A New York court issued its opinion today in favor of former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne, who was fired from the Buffalo Police Department for intervening during a chokehold delivered by a fellow officer against an unarmed Black man. Kirkland & Ellis represented Ms. Horne in the matter on pro bono basis along with professors from the Harvard Law School.
In 2006, Officer Horne responded to a request to assist an officer making an arrest. When she got to the scene, she observed the arresting officer with a chokehold on the arrestee. Fearing for the safety of the arrestee, Officer Horne intervened to stop the use of excessive force. Rather than being commended for her conduct, she was fired from the police force. The officers who stood by in the George Floyd death have been charged with crimes for their inaction. Ms. Horne refused to stand by and permit a fellow officer to hurt an arrestee.
Officer Horne’s exhaustive efforts to overturn the 2008 firing in court were unsuccessful because a previous court denied her efforts for reinstatement in 2010. Kirkland and the Harvard professors stepped in to represent Officer Horne in 2020.
As the court says in its opinion: “Quoting the words of Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr., ‘the time is always right to do right.’ The City of Buffalo has recognized the error and has acknowledged the need to undo an injustice from the past. The legal system can at the very least be the mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly.”
“We are gratified that the court recognized that former Buffalo Police Officer Cariol Horne did the right thing in 2006 when she intervened when a fellow police officer had a chokehold on an arrestee,” said Neil Eggleston,. “The court has now set aside her wrongful termination from the police force, awarded her back pay, and has given her pension credit. As the court notes in its opinion, ‘The legal system can at the very least be the mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly.’ After many long years, that is what has happened here.”
“This is a significant step in correcting an injustice that occurred 15 years ago when Officer Cariol Horne intervened to protect an unarmed civilian,” said Ronald Sullivan Jr., Harvard Law School professor and director of the school’s Criminal Justice Institute. “As recent events have sparked national outrage over the use of excessive force by police, we are grateful to the court for acknowledging that ‘police officers who intervene [are] now being seen as heroes,’ and ‘to her credit Officer Horne did not merely stand by, but instead sought to intervene, despite the penalty she ultimately paid for doing so.’”