(July 3, 2003, updated w/ reaction 2:15 p.m. from initial post 10:15 a.m.) -- The LB Superior Court judge who presided in the civil trial in which a jury awarded Mum's restauranteur John Morris nearly half a million dollars in damages on grounds LB City Hall and former City Manager Henry Taboada had violated his 1st amendment rights, has this morning ruled:
- The Court vacated (tossed out) the judgment against Mr. Taboada, granting a motion for judgment notwitstanding the verdict in his favor. This eliminates actual and punitive damages against Mr. Taboada personally.
- The court reduced damages against the City of Long Beach to $1...and gave Mr. Morris the option of pursuing a new trial on the issue of damages.
As to Mr. Taboada, the Court indicated it found found no evidence to establish that Mr. Taboada had anything directly to do with the misconduct alleged, indicated he would have in any event been entitled to qualified immunity and found no evidence of any constitutional violation by Mr. Taboada.
The verdict against the City of Long Beach technically remains (judgment notwithstanding verdict was denied) on grounds the totality of circumstances permitted the jury to find actions were taken against Mr. Morris. However, the Court reduced Mr. Morris' damages to a nominal amount ($1) and gave him the option of seeking a new trial on the issue of damages (or accepting the $1).
[update with reaction] Reached for comment, Mr. Morris' attorney, James Rainboldt told LBReport.com that Mr. Morris was precluded at trial from putting forth parts of his case for damages. Mr. Rainboldt indicated some thought would be given to the current situation and a decision would be forthcoming within 10 days.
LB City Attorney Bob Shannon told LBReport.com, "The Court's ruling vindicates our position that there was insufficient evidence to justify the verdict." Mr. Shannon added, "I'm proud of the fact that we've saved LB taxpayers almost $425,000. We're prepared to pay the $1, and I think we should get the case behind us and move on."
Further update: 7:40 p.m.: Reaction from Mr. Morris: Mum's Morris: "It's the City (Hall) That Lost...I'll Go Another Round".