The Partnership for Civil Justice, a Washington DC-based civil rights and legal organization, has filed an opening appellate brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s controversial “Neighborhood Safety Zone” roadblock/checkpoint seizure and interrogation program. The filing seeks to reverse a lower court ruling denying plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to halt the program. The program, which was deployed last summer in D.C.’s Trinidad neighborhood, remains in force. D.C. Chief of Police has stated that she will not cease the program until “a judge orders me to stop.”
“The checkpoint program is unconstitutional, ineffective, and if allowed to stand would lead to a vast expansion of police power in contravention of civil rights and civil liberties not only in Washington, D.C. but throughout the country,” stated Carl Messineo, co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice and counsel on the case, Mills et al v District of Columbia.
“Mayor Fenty, his Attorney General Peter Nickles, and Chief Lanier have gone far beyond the limits of established law that restrict the government’s activity so that it conforms with constitutional standards. Their program is in defiance of people’s fundamental Fourth Amendment rights to be free from police seizure, interrogation and intrusions upon privacy,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder of PCJ and also counsel in the case.
The brief’s Statement of Case reads: “Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the MPD’s so-called ‘Neighborhood Safety Zone’ checkpoint system program whereby police surround a neighborhood with barriers, stop all vehicles which seek to enter the neighborhood at perimeter checkpoints, require all drivers–including all residents to who seek simply to drive to their homes–to submit to police questioning as to their intended activities and/or the identities of the persons whom they seek to visit (who may be then contacted, out of the blue, by police for ‘verification’), evaluate the individual’s responses against a list of six criteria in order to detect or predict or profile who constitutes ‘persons inclined towards committing acts of violence involving a motor vehicle,’ and selectively bar individuals from being able to drive into or upon the public roadways of the targeted neighborhood based on this individualized prediction of possible future unspecified unlawful behavior or based on the failure of drivers to overcome a ban based on six arbitrary criteria.”
Copies of the opening Appellate Brief, the initial Class Action Complaint, Mills v. District of Columbia, and the Memorandum of Law in Support of a Preliminary Injunction can be read below.