BEAUMONT – On Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit confirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a complaint brought by a process server against the former Jefferson County district judge who had him arrested.
In May 2013, Stephen Hartman attempted to serve Layne Walker, now an attorney with Provost Umphrey, while he was holding court, leading to his arrest for disrupting court proceedings.
The evidence shows deputies instructed Hartman to leave but he refused. He was then handcuffed and forcibly removed.
The criminal charges against Hartman were dismissed, as an internal affairs investigation found the deputies mishandled evidence.
In turn, Hartman brought a civil suit against Walker, Jefferson County and several other individuals, which was dismissed last year.
On appeal, Hartman maintained, among other issues, that the court erred in concluding the arresting officers were entitled to immunity against his unlawful arrest claim.
Nonetheless, On April 18 Fifth Circuit justices found that the lower court did not err in dismissing the complaint.
“I am pleased to have been vindicated by the federal courts,” said Walker. “Now, I need the state courts to do thesame thing.”
Houston attorney Jeffrey Dorrell, who represents Walker in a different suit brought by Hartman, says that although a state appellate court allowed Hartman’s malicious prosecution claim to continue in the 58th state district court just two weeks ago, the longer-term viability of those claims may now be in question as a result of the Fifth Circuit decision.
Hartman is represented by Beaumont attorney John Morgan.
Case No. 16-40396