University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Wilson v. Tinicum Township PN-PA-0004
Docket / Court 2:92-cv-06617-LR ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On November 17, 1992, four African-American plaintiffs filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged unconstitutional racial profiling by the Tinicum Township Police Department [TTPD]. Plaintiffs alleged that ... read more >
On November 17, 1992, four African-American plaintiffs filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged unconstitutional racial profiling by the Tinicum Township Police Department [TTPD]. Plaintiffs alleged that the TTPD maintained a policy or custom of stopping African-American motorists on I-95 to search for drugs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiffs further alleged that the TTPD violated the Fourth Amendment by stopping motorists on I-95 for pretextual traffic violations with the intent of searching their vehicles for drugs.

On April 27, 1993, plaintiffs moved for class certification. On July 20, 1993, District Court (Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr.) granted the motion for certification and certified an injunctive class consisting of two subclasses: "(a) all individuals who travel or will travel I-95 through Tinicum Township; and (b) all African-American and Hispanic individuals who travel or will travel I-95 through Tinicum Township." The District Court also certified a damage class consisting of two subclasses: "a) all individuals travelling on I-95 who have been stopped or subjected to searches and seizures by the defendants since November 18, 1990 as a result of defendants alleged customs and policies of stopping travellers on I-95 for pretextual traffic violations with the intent of coercing consent or improperly searching vehicles thus stopped for drugs; and (b) all African American and Hispanic individuals travelling I-95 since November 18, 1990 who have been stopped or subjected to searches or seizures as a result of defendants' alleged policy or custom of stopping and searching minority individuals on I-95 because of their minority status." Wilson V. Tinicum Township, 1993 WL 280205 *10-11 (E.D.Pa.).

After class certification, the parties reached a settlement. On November 10, 1994, the District Court preliminarily approved the parties' proposed settlement agreement and set the matter for a fairness hearing. On January 19, 2005, the District Court issued its final order approving the settlement and entered the consent decree. The consent decree specified departmental reforms aimed at ending the TTPD practices of racial profiling and engaging in pretextual traffic stops. To ensure compliance with the consent decree, the TTPD was required to send copies of all TTPD reports of motor vehicle stops on I-95 to plaintiffs' attorneys on a monthly basis. The decree was to remain in effect for two years, unless compliance was not achieved. The PACER docket does not indicate that the compliance period was extended.

In addition to the consent decree, defendants agreed to pay $150,000 in damages to plaintiffs, along with attorneys' fees and costs.

Dan Dalton - 01/11/2007


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Racial profiling
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Tinicum Township Police Department
Plaintiff Description All individuals who travel or will travel I-95 through Tinicum Township; all African-American and Hispanic individuals who travel or will travel I-95 through Tinicum Township; and all individuals subjected to an illegal traffic stop on I-95 since 1990.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1994 - 1996
Case Closing Year 1996
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
Civil 92-CV-6617 (E.D. Pa.) 02/01/2005
PN-PA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum 07/20/1993 (1993 WL 280205 / 1993 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 9971) (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Consent Decree 01/19/1995 (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Judges Reed, Lowell A. Jr. (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-0002 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Kreimer, Seth (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-0002 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Presser, Stefan (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-0002 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-0002 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hanna, Robert G. Jr. (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-0002 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Pappano, Robert (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0004-0001 | PN-PA-0004-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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