The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
When I try to parallel park, I usually just curse under my breath a lot, but when Pittsburgh resident Dave Hackbart got frustrated trying to parallel park in April 2006, he gave “the finger” to one uncooperative driver, and then gave the same finger to another driver who yelled at him not to make that rude gesture in public. The second driver turned out to be a Pittsburgh police officer.
In response to flipping off the officer, Hackbart received a citation for disorderly conduct, and “was found guilty by a magistrate and fined court costs.”
Probably most people would have let it go at this point, and remembered what their mamas said about keeping your middle finger to yourself.
But Hackbart filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city – and received a $50,000 settlement (of which he’ll get about a fifth after attorney fees and costs), plus an agreement by the city “to retrain its officers in the limits of disorderly conduct law.”
Hackbart said, “A lot of good things have come out of this. Hopefully it’s a big deterrent and it helps other people down the road who are in my shoes.”
In this case the gesture and its consequences were so far-reaching that Hackbart was inspired to quit his job waiting tables and go to paralegal school.