What is "Scholarship"?
Judges Behaving Badly

Lame Second Circuit Punitive Damages Decision

Usually, when I a read a case that was wrongly decided, my blood pressure goes up.  It probably goes back to my younger days.  I hated - and still hate - bullies.  Judges who disobey the laws they are sworn to uphold are no better than schoolyard thugs. 

Sometimes, though, I read a case that was wrongly decided and just roll my eyes.  Today the Second Circuit issued one such case.  Patterson v. Balsamico (here).

William Balsamico, with two other white officers, maced and pinned down a black prison guard, put shaving cream all over him and said: "Now you are a white man with an Afro."  When the black prison guard sued, a jury unsurprisingly awarded punitive damages.  Balsamico was on the hook for $20,000 in punitive damages.

On appeal, the Second Circuit held that $20,000 was an excessive punitive damage award was excessive and must be reduced to... $10,000!

Putting aside the elephant in the room, namely that the prison has almost certainly agreed to indemnify the prison guard, this is a pretty lame case of appellate court micromanagement.  Really now... $20,000 is excessive (as is an appellate-court-must-remand excessive) but $10,000 is not?  This is just a silly opinion. 

(Hat tip: Decision of the Day)