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Case Name Lawson v. Gates PN-CA-0006
Docket / Court BC 031232 ( State Court )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On July 24, 1991, private attorneys and attorneys for the ACLU and NAACP filed a state-court class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) engaged in unlawful use of police attack dogs to apprehend suspects. On August 17, 1993, ... read more >
On July 24, 1991, private attorneys and attorneys for the ACLU and NAACP filed a state-court class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) engaged in unlawful use of police attack dogs to apprehend suspects. On August 17, 1993, after two years of discovery, plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint, which included as attachments sixteen separate charts evidencing statistical information regarding LAPD's K-9 unit. Plaintiffs alleged, inter alia, that the LAPD engaged in a custom, pattern and/or practice whereby hundreds of citizens, particularly minorities, were subjected to vicious dog attacks and bodily injury, when officers deployed police dogs in circumstances that were not constitutionally justified. Plaintiffs alleged that in the three years preceding the filing of the third amended complaint, some 900 suspects were believed to have been bitten by LAPD police dogs. Plaintiffs cited a 90% injury rate to suspects subjected to the police dogs. Plaintiffs further alleged that the LAPD disproportionately deployed attack dogs in minority areas, resulting in over 90% of the dog bites being inflicted on African-American or Latino citizens. Plaintiffs sought monetary damages and injunctive relief to bar such practices.

On March 27, 1995 the parties settled the case along with some other cases pending against LAPD relating to use of canines. The settlement included a monetary payment to 54 individually named plaintiffs and injunctive relief in the form of agreed revisions to the LAPD K-9 policies. The revisions included the requirement that LAPD collect and publish data in the form of quarterly and annual reports, regarding the K-9 unit, including the number of searches by division, the find ratio, the number of bites, and the number of hospitalizations relating to bites. While the settlement was a private agreement, it contained a court enforcement provision.

Dan Dalton - 12/28/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Improper use of canines
Racial profiling
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1985
Defendant(s) Los Angeles Police Department
Plaintiff Description All individuals in Los Angeles against whom the LAPD has unleashed a police dog to attack and bite without probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals posed an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.
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 Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1995 - 2000
Case Closing Year 2000
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PN-CA-0004 : Brown v. City of Los Angeles (State Court)
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 ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Complaint 07/21/1991
PN-CA-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Third Amended Complaint for Damages and Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 08/17/1993
PN-CA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Settlement Distribution by Individual 02/06/1995
PN-CA-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Release of All Claims 02/10/1995
PN-CA-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Settlement and Injunctive Relief Agreement 03/27/1995
PN-CA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Injunctive Relief Agreement 03/27/1995
PN-CA-0006-0006.pdf | Detail
Judges None on record
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cody, Vicki E. (California)
Cook, Donald W. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0002 | PN-CA-0006-0003
Hoffman, Paul L. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0003
Lee, Bill Lann (California)
Litt, Barrett S. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0002 | PN-CA-0006-0003
Mann, Robert Frederick (California)
Rice, Tracy (California)
Rice, Constance L. (District of Columbia)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0003
Toma, Robin S. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Alexander, Bernard III (California)
Clark, Robert Jr. (California)
Edell, Norman (California)
Gonzalez, Debra (California)
Hahn, James K. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0002
Henen, Emil (California)
House, Mary T. (California)
PN-CA-0006-0001 | PN-CA-0006-0002
King, Peter (California)
Price, Howard R. (California)
Ramirez, Eugene (California)
Rodriguez, Antonio (California)
Sillas, Herman (California)
Stone, Michael P. (California)
Vargas, Patricia (California)
Vincent, Don (California)
Workman, W. Michael (California)
Other Lawyers None on record

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