Beetle-Hunting Lawyer Held At Gunpoint By Police
A lawyer "apprehended at gunpoint while collecting beetles near his Scarsdale, N.Y., home has lost an initial appeal in his civil rights suit against the Village of Scarsdale and its police department.
Southern District of New York Judge Charles L. Brieant ruled that a jury had reasonably concluded that officers did not use excessive force when they pointed guns at the attorney, Harry Zirlin, and handcuffed him behind his back with his face to the ground.
The officers were responding to a woman who said she saw a man in the woods carrying a knife."
(Hotlink added.) Brieant wrote in Zirlin v. The Village of Scarsdale, 03 Civ. 9903:
"A reasonable jury could conclude, based upon the totality of the knowledge of the police at the time of their momentary and sudden encounter with the plaintiff, including information that an altercation involving threats of violence had occurred recently at the nearby Sanitation Department, led them to believe, reasonably, that they were entering a potentially hostile and dangerous situation. They were unaware of Mr. Zirlin's identity or intentions."
Zirlin, in fact, has at least two identities: associate at one of the city's leading law firms and recognized expert and collector of beetles. He has lectured and written widely on the subject, including co-authorship of the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States.
I see at least four layers of irony in this article.
(1) The police cuffed a lawyer collecting beetles in Scarsdale.
(2) The lawyer brought a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in the SDNY, no less (people forget that the Southern District isn't just Manhattan).
(3) The New York Law Journal reported his loss.
(4) Law.com picked up the story nationally.
Now the blogosphere has got hold of this story, as googling his distinctive name will show. Sympathies appear to be running in favor of Mr. Zirlin.
I really feel bad for Mr. Zirlin, but this is the funniest story I've read all week.