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Posted on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Judge rules no excessive force used by police in doctor's detainment on University of Michigan campus

By Ryan J. Stanton

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff on Thursday dismissed a federal civil rights lawsuit stemming from Dr. Catherine Wilkerson's detainment on the University of Michigan campus more than five years ago, finding no excessive force was used by police.

Wilkerson was among a group of protesters on Nov. 30, 2006 that came to heckle former Reagan and Bush security adviser Ray Tanter during a speech at the Michigan League.

Wilkerson, who was forcefully removed by police and later claimed she was hurt, filed a lawsuit against an Ann Arbor police officer, three U-M police officers and Huron Valley Ambulance.


Blaine Coleman, center, is a frequent protestor in Ann Arbor. Here he is at an Ann Arbor City Council meeting in July 2009. At the time of Catherine Wilkerson's detainment at another protest in 2006, Coleman was being treated by emergency medical personnel after being removed from the event.

Ryan J. Stanton |

At the time of Wilkerson's detainment, frequent Ann Arbor protestor Blaine Coleman was being treated by emergency medical personnel after being removed from the event.

An HVA attendant asked an Ann Arbor police officer to remove Wilkerson, a medical doctor, from the scene because she was allegedly interfering with Coleman's treatment. Officer Kevin Warner led Wilkerson away and then eventually released her.

"Here, the undisputed evidence is that Warner grabbed plaintiff’s wrists and put them behind her back, then marched her out of the area where the Coleman incident was taking place and into a stairwell," the judge wrote in his opinion on Thursday. "The evidence is also undisputed that once Warner got plaintiff in the stairwell, he released her wrists, he did not handcuff plaintiff, and he did not use any physical force against plaintiff thereafter."

A federal lawsuit was filed on Wilkerson's behalf by the Constitutional Litigation Associates of Detroit on Nov. 20, 2009, claiming she was the victim of excessive force and unlawful detention and that her civil rights were violated. The lawsuit made further claims of conspiracy, assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Judge Zatkoff finally issued a 42-page opinion on Thursday that dismissed all of the claims brought by Wilkerson.

The judge found that Warner's detention of Wilkerson was justified, and that the officer not only had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, but he had probable cause to believe that Wilkerson was engaged in criminal activity.

More specifically, the judge found Warner, still an Ann Arbor police officer, had reason to believe Wilkerson was interfering with the ability of HVA to administer care to Coleman.

Hugh "Buck" Davis, an attorney for Wilkerson, called the judge a "jack-booted thug" on Thursday and vowed to appeal the ruling.

"I had warned Catherine that this judge was the most anti-civil rights judge on the federal bench in the Eastern District of Michigan," Davis said. "I think this is the third or fourth case that he has dismissed and I've appealed every one of them and won every appeal."

Davis said he'll be filing an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati within 30 days and he expects to win, especially on the excessive force claim.

"I am surprised on the excessive force claim," he said. "She already had a bad shoulder and (the officer) twisted it and she kept telling him, 'Stop, you're hurting me.' Plus she wasn't fighting him. If you have an unresisting prisoner, you're not supposed to use any force."

Davis said his client's arm hurt for a number of months afterward. She treated it on her own, and there's some residual pain, he said, but it wasn't broken.

"But there's just no need for the use of any force," he said.


Stephen Postema

City Attorney Stephen Postema said the judge was right to rule that there was no factual or legal basis for the "hodgepodge of claims" filed by Wilkerson.

"In the end, the police officers and medical personnel involved were sued simply for doing their jobs," Postema said in a statement, noting the city will always vigorously defend its police officers against such claims. "Despite the plaintiff's demands for large monetary amounts from the individual police officers and others, the court appropriately held that plaintiff was entitled to precisely nothing as her claims were specious."

The judge ruled that Wilkerson was not engaged in protected constitutional activity when she protested the medical measures and techniques being utilized by HVA on Coleman.

Because she did not comply with verbal commands by police to remove herself from the treatment area, the judge ruled it was not unreasonable for Warner to use limited physical means to escort her away from the scene.

"As such, the court finds that the manner in which the detention was conducted was 'reasonably related to the basis for the original intrusion,' " the ruling states.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 2:37 p.m. here's a link to the antics of the wilkerson/coleman crew...notably coleman. Wilkerson was omitted from the website because , despite abundant photos of her in action, the site creators recognized that she had stopped her public incitements with this group after she got into the legal mess described in the article ( although remaining a off camera " martyr' to their sorry cause). she deserves every bit of hassle she's had and the police and court have served justice well in this case.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

The more legal judgments against the Blaine Coleman/Catherine Wilkerson/Henry Herskovitz types of trespassers on everyone else's freedom of speech with their malevolent, fascistic style abuse of the First Amendment, the better it reflects on our judicial system. Well done, Judge Zatkoff.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

The only"jackbooted thugs' in this case were the ones the police acted against.....demonstrable by those wilkerson , coleman et al regularly cheer for and harass religious institutions on behalf of. so sorry i missed this story when it appeared buy better late than never.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Bedrog, You got that right, but you and I are probably the only ones still looking at this, and I only found out about this now old news item today. I hope that the ruling made herein will be upheld on appeal and that Wilkerson is made to pay back the city's legal costs. which I and my fellow Ann Arborites will have to otherwise foot.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Thank you to Tresspass and Stuart Brown, who have it exactly right. This entire episode was a travesty, and, once again, "jack-booted thugs" have shown they are IN CHARGE, and we must support the squishing of anyone who dares to act out of ethical convictions or professional ethics, whenever those actions contradict the interests of the overlords.

Stuart Brown

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 7:05 a.m.

Trespass' description of the situation is accurate. I would add that the "interference" she was accused of was interrupting a torture session in progress that the EMT was administering. In particular, the EMT was using excessive levels of ammonia on Mr. Colman when he was not responsive. Dr. Wilkerson was duty bound to intervene. The notion that an experienced and competent doctor can interfere with an EMT who is torturing his patient is ludicrous on its face. State violence directed at doctors trying to stop a torture session in process is no laughing matter and Dr. Wilkerson's lawsuit is the type of thing that needs to happen if people in this country truly want to live in a country free of government tyranny. Dr. Wilkerson deserves our support.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

'a torture session" typical of the over the top, out of the neighborhood and into outer space rhetoric of the wilkerson/ coleman/ henry herskovitz ( the three main principals in the case) synagogue harassing crowd. good for the police who recognized the 'crying fire in a crowded theater"- ness of the perps whose abuse and distortion of the first 1st amendment is well known hereabouts.

Stuart Brown

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

To the poster known as Matt Cooper, So HVA changing its policy on the use of ammonia has nothing to do with the incident in question? Sure, and maybe you are merely just a figment of your imagination as well! What are you going to do if and when the judge is overruled on appeal? You trust the judgement of a judge when it comes to medical matters and completely discount a doctor with significant experience, obviously it would be impossible for me to have any professional credentials that would suffice you. I'll take the word of a doctor over a judge in medical matters every time, unlike you.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

Didn't your english teachers ever tell you not to answer a question with a question? As for being an expert, LOL I never claimed to be any such thing, so I'll take your refusal to answer such a basic question to mean you have no expertise. Thank you for your input. When you answer my question about your qualifications, I will gladly answer yours about mine. PS. If you had bothered to read the courts decision you'd know that HVA changed their policy but also that that change had nothing whatever to do with this particular case and does not prove or disprove in any way the efficacy of ammonia use. I know you'll claim otherwise, but in this case I'll take HVA's and the judges word over yours.

Stuart Brown

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 6:11 a.m.

To the poster known as Matt Cooper: does HVA still allow their EMT's to use ammonia on patients? Has HVA changed they way ammonia is used since this incident? You claim to be such an expert, you tell us all here.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

I'm just wondering what professional experience or licences or medical education you have that allows you to adjudge that the medics treatment were inappropriate. Are you a doctor? EMT? Medic? Secondly, Are you such a good chemist that you can tell what is a safe level of ammonia and what is not? Did you analyze the patients blood levels for ammonia? Or for anything else? Are you an expert on how to properly use ammonia? Thirdly, your comment "...the "interference" she was accused of was interrupting a torture session in progress that the EMT was administering", is 1. not an accusation. She admitted to it in court, and 2. is in fact character assasination as you apparantly have no idea what you're talking about if you think that you know how much ammonia should or should not be administered, and certainly are way out of bounds in accusing these medics of torture. Finally, as to your comments about the doctor being "duty bound", you seem to have little to no knowledge of what the terms "duty" or "liability" mean and how they apply to how a medic does his job. Perhaps if you read the courts decision this will clear a few things up for you, or you could try reading a few of my earlier posts where I quote the court as well as parts of the law. So, all that being said, please at least educate yourself as to medical treatment protocols and the laws regarding medical care, duty, transferring care, and liability if for no other reason than to make sensible comments in the future.

Stuart Brown

Sun, Apr 1, 2012 : 5:35 a.m.

To the poster known as Matt Cooper, explain why an EMT has any right to assume a person who is unconscious is "faking it" and force that person to breath a dangerous level of ammonia? Who are you to make a bogus claim of character assassination! The facts speak for themselves, this was torture pure and simple.

Matt Cooper

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 11:10 p.m.

Try reading the courts decision. Those medics were under no obligation whatever to allow a bystander who claims to be a doctor to take over care of their patient. Her interference was unethical, unprofessional and illegal. Also, I'd like to know why my previous post was disallowed by What rules did I break? I simply asked the qualifications of the poster known as Stuart Brown which allowed him to 1. character assasinate two medics, and 2. to assume that he knows what appropriate care of this patient was in this situation. I used to work as an EMT and know what I'm talking about. I was just wondering if he had similar qualifications.

toothless wonder

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 6:37 a.m.

By the way- I believe the City had various and very serious charges against Dr. Wilkerson. I do not see that portion of the over all story here. Didn't she supposedly refuse to disperse, and didn't she get multiple charges for assaulting and interfering with an officer?? All. Because. She was working on an injured man. As a PROFESSIONAL DOCTOR!! This antagonized the officer's authority. And so, they (City of A2) pretty much ran Dr. Wilkerson through the legal mill ( as any neutral onlooker could surmise) . Also, one could surmise they knew beforehand that in a war of monetary attrition.. The City wins! If any have questions about this scenario, Please bring up extraneous evidence that: basically a 2 year Degree cop, can't bring down a 14 yr multi Degree Professional Doctor, On a whim.

Steve Hendel

Sat, Mar 31, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

So because the officer had 2 years of post-secondary education, and Dr Wilkerson had 14, that makes her ...what ? More believable ?

toothless wonder

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 6:23 a.m.

Dr. Wilkerson is no doubt, bankrupt from various suits and charges over these years. She used to work at Packard Clinic, she has to this day a reputation as the most genuinely caring professional Doctor. Back, ten years ago, when I went there she was maybe 5'2 and 100 lbs not an ounce more. She wasn't a youngster then, and I bet she dropped some lbs (she was bird-like thin)... FYI The arresting complaint originating cop was like 6'6, 300 lbs and ... This is a common end product in America these days! A person works,honestly their whole life and in an instant and with help from the State, the total sum of their life is taken monetarily. Anything can be construed as interfering with an officer. Too bad, they didn't have much cell phone videos back then, this no doubt would've had a vastly different outcome. FOR SHAME!!!!


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

moderators: my deleted comment was factual on all fronts in response to this post on wilkersons finances and weight and the suppose dinjustice of it all...... notably: -- the past associations ( for purposes of synagogue and jewish event harassment ) of wilkerson and coleman, -- the photo of coleman smirking after his supposed "torture" --wilkersons economic safety net ( her UM dr. husband) --and the fact that there are no fat martyrs in the hagiography/ iconography of martyrdom ( wjhich is clearly what wilkerson et aspire to) these are controversial public figures---by their own relentless and aggressive efforts--and need to exercise a bit of slack in dealing with their well informed opponants... like me.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Karma 1, Coleman/Wilkerson 0....


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 9:06 p.m. a nushell. well said, kvetch.

sam time

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

Thanks to the City Council and the U of M for not putting up with this nonsense. Thanks to the City Attorney's office for strongly defending the AAPD officer involved. I don't really understand the criticism of the judge here, wouldn't any federal or state judge toss this? This happened so long ago, why is this a federal suit now?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

The process takes a long time. That's the downside. But, sometimes it's pretty thorough. Which, in this case, it seems to have been.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

It was filed within the applicable limitation period for Federal Civil Rights Act suits - three years.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

Once a physician begins caring for a patient they must continue until the person is out of danger or until they transfer the care to another physician. They cannot transfer responsibility to an EMT. To do otherwise would violate medical ethics, particularly because she thought the treatment by the EMT was dangerous. The police officers did not understand the medical situation. How can an officer make a judgement that an experienced emergency room doctor is interfering with the treatment by an EMT? The EMT was holding multiple vials of ammonia under Coleman's nose trying to prove he was faking unconciousness. She was criminally charged with resisting and obstruction of a police officer but was acquitted of all charges. Thus, she is not guilty of any criminal activity even if the judge says that the officers had probable cause to believe she was involved in criminal activity (i.e. resisting and obstructing an officer). The officer did not charge her until a month later and after she had filed a complaint against the officer with the Police Dept. The jury found her actions to be justified.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Oh and just in case you don't believe me about the medics having no responsibility to turn over care of that patient to the doctor, here's the law for you: 3Plaintiff has suggested on several occasion that she had a physician-patient relationship with Coleman and that she had assumed care for him once she took his vital signs. At her deposition, however, Plaintiff admitted that she did not: (1) "request to take over Coleman's care"; (2) have an established physician-patient relationship with Coleman; or (3) follow-up on his treatment after she left the Michigan League on November 30, 2006. Moreover, the Washtenaw/Livingston Medical Control Authority Policy and Procedure for "On-Scene Physician Interaction" requires a physician seeking to become involved with a patient's care to, among other things, identify herself and provide credentials to HVA personnel, as well as "verify to [the HVA team] either that she had an established physician-patient relationship with the patient, or willingness to assume responsibility for the patient and to accompany the patient to the hospital." Plaintiff did not satisfy any of those requirements.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

Two facts you seem to have forgotten to mention: 1. She only identified herself as a doctor ("I am a doctor"). She offered no other information as to what kind of doctor, showed no identification, offered her name, nothing. 2. HVA was called and were the appropriate responders. They are under no obligation to transfer care of the patient to someone else simply because they say out loud "I am a doctor" and offer no other information. If they did transfer care to another person without any other information than "I am a doctor" they could lose their licenses. Furthermore, you neglect to mention that she never asked to take over care of the patient but rather seemed to want to stand by an offer an ongoing personal critique of the work of the EMS team that was present. This was innappropriate and the medics were completely in the right to feel that she was interfering and that thhey needed police intervention. Finally, you neglect to mention that she had also already been asked several times to leave the area when the police removed her. This demonstrates that contrary to her claim the she would willingly follow police orders to leave without their assistance, she actually did the opposite, even to the point where the police had to physically remove her. And just so you know, the police don't decide who gets charged with what. That's the prosecutors job. So let's not present this as if the cop was acting punitively, as it wasn't his decision as to when charges would be filed or what those charges would be.


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

@Sam- it does mean that legally the court is supposed to assume that she was not guilty of what the officers charged her with.

sam time

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

Well, just because she was acquitted does not mean that the Officer did anything wrong.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

This is a great example of why we need "loser pays" legislation to add some consequences to childish law suites brought by democrats. Get on that Becky - as soon as you finish with getting constitutional protection for nursing mothers in restaurants! LOL


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Clinton vetoed that one


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

What a joke of a lawsuit. I even think's use of the word detainment is inappropriate here. That is not detainment and Wilkerson should be glad she did not get arrested. This is just pure funny. If anyone thinks this is use of excessive force, they have not ever seen it. Wilkerson has no reason to complain she is responsible for what happened to her. She has no right to refuse to comply with an order from the police. And she should not have been interfering with emergency medical responders unless she is an ER doctor. I hope the city gets legal fees reimbursed.


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 10:48 p.m.

moderator: the comment of mine that you removed was a factual one on a matter that a2.covered extensively and i simply inadvertantly omitted it from my existing comment on Blaine colemans history of costing the city time and money to deal with his antics.: again: the lawsuit coleman has filed against the AATA is because of the AATA's refusal to allow him to run ads with blatant antisemitic imagery. why in the world was this moderated out??? i trust this time it won't be .


Mon, Jun 4, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

blaine coleman---the proximate cause of this episode ( and a known crony /accomplice of wilkerson's in longterm synagogue harassment) --is also causing the AATA to defend itself against his lawsuit ( aided by the ACLU in a breathtakingly member- losing move!). He should be among the first billed for the expenses his flamboyant and disruptive public acting -out incur when he / chums lose in their frivolous court actions.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

@Mick- The officers may allege that she refused to comply but she was acquitted of all charges in the criminal trial. Thus, according to the law she is not guilty and for you to assume that she is guilty is actually against guidlines. Charges against her were not filed until a month after the incident and only after she filed a complaint against the officers with the Police Dept.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

I'm not a lawyer, But I play one on Read the ruling. It's very informative.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

A few words about the federal judge who dismissed this case. He previously served as a Macomb County Circuit Court Judge before being appointed by a GOP president in the 1980s. He served as a character witness for then-Sheriff William H. Hackel at Hackel's criminal sexual conduct trial in Midland County in 2000 arising out of Hackel's alleged conduct at a Michigan Sheriffs Association convention. Hackel was later convicted and sent to prison. He released former Detroit Police Officer Larry Nevers from prison after overturning Nevers' conviction for murder in connection with the death of Malice Green. Civil rights supporters of Green asked for an investigation why and how Nevers could obtain a release order from Judge Zatkoff the when the court was shut down for the holidays. An appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is an excellent idea. Zatkoff has close ties to the law enforcement community.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

And this all proves exactly what?


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

If they do appeal it may turn out for the better. The court can uphold the ruling and then it will apply throughout the 6th circuit, clarifying the issue, not just on this case. Be careful for what you wish for.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

I'm no fan of Blaine Coleman's tactics: they're annoying (at least), extremist (at worst), and have resulted in great damage to the Palestinian solidarity movement here. That having been said this situation is a higher-level travesty. The use of force against him was clearly excessive. If stopping someone's ability to breathe isn't excessive, what is? That Wilkerson, a doctor, ended up with so much trouble as a result of trying to step in and do the right thing is dismaying.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

@ Michigan Reader: In my second paragraph I was referring more to the general incident, not today's court decision. But I should have made that more clear - thanks for the comment.

Michigan Reader

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

No, it's Dr. Wilkerson who filed a civil rights complaint alleging excessive force against her, not Coleman. If she was given a verbal warning and refused to comply, I think the police officer's actions were appropriate.