A jury trial is scheduled to begin next month in the case of Shakeem M. Holmes, a trans man seeking damages after Jersey City police allegedly abused him.
In February 2013, authorities arrested Holmes in Jersey City for shoplifting. During his detainment at the local police station, police allegedly mistreated Holmes due to his trans status.
One officer threatened to put his fist down Holmes’ throat “like a fucking man,” and other officers hurled transphobic slurs at him, according to court records.
Holmes filed suit in 2014, contending that a police station is a public accommodation where anti-trans abuse is prohibited under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
In 2015, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Turula dismissed Holmes’ suit. But last year, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division reinstated it.
The appellate division said Holmes “was in a uniquely vulnerable position [and] the individuals making the hostile comments were police officers, who wielded tremendous power over arrestees.”
Seeking to avoid a jury trial, Jersey City officials asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to re-examine the matter, arguing that Holmes’ claims were meritless.
Jersey City officials maintained that allowing the case to proceed to a jury trial would encourage other arrestees to file meritless antibias suits against police.
But attorneys for Holmes urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to let a jury consider the case. They noted that simply because Holmes was arrested didn’t justify his alleged mistreatment by police.
“The police do not get a pass simply because [Holmes] was arrested,” theattorneys wrote. “An attack upon a person because of his gender identity is an attack upon his very dignity as a human being.”
In October 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with Holmes and denied Jersey City officials’ request to re-examine the matter.
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mary K. Costello scheduled a jury trial for 9 a.m. April 30 at the Brennan Court House, 583 Newark Ave. in Jersey City.
On that day, Costello will assign a judge to handle the trial. The name of the assigned judge and courtroom will be disclosed that day, according to a court spokesperson.
Neither side had a comment for this story.
“We don’t comment on ongoing litigation,” said Kimberly Scalcione, a spokesperson for the Jersey City Police Department.