University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Spring Garden United Neighbors v. City of Philadelphia PN-PA-0010
Docket / Court Civ.A.No. 85-3209 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Racial profiling
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1985
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description Persons of Hispanic ancestry/appearance who were stopped, detained, taken into custody, frisked, searched and/or questioned without probable cause in police sweeps in Spring Garden neighborhood in May-June, 1985 following murder of Officer Thomas Trench
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 Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1986 - n/a
Case Closing Year 1986
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)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Bench Opinion 06/12/1985 (614 F.Supp. 1350) (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0010-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Approving Settlement and Dismissing Action] 02/04/1986 (1986 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 29688) (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0010-0002.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Judges Newcomer, Clarence Charles (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0010-0001 | PN-PA-0010-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Kairys, David (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0010-0001 | PN-PA-0010-0002
Presser, Stefan (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0010-0001 | PN-PA-0010-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Pandola, Armando A. Jr. (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0010-0001 | PN-PA-0010-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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