles Danner represented the Redwoods and took Gerstein’s deposition. Danner started by extensively questioning Gerstein about his criminal and state-bar disciplinary records and psychiatric counseling or anger-management therapy without explaining how his questions might lead to admissible evidence. Without asserting privilege or requesting a protective order, Gerstein’s counsel Roger Webber instructed Gerstein not to answer, including when Danner asked Gerstein whether he was homosexual and involved in a homosexual clique with others in the lawsuit. When Danner asked Gerstein if he had discussed his deposition with Webber during a break, Gerstein pretended not to understand ordinary words, then said he could not recall. Webber kept instructing Gerstein not to answer, and the deposition became so heated that the Redwoods claimed Gerstein flipped Danner “the finger.” Dobson’s attorney, Richard Klaus, joined in some of Webber’s objections. The Redwoods requested sanctions, but the judge refused, declaring everyone had behaved badly, with Danner the worst offender, and that it was “ludicrous” to argue attorneys could not instruct witnesses not to answer. Instead, the court granted summary judgment against the Redwoods. The Redwoods appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Easterbrook, C.J.)
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