Carter Sued Police Over Son’s Arrest

Times Staff Writer

More than 10 years ago, on an unusually warm winter night in 1978, attorney Brian R. Carter was recuperating from an illness in his Newport Beach home when the telephone rang.

A Newport Beach police officer was calling to tell Carter and his wife that their 17-year-old son, Brian Carter Jr., had been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. He could be released from the City Jail to his parents’ custody, the officer said.

When they picked him up, the Carters claimed, there were cuts and bruises on the youth’s face. The younger Carter told his father that he had been roughed up by police officers--kicked in the head and slammed against a patrol car holding cage--after he had been questioned when he was found sitting in a car in the parking lot of Corona del Mar High School.

Carter filed a $50,000 lawsuit against the police and the city of Newport Beach. After 4 years of litigation, another attorney eventually took the case to trial and lost.


The same year, 1982, Brian R. Carter was named by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. to the Harbor Municipal Court bench.

The lawsuit Carter filed against Newport Beach and its Police Department is perceived by some as part of a longstanding strained relationship between law enforcement agencies and some Harbor Court judges.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Polis, who was a judge at Harbor Court until 1982, said: “There’s no question that there was a little bit of unhappiness between Brian Carter and the Newport Beach police before he became a judge. That’s what was always rumbling in the community.”

But on balance, law enforcement sources say, Carter’s lawsuit probably contributed only in small part to the feud.

In a recent interview, Judge Carter denied that he harbors any animosity toward the police because of the lawsuit over his son’s arrest.

“What’s over is over,” Carter said. “I am an impartial judge. There are no hard feelings on my part. I think the Newport Beach Police Department has some fine officers. They may have had an image problem in the past. But I think they are working hard at that.”