A prominent Philadelphia lawyer who was arrested during a courthouse scuffle with sheriff’s deputies in August has sued six of the officers, saying they unnecessarily gang-tackled him and used excessive force to restrain and arrest him, leaving him with a separated and fractured shoulder.
Clifford E. Haines, 72, a former head of the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Bar Associations, also challenged the narrative of events made public by the Sheriff’s Office after the Aug. 22 melee at the Criminal Justice Center, claiming that surveillance video contradicts a spokeswoman’s assertion that he hit a deputy and resisted arrest. Haines was not criminally charged.
A copy of the video posted online by his attorneys appears to show Haines swiping at the arm of an officer who had shoved him, resulting almost immediately in a group of deputies piling on top of him, placing him in a choke hold, and taking him to the ground.
The deputies’ actions, his suit says, were “unprovoked, unjustified, and clearly excessive and abusive.”
Patricia V. Pierce, Haines’ attorney, said she believes the case “really shows why members of the public … lack trust in law enforcement.”
“You have to ask yourself: If this can happen to this man in front of cameras, how is anybody else supposed to feel safe?” she said.
Joe Blake, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement that the office was unaware of the suit and had no comment.
According to Haines’ complaint, the incident began when he confronted a deputy over what he perceived to be rude and disrespectful behavior. When the two men were face-to-face, the video appears to show the deputy putting his hand on Haines’ chest, and Haines trying to swipe it away.
Almost instantly, four other deputies try to restrain Haines, tackling him onto the back of an X-ray security scanner, piling on top of him, then taking him to the ground.
None of those deputies is identified in the complaint, although Pierce said she anticipated learning their names during the course of the suit and filing an amended complaint to include them. The suit also accuses a sergeant of keeping Haines handcuffed in custody even after he complained of shoulder pain.
Haines was treated at Hahnemann University Hospital, according to his complaint, and has since required physical therapy to recover from his injuries.
The District Attorney’s Office ultimately decided not to charge Haines over the scuffle, but Pierce said he was subjected to questions about the incident after the sheriff’s spokeswoman told the Inquirer and Daily News that he had hit a deputy.
His suit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, seeks unspecified damages and claims assault and battery, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Haines, who is being represented by Pierce’s firm, has a law practice of his own in Center City.