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 with the District of Columbia 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.
In 2015, parallel litigation with the federal government was settled. It included $2.2 million and equitable relief in the form of significant reforms in the U.S. Park Police's handling of future demonstrations.
The Becker and Barham class action settlements constitute the largest protest-related settlements in U.S. history.
Legal InformationJeffrey Barham, et al. v. Chief Charles H. Ramsey, et al.United States District Court for the District of Columbia02-CV-2283 (class action)Settled:
After more than seven years of intense litigation, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund announced that it had reached a 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.
In 2015, parallel litigation with the federal government was settled. It included $2.2 million in total compensation, as well as equitable relief in the form of significant reforms in the U.S. Park Police's handling of future demonstrations.Monitoring Report and Comments by the Partnership For Civil Justice Fund to the District Defendants' Second Six Month Report on the Implementation of Required Changes to Policies and Practices Under The Barham Class Action Settlement Agreement
Press CoverageBut the current approach that D.C. police take toward protests did not come about on its own. Instead, the more relaxed attitude is the result of investigations and litigation that came about after the Metropolitan Police Department employed a heavy-handed approach to various protests in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Video: major legal victory can be model for reforms in police departments around the country [CBS/WUSA-9]Watch and Share: the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund's recent $2.2 million settlement with the federal government has national implications because it reforms police handling of protests.Nine years after hundreds of people were illegally detained and arrested in a downtown park the FBI is looking into allegations someone in the D.C. Police Department tried to destroy documents related to the event.Video from MyFox 5 Washington DC, reporting on the historic settlement of the false arrest case dating back to September 27, 2002.