Up yours, Woodworth, La.!

An appeals court has upheld $30,000 in punitive damages against the small CenLa town stemming from one of the most egregious traffic stops ever.

Mayor David Butler

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld a $30,000 award to a woman who was pulled over for no reason by a Woodworth, La., police officer, given several unwarranted citations totalling more than $1,000 and eventually arrested in front of her minor children and jailed for more than two weeks in connection with the case. It’s one of the most infuriating, disturbing examples of small-town malfeasance we’ve ever read, and will surely bring Ferguson, Mo., to mind for a lot of reasons. (We don’t know the race of the parties involved but would wager the motorist is black and the officer is white.)

Long story short: Patricia Parker was headed to work at dawn in January 2009 when for no reason she was pulled over by Officer David Godwin of the Woodworth PD. Godwin later admitted Parker obeyed the law and he just pulled her over to “see what was going on.” But Godwin still asked to see the usual — license, registration and proof of insurance — all of which Parker provided. But due to a state snafu, her license came back as suspended, although she had the paperwork to prove it wasn’t. But, she ended up with a handful of tickets and her truck impounded and towed. The total charges were more than $1,000, and Parker got no satisfaction when she tried to resolve the matter with the town magistrate, David Butler, who not coincidentally happens to be the eight-term mayor of Woodworth. No, seriously.

Parker ended up spending 25 days in jail on charges related to the tickets and charges. She filed suit. A lower court awarded her $30,000 in damages. The town appealed. The Third Circuit upheld the award and remanded the case back to the lower court to set the amount of court costs the town will also be on the hook for.

The three-judge panel was not impressed by the town’s appeal, writing:

We have chronicled above the nightmare Parker must have experienced as she struggled to stop her unlawful detention and ultimate incarceration. The mental anguish she must have endured while incarcerated for 25 days and nights cannot be explained away or left uncompensated. Additionally, Parker left her unemployment ... because she lived in fear that any time she passed through the Town of Woodworth on her way to work she would again be subjected to the same kind of unlawful treatment she endured in this case which might also lead to her unlawful imprisonment again. It is difficult to calculate a just amount of damages which would fully compensate a victim such as Parker for the losses and indignities she suffered in this case. Just her unlawful imprisonment for 25 days renders the small sum awarded Parker anything but excessive.

Read the entire 3rd Circuit opinion here. But be warned: It will elevate your blood pressure.