Barneys customer-frisk lawsuit: an interesting explication

You remember that a young black man named Trayon Christian was frisked and searched at Barneys department store by NYPD cops after he bought an expensive belt.

And you remember that he has sued.

Well, today there was this item in the Daily News:

City lawyers are blaming a high-profile “shop-and-frisk” incident on the plaintiff — a black college student who was detained by police after simply buying a $349 belt at Barneys.

But that is not what the City’s lawyers are actually doing, and it’s the sort of flamboyant reporting that gives tabloids a bad name.

Here’s most of the rest of the article, with a remarkably open statement, which I have bolded, describing how defense lawyers − in this case the City’s − must reply to such complaints in their official court filings:

But the city Law Department says its argument may change as the case moves forward.

Trayon Christian sued in Manhattan Federal Court last year, accusing Barneys, the city and a number of police officers of engaging in racial profiling when he was detained after making a purchase April 29, 2013.

Christian, 19, says he was targeted by staffers at Barneys’ Madison Ave. flagship store and then held by cops because they didn’t think a young black man could afford a costly Ferragamo belt. He had a receipt for the belt, and was later released without being charged.

But in a response to Christian’s suit, filed last week, city lawyers denied the allegations, claiming there was “reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause” for his detainment.

City lawyers also said the college student was the one at fault.

“Plaintiff provoked any incident,” they wrote.

A Law Department spokeswoman said Monday the filing “contains language routinely used to preserve legal defense at the early stage of a case.”

“This does not indicate what the city’s final position will be following a thorough review of all relevant facts and circumstances,” spokeswoman Kate Ahlers said.

 “Preserve legal defense.” And the City must do that at this stage of a lawsuit, when they have had no chance to fully investigate the facts. I trust Mr. Christian doesn’t go crazy over this language, and/or that his lawyer is a thorough professional who will emphasize what I emphasized above.

I have never seen such a clear and resounding public explanation of one aspect of defense law. No bluster, no bravado, no phony clichés for me to interpret. Just the plain, accurate truth. Brava to the City for issuing this comment.

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