It’s hard to imagine a more evocative name for an excessive-force case than Reynaldo Ramirez v. Jose “Taser Joe” Martinez.
That’s the case style of the decision the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued May 15. The judges ruled that Jim Wells County sheriff’s deputy Jose Martinez was entitled to qualified immunity for arresting landscape business owner Reynaldo Ramirez. But they ruled he was not entitled to qualified immunity on Ramirez’s excessive force claim after Martinez allegedly “tased Ramirez in the chest.” Odd nicknames occasionally make it into the style of federal complaints filed by a plaintiff.
“You know, I did it as a little bit of a joke. This is a taser case, and I thought ‘Taser Joe’ was good name,” says Chris Gale, Ramirez’s lawyer and a partner in Gale, Wilson & Sanchez, explaining why he put the nickname in the complaint his client filed in the Southern District of Texas district court.
He adds that, during a deposition, an employee who worked with Martinez testified that Martinez was referred to as “Taser Joe.” But Brian Miller, of counsel at Corpus Christi’s Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams says “Taser Joe” is not a nickname his client goes by.
“It’s something the plaintiffs slapped on” the case, Miller says. “We never put anything like that in the style that we filed and so have two different styles to the case,” Miller says.
Nevertheless, the “Taser Joe” label stuck on the style of the case, from the complaint’s initial filing in a Southern District of Texas district court up to the 5th Circuit.
“It’s always been a higher priority to defeat this case before trial than worry about the effect that this nickname might have on trained judges who are trained to look beyond that kind of thing,” says Miller, who plans to file a motion for en banc review with the 5th Circuit.
-- John Council