This case has been settled!
After more than seven years of intense litigation, the Partnership for
Civil Justice Fund announced that it had reached a proposed settlement
with the District of Columbia. The settlement will provide up to $18,000
in compensation for each person arrested in Pershing Park, plus will
impose new policies and practices on the MPD and its attorneys. Those
who were arrested will have their records expunged and their arrests
declared null and void.
Click here for the Memorandum in Support of the Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval. Click here for the Court's Order granting Preliminary Approval.
IssuesFree Speech, Police Misconduct
On the morning of September 27, 2002, the D.C. Police Department working
with the U.S. Park Police encircled Pershing Park, refused to allow
anyone to leave and then arrested and hog-tied peaceful demonstrators,
tourists, passers-by, and legal observers. Many were bound wrist to
ankle on a police gym floor for upwards of 24 hours.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia certified this lawsuit as a class action with respect to the Pershing Park arrests, with attorneys at the Partnership for Civil Justice as class counsel.
The Pershing Park case received national and international focus after
it was revealed by the PCJF that the MPD and its attorneys had engaged
in widespread destruction and withholding of evidence. PCJF attorneys
uncovered and exposed that the Command Center Running Resume, a
comprehensive computer database repository of police activity and
decisions on the day of the arrest, had been destroyed. PCJF attorneys,
conducting a painstaking and detailed review of audio recordings also
discovered that the system tapes of the days' dispatch and police radio
communications appeared to have been edited. The District of Columbia
was forced to concede that "some, if not all" of the scores of hours of
radio recordings were missing data.
The Barham settlement exceeds $8.25 million. It comes on the heels of the announced $13.7 million settlement of the mass arrest class action claims in the case of Becker v. District of Columbia, which arose out of an April 15, 2000 mass arrest using the same unlawful police tactics. The PCJF is class counsel in the Becker case also.
The equitable relief provisions in these two class settlements imposes many new requirements on police and attorney practices in demonstration cases, including: That the MPD and the D.C. Office of the Attorney General is required to centrally index and log all materials collected and reviewed in demonstration cases, a measure calculated to create an audit trail that will prevent future acts of evidence destruction; funding is established for document management software to be used to log and index evidence; new mandatory requirements are imposed for the preservation and indexing of, and maintenance of the integrity of, the command center running resume, recorded police communications and video recorded evidence; and ongoing obligations for the Office of the Attorney General to report to PCJF attorneys every six months for the next 3 years on the implementation of these measures. There are additional training and accountability requirements for police personnel including requirements for training on lawful standard operating procedures in the context of First Amendment protected assemblies and mass demonstrations; and additional obligations when the MPD obtains the assistance of outside law enforcement agencies for demonstration related duties.
The arrests of the over 1,000 persons falsely arrested in these two mass arrests will be declared to be "null and void" by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and all arrest records will be expunged.
The Becker and Barham class action settlements constitute the largest protest-related settlements in U.S. history.