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Case Name Lancaster v. SEPTA FA-PA-0001
Docket / Court 2:01-cv-02162-BMS ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
The plaintiff in this case is a professional musician playing a musical instrument in public. Police officers of the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) arrested the plaintiff twice while he was performing on the transit property.

The first arrest took place on February ... read more >
The plaintiff in this case is a professional musician playing a musical instrument in public. Police officers of the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) arrested the plaintiff twice while he was performing on the transit property.

The first arrest took place on February 6, 2001. The SEPTA police officers arrested and detained the plaintiff for obstructing a public way. The plaintiff's criminal charge was later dismissed in court. On May 2, 2001, the plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against SEPTA. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, sought monetary damages. He alleged false arrest and malicious prosecution by the SEPTA police officers, and that his rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution were violated.

On February 13, 2002, SEPTA filed an offer of judgment and the plaintiff accepted, and subsequently the District Court (Judge Berle M. Schiller) entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff. This ended the first case.

On July 26, 2002, the SEPTA police officer arrested and detained the plaintiff for producing noise when he was playing his instrument on a pedestrian concourse. The criminal charge was later too dismissed. On October 21, 2002, the plaintiff filed a second lawsuit in the same district court against SEPTA for false arrest. The parties reached a settlement agreement, and the Court (Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter) approved the settlement on April 10, 2003. This ended the second case.

According to an Associated Press article, the settlements together included damages of $33,000 ($15,000 and $18,000) and a policy change. The AP explains "The settlement says SEPTA police may not arrest any street musician unless there is probable cause to show the musician is obstructing a highway, being disorderly or violating a noise ordinance or other criminal statute." It quotes the settlement as including a provision that "Under no circumstances shall a street musician be arrested or told to leave a location merely because that individual is playing a musical instrument or singing." In addition, SEPTA agreed that it would train police officers about the new policy.

Emma Bao - 07/08/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Transportation
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority
Plaintiff Description A street musician performing in the subway system arrested twice by the transit authority for obstructing public ways and producing noise.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2003
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
Case: 2:01-cv-02162-BMS (E.D. Pa.) 03/11/2002
FA-PA-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
09-0016 (E.D. Pa.) 04/10/2003
FA-PA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 10/21/2002
FA-PA-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Hart, Jacob P. (E.D. Pa.) [Magistrate]
FA-PA-0001-9001
Schiller, Berle M. (E.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0001-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0001-0005 | FA-PA-0001-9000
Messing, Paul (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0001-0005 | FA-PA-0001-9000 | FA-PA-0001-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Cooper, Jordana (New Jersey)
FA-PA-0001-9001
Richter, Jerome J (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0001-9001
Waller, Robert M. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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