A community improvement group and several named individuals, represented by private counsel and an ACLU attorney, on June 6, 1985, filed on behalf of themselves and a similarly-situated class a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Their complaint, against ...
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A community improvement group and several named individuals, represented by private counsel and an ACLU attorney, on June 6, 1985, filed on behalf of themselves and a similarly-situated class a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Their complaint, against the City of Philadelphia, a police commissioner, and named and unknown police officers, alleged that following a murder of a police officer in the Spring Garden neighborhood on May 28, 1985, the defendants conducted (and supervisors failed to halt after being made aware of it) a "sweep" of persons in the neighborhood appearing of Puerto Rican ancestry. The sweep involved Ninth Precinct officers stopping, searching, detaining, frisking, handcuffing, and questioning plaintiffs. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs.
On June 11, 1985, District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer conducted an evidentiary hearing upon the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. He issued a memorandum opinion from the bench. He found that the plaintiffs' unrebutted evidence established that the city's police were engaged in a repeated, persistent pattern of unconstitutional stops, detentions, seizures and frisks; that no evidence showed that any of the individuals had a police record or fit a profile being investigated; and that no evidence showed that statements taken had been expunged or that the police had apologized, although the sweep apparently stopped after June 5, with the filing of the lawsuit on June 6. The judge observed that the evidence showed that the mayor and police commissioners, aware of the sweep, did nothing to halt it and that no evidence was offered to show that the suspect in the murder was of Puerto Rican origin or was from the Spring Garden neighborhood. Defense counsel argued that the case was moot, since the homicide division had taken over the investigation from the Ninth Precinct officers, but the judge said that the "disgraceful activities" of the police warranted injunctive relief under both the "possibility of reoccurrence" and the "substantial threat of future violations" tests for issuing injunctions. Judge Newcomer noted that a fellow judge on his court had issued an injunction against similar police "sweep" conduct just months before, in a slightly different context (police investigation of street narcotics activity). (Information about that case, Cliett v. City of Philadelphia, exists in this database at case PN-PA-8.) The evidence established to the judge that the city and its police were willing to use sweeps in place in investigations conducted in accordance with the Constitution. Accordingly, Judge Newcomer issued an injunction enjoining police from the complained-of conduct and from engaging in those actions based solely upon a person's Puerto Rican or Hispanic ancestry or presence in the Spring Garden neighborhood. Spring Garden United Neighbors, Inc. v. City of Philadelphia, 614 F. Supp. 1350 (E.D. Pa. 1985).
Discovery followed, as did negotiations among the parties, resulting in plaintiffs' motion for approval of a proposed settlement on behalf of a class. Notice to members of the proposed settlement class preceded a fairness hearing held on January 13, 1986. No one objected to the settlement. Judge Newcomer's February 4, 1986, unpublished order thus approved making the June 1985, preliminary injunction permanent and the city's creating a fund of $45,000 to split among the 82 identified members of the plaintiff class. The court also awarded plaintiffs' counsel fees of $15,591.55 and costs of $686.05. These latter payments were separate from and did not come out of the $45,000 fund for the plaintiffs.
We do not have information showing any post-settlement activity in the case.Mike Fagan - 06/26/2008