Both sides in lawsuit want summary judgement

Friday, September 22, 2006

Both sides in a $1.25 million lawsuit by a horse show contestant against the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Association want a judge to rule that they won the case without a trial.

While summary judgment requests aren't unusual, it's not every day that a civil complaint has a companion criminal case such as this one in which a jury found Alecia Cooper guilty of misdemeanors with the judge sentencing her to 48 hours of unsupervised probation.

The arrest of Cooper, 46, of Mt. Juliet, prevented her from competing in a horse show event, thereby resulting in monetary losses, according to her civil complaint.

Arguments were to have been heard last week, but with Bedford County Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell's permission, a written record for his review was completed Wednesday.

Cooper claims the conflict that erupted Aug. 31, 2005, at the entrance to the warm-up room of Calsonic Arena should not have resulted in her arrest. She was convicted on charges of disorderly conduct and attempted assault on a Bedford County Sheriff's officer who, while moonlighting as a security officer, arrested Cooper.

A new trial has been requested by Cooper's attorney, Phillip Davidson of Nashville. Davidson argues attempted assault isn't a crime because one can't attempt to be reckless or negligent, and assault, by law, is committed intentionally.

During the trial, Cooper said she was dressed as a rider for horse show competition and should have been allowed to go to her horse that was already in the warm-up room. Becky Hord, then a sheriff's captain who's since become a detective, said Cooper wasn't admitted because she wasn't with a horse when she tried to get in.

Conflict between Cooper, Hord and Marvinda Blackwell, another security officer, led to Hord charging Cooper with two assault charges, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The resisting charge was dropped because Hord wasn't on duty as a sheriff's officer.

The delay at the warm-up room door and related conflict prevented Cooper from showing her horse and that led to financial losses, the lawsuit alleges. She requested a jury trial and wants $750,000 in punitive damages and $500,000 for compensatory damages.

Davidson argues for Cooper that her arrest came with excessive force, but Tracy Shaw of Howell & Fisher in Nashville counters with a Supreme Court ruling that arrests can include the use of some degree of physical coercion or the threat of force.

The $1.25 million complaint names Hord, the arresting officer, as a defendant, individually and as an employee of the Celebration.

Hord allegedly "slammed Cooper up against a brick wall" and put her elbow into Cooper's chest, but a jury has found Cooper guilty of two crimes during the incident and Hord had a right to use some degree of physical coercion, Shaw wrote to the judge in her reply and motion for summary judgment.

Hord should have had a Celebration official resolve the dispute, according to the complaint. But Shaw wrote that Hord had a legal duty to keep the peace.

Davidson's motion for a new trial was to have been heard Sept. 14. It's been rescheduled for Oct. 5.