Stop the Unconstitutional D.C. Checkpoints!

  • Background

    The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed the successful lawsuit challenging the military-style checkpoint program whereby police could surround a targeted neighborhood, interrogate people without suspicion, and prohibit entry to those persons who lack a police-defined "legitimate reason" for driving into the neighborhood.

    In an unanimous and strongly worded ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared the District of Columbia's checkpoint program unconstitutional on July 10, 2009, reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the municipality.

    "We hope this puts an end to this chapter of police activity in the District of Columbia,"  stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of four D.C. residents. Verheyden-Hilliard continued: "It's time for the D.C. government to address the real needs of the communities of Washington, rather than criminalize neighborhoods. The program was not only unconstitutional but, like many of the MPD's high-profile initiatives, ineffective in addressing crime and community problems."

    "The outcome of this case is extremely significant. If the government had succeeded in establishing military-style checkpoints in D.C., it would have been a model used in urban areas around the country," stated Carl Messineo, attorney and co-founder of the PCJF.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals held that the residents were entitled to a preliminary injunction that would prohibit further implementation of the checkpoints and reversed the lower court ruling denying that injunction. The District had recently sought a full court re-hearing of the case, which was rejected 8-1 by the Court of Appeals on Oct. 15, 2009. Subsequently it moved the court to stay the issuance of the mandate to the lower court which the PCJF opposed. Subsequently, the District filed a withdrawal of that request to the Court of Appeals and announced that it would rescind the order authorizing the program.

    The attorneys on the lawsuit are Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo, co-founders of the Partnership for Civil Justice.

  • Legal Information

    Class Action Complaint, Mills v. District of Columbia
    D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
    Ruled On:

    The D.C. Police Department announced that the Chief of Police was rescinding the so-called "Neighborhood Safety Zone" program. Having had its program declared unconstitutional at the U.S. Court of Appeals, and then subsequently suggesting for months that it would take the case to the Supreme Court, the District of Columbia has now cancelled the military-style checkpoints program.

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  • Press Coverage

    D.C. to drop controversial checkpoints

    The D.C. government has agreed not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling that checkpoints set up by District police in neighborhoods beset by violence are unconstitutional.

    D.C. to Settle Controversial Neighborhood Checkpoint Suit

    Three residents who sued the District over the city's controversial neighborhood checkpoint program are expected to receive $3,500 each to settle claims that the police initiative violated constitutional rights, according to court papers filed Thursday.

    D.C. quietly folds up police checkpoint program

    Remember all the controversy over military checkpoints in the District neighborhood of Trinidad? D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier set up roadblocks there in the summer of 2008 in an effort to combat crime in the Northeast neighborhood.

    Appeals court disallows D.C. police checkpoints

    A U.S. appeals court has slapped the District of Columbia with a restraining order forbidding Mayor Adrian Fenty and Police Chief Cathy Lanier from erecting any more police barricades to prevent violence.

    Court Condemns D.C. Roadblocks

    A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that checkpoints set up by District police in neighborhoods beset by violence are unconstitutional, effectively ending a crime-fighting tactic that officials say was used in only the most dire circumstances to protect residents.

    Court: D.C.'s Trinidad checkpoints not legal

    A federal appeals court Friday declared unconstitutional a controversial police checkpoint program used to cordon off a crime-ridden D.C. neighborhood last year. The unanimous 14-page opinion of a three-judge panel of the U.
  • Multimedia

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