Appeal by city delays Ruggles suit trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2000

The trial of a lawsuit against the City of Vicksburg stemming from the arrest of an oral surgeon has been delayed by an appeal by attorneys for the city.

The attorneys want the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a pretrial ruling by U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette.

In the motion, they say the police officers named in the suit have a qualified immunity for their actions.

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Dr. James E. Ruggles was taken into custody in February 1999 on charges of distribution of a Schedule IV controlled substance, but was not prosecuted by District Attorney Gil Martin, who said there was no criminal offense in the facts police presented.

Bramlette issued an order Monday to delay the trial from Aug. 28 until the resolution of the city’s appeal.

The case file indicates Ruggles gave Sherry Balthrop, then an employee, tablets of the sedative Valium that police found loose in her purse. The pills were dispensed, the case file indicates, because she was nervous about flying.

The three Jackson attorneys hired to represent the city filed their motion after Bramlette issued a series of rulings on pretrial matters July 19, including a conclusion, like Martin’s, that Dr. Ruggles had not broken any law.

Balthrop, who is no longer employed by Ruggles, was also arrested, and charges against her were subsequently dropped. She also has filed a lawsuit against the city, charging false arrest.

In their appeal, the city’s lawyers say narcotics officers Tom Wilson and Lt. Walter Beamon and former Police Chief Charles Chisley should be exempt from the suit, in essence, because as public officials they were acting in good faith during the course of their jobs.