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U.S. District Court judge denies motion for new trial, says not warranted unless it's clear jury erred

A $4.1 million lawsuit filed by the former police chief of Scappoose is set to be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

GreisenThe federal suit, filed by Doug Greisen, former chief of police for Scappoose, alleges the city's fomer manager violated Greisen's First Amendment rights during the course of investigations into alleged policy violations and misconduct by Greisen.

Greisen won his case in 2016 and was awarded $4.1 in damages, but attorneys for the city and defendant Jon Hanken, who was the Scappoose city manager at the time and initiated the investigations into Greisen, requested a new trial after the July 2016 verdict.

The request was denied by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, who ruled the jury's verdict should stand and that there were no errors in the original case to warrant a new trial. One argument from Hanken's attorneys for why a new trial was warranted was that Simon had instructed the jury with a false statement of law.

In his opinion and order issued May 12, Simon noted, "a jury's verdict must be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence," adding, "a district judge should not award a new trial unless the court has a definite and firm conviction that the jury has made a mistake."

The case is now headed to fthe 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Background

After being fired from his position as police chief in 2014 without cause, the following year Greisen filed suit against his former employer, the city of Scappoose, and Hanken, alleging retaliation and restriction of his rights to free speech.

Before Greisen won that case, the city was dismissed as a defendant, but Hanken was not.

Prior to his termination, Greisen was the subject of three investigations into alleged misconduct and policy violations, though he was later terminated by interim city manager Don Otterman, who cited no cause for the firing.

Otterman, who took over shortly after Hanken resigned from the city in 2013 amid controversy surrounding the Greisen investigations, said he released Greisen for no specific reason other than to quell turmoil within the city and its police department.

Greisen later filed suit against the city and Hanken, alleging the investigations into his conduct as police chief were Hanken's way of retaliating against him for raising concerns about the city's budget and finances. In his initial complaint, Greisen said Hanken told him, "stay on your side of city hall."

The lawsuit also argued that Hanken restricted Greisen's right to free speech by instructing him before each investigation "not to discuss this matter with anyone except your spouse, significant other, or your attorney," which a jury later ruled was a violation of Greisen's First Amendment rights.

Hanken and his attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

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