NASHVILLE — The U.S. Supreme Court refused this week to revive a lawsuit against two Tennessee officials over the release of the personnel file of an officer who killed a North Carolina family’s dog during a traffic stop.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Cookeville Police Chief Bob Terry and City Manager Jim Shipley had immunity from the lawsuit brought by Officer Eric Hall.
The U.S. Supreme Court on March 20 declined without comment to review Hall’s appeal.
Hall sued Terry and Shipley, claiming they put his family in danger by releasing his personnel file with the names of his parents, wife, oldest child, fingerprints, birth certificate and Social Security number.
A patrol car video of the January 2003 shooting after a North Carolina family was wrongly identified as being involved in a robbery was widely shown on television.
Following the coverage, police received an anonymous tip that the Animal Liberation Front, an extremist animal-rights group, wanted to kill Hall. His family was temporarily relocated to Gatlinburg.
Hall’s August 2003 lawsuit claimed that releasing the file violated his rights to due process and privacy. He also claimed that Tennessee’s Open Records Act violated federal and state constitutional rights to privacy.
The case involves the stop of the James Smoak family of Saluda, N.C., on Interstate 40 in Cookeville by officers with the Cookeville police and Tennessee Highway Patrol.
While the family was ordered by officers to kneel on the highway shoulder, their dog Patton escaped from the vehicle through an open door that the family had repeatedly asked the officers to close.
Hall shot and killed Patton when the mixed-breed bulldog approached him. The video showed the dog was wagging his tail before he was shot.