Court clears way for suit against Kodiak officers

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- A Kodiak woman has won a chance to pursue a civil suit against two police officers and the city of Kodiak.

Julia Samaniego's claim of excessive force in her 1994 arrest was rejected by Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood. But the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that she is entitled to a trial.

Samaniego maintains that officers William D. Marsh and Milton Bohac repeatedly used a stun gun, threw her against a car, and kneed her in the back during an arrest. She was convicted by a jury of resisting or interfering with an arrest, but was acquitted of charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

Judge Hopwood ruled that the officers acted within the confines of their job and thus she could not sue them.

But the Alaska Supreme Court, in a 17-page opinion, ruled that she is entitled to a trial.

The ruling notes that:

''It is beyond dispute that police officers, in pursuit of their dangerous and important jobs, are often forced to make difficult decisions regarding the use of force.

''Our legal system, however, must not insulate police officers from liability as to allow them to violate such a fundamental right -- the right to bodily integrity,'' the court ruled.

Samaniego's case is expected to go to trial within a year. She is not seeking a specific amount of damages, just ''whatever the jury thinks in reasonable,'' according to her attorney, Les Gara.

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