NJ Supreme Court clears way for trial in trans abuse case

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New Jersey’s Supreme Court has green lit a jury trial for a transgender man who is suing the Jersey City Police for abuse suffered while in custody. Shakeem Holmes was arrested in February 2013 on shoplifting charges and alleges he was subjected to anti-transgender rhetoric from arresting officers and others at the station.

Holmes originally filed suit in 2014, making note that a police station is considered a public accommodation and anti-transgender abuse is prohibited by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula dismissed the suit in 2014. A three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court reinstated Holmes’s suit, saying that Holmes “was in a uniquely vulnerable position (and) the individuals making the hostile comments were police officers, who wielded tremendous power over arrestees.”

Jersey City officials asked the United States Supreme Court to look at the matter in hopes of avoiding a jury trial on the grounds that they considered Holmes’s claims meritless and if it does go to trial, it will cause other meritless suits from other arrestees.

“The police do not get a pass simply because [Holmes] was arrested,” Holmes’ attorneys wrote. “An attack upon a person because of his gender identity is an attack upon his very dignity as a human being.”

A trial date has not yet been set.