Legal Process: News and Publications
"Incarcerated men and women too often suffer horrific abuses that call out for recompense and deterrence... The lower court in this case imposed a rule that every damage award in a case 'brought by a prisoner' under 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(d) must be reduced automatically by 25%. That blanket rule not only conflicts with the text and intent of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(d), as the petitioner's brief shows, but it also undermines arbitrarily the deterrent and compensatory purposes of Section 1983."
On May 18th, 2014, two Madison, Wisconsin police officers responded to a domestic disturbance report, at which the officers shot and killed Ashley DiPiazza, 26, who was threatening her own life with a handgun. An internal departmental review determined that the police did not violate departmental policy.
But a federal jury did not agree that the shooting was appropriate, and awarded DiPiazza's family $4 million in compensatory damages as well as $1.5 million in punitive damages against each officer.
"In professions where adults are in regular contact with children–such as health care, education, and day care—the state is heavily involved in setting and enforcing clear standards. Law enforcement officers are the gatekeepers for the justice system. They determine who is arrested, who is not, and who enters into the juvenile justice system and these decisions can dramatically and permanently alter a youth’s educational and professional opportunities. Given the magnitude and long-term impact of encounters between youth and law enforcement, there is no reason why law enforcement agencies and officers are not subject to the same levels of accountability, training and guidance."
In February, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of Phillip Turner in Turner v. Driver. Turner was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car after refusing to identify himself when approached by police officers. The officers had approached him because he was video recording a Fort Worth police station from a public sidewalk.
"Today, our country is engaged in a critically important conversation about community-police relations. This report describes one of the United States Department of Justice’s central tools for accomplishing police reform, restoring police-community trust, and strengthening officer and public safety – the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement of the civil prohibition on a “pattern or practice” of policing that violates the Constitution or other federal laws (the Department’s other tools are described later in this document). Pattern-or-practice cases begin with investigations of allegations of systemic police misconduct and, when the allegations are substantiated, end with comprehensive agreements designed to support constitutional and effective policing and restore trust between police and communities. The Division has opened 11 new pattern-or-practice investigations and negotiated 19 new reform agreements since 2012 alone, often with the substantial assistance of the local United States Attorney’s Offices.
The purpose of this report to make the Division’s police reform work more accessible and transparent. The usual course of a pattern-or-practice case, with examples and explanations for why the Division approaches this work the way it does, is set forth in this report."
"The wide-ranging survey, one of the largest ever conducted with a nationally representative sample of police, draws on the attitudes and experiences of nearly 8,000 policemen and women from departments with at least 100 officers. It comes at a crisis point in America’s relationship with the men and women who enforce its laws, precipitated by a series of deaths of black Americans during encounters with the police that have energized a vigorous national debate over police conduct and methods.
Within America’s police and sheriff’s departments, the survey finds that the ramifications of these deadly encounters have been less visible than the public protests, but no less profound. Three-quarters say the incidents have increased tensions between police and blacks in their communities. About as many (72%) say officers in their department are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons. Overall, more than eight-in-ten (86%) say police work is harder today as a result of these high-profile incidents."
"The pattern of unlawful force we found resulted from a collection of poor police practices that our investigation indicated are used routinely within [the Chicago Police Department]. We found that officers engage in tactically unsound and unnecessary foot pursuits, and that these foot pursuits too often end with officers unreasonably shooting someone—including unarmed individuals. We found that officers shoot at vehicles without justification and in contradiction to CPD policy. We found further that officers exhibit poor discipline when discharging their weapons and engage in tactics that endanger themselves and public safety, including failing to await backup when they safely could and should; using unsound tactics in approaching vehicles; and using their own vehicles in a manner that is dangerous. These are issues that can and must be better addressed through training, accountability and ultimately cultural change."
In a false imprisonment and malicious prosecution case litigated for over a decade, this month New York City finally settled with Maria De Lourdes Torres for $4 million. The settlement provides approximately $1 million for each year Torres was jailed at Rikers Island before the murder charges brought against her were dropped in 2007.
"...whether Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), provides a cause of action for Respondents' claim that the punitive and abusive mistreatment inflicted upon them while they were detained in a federal correctional facility was unconstitutional. The breadth of the Petitioners' position is startling. They claim that no Bivens remedy is available because this case involves high-level policy decisions and touches on issues of national security and immigration. That proposed rule would effectively immunize tens of thousands of federal officers, and large swaths of federal law enforcement activity, from damages, no matter how egregious the officers' conduct... This Court should reject that extreme position and affirm the critical importance of a Bivens remedy in deterring unconstitutional conduct and enforcing constitutional rights."