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Case Name Calhoun v. Pennington PN-GA-0003
Docket / Court 1:09-cv-03286 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization Lambda Legal
Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
On November 24, 2009, patrons of Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Atlanta, the chief of police, and officers of the Atlanta Police Department in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division ... read more >
On November 24, 2009, patrons of Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Atlanta, the chief of police, and officers of the Atlanta Police Department in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. The plaintiffs, represented by private lawyer Dan Grossman, and public interest lawyers from Lambda Legal Defense and the Southern Center for Human Rights, asked the Court for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief to redress defendants' violations of plaintiffs' rights under the U.S. Constitution and Georgia Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that the police action was taken without any particularized reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that any individual was involved in any criminal activity. The plaintiffs also sought redress for the numerous state law torts committed by individual defendants, including false imprisonment, assault, battery, and trespass.

According to the complaint, on September 10 and 11, 2009, a paramilitary, SWAT-type force of Atlanta police officers entered the Atlanta Eagle without a warrant, claiming to be searching for public sex, drugs, and illegal weapons. The police forced dozens of bar patrons to lie face-down on the floor, which was covered with spilled beer, dirt, and broken glass. Officers allegedly made threats of violence and anti-gay slurs. Plaintiffs claim that although they were not suspected of any criminal activity, police officers emptied their pockets, confiscated their IDs, and entered every patron's name into a police computer. After the raid, not a single patron was charged with any crime, and no weapons, drugs, or evidence of sex was found.

In December 2010, the parties reached a settlement that required the Atlanta Police Department to rewrite their policies regarding arrest, search, and seizure, and to make other changes to protect the public from police misconduct. The settlement required, among other provisions:
  • Changes in search and seizure policy to accord with a set of legal principles spelled out in the settlement, covering the requirements for arrests, stops, and searches.
  • All Atlanta police officers in uniform must wear a conspicuously visible nametag, and any Atlanta police officer who is in uniform or has displayed a badge or other indicia of police authority must identify himself by name and badge number upon request at some point before the end of an encounter with a civilian.
  • Atlanta police officers may not interfere in any way with a citizen's right to record police activity
  • Payment of $1,025,000 by the City of Atlanta.

Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. issued an order to approve the settlement agreement on December 8, 2010. The court retained jurisdiction to enforce the City of Atlanta's compliance with the terms of the settlement if it failed to implement the actions set forth in the settlement agreement within 180 days of the entry of the order.

On June 16, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions on the grounds that the Atlanta Police Department had not implemented the police reform policies outlined in the settlement agreement. The police department agreed to implement the policies if plaintiffs withdrew their motion for sanctions.

After three years of inactivity, on March 17, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for contempt sanctions on the grounds that the police department had still not implemented police reform policies. The plaintiffs requested post-judgment discovery. On May 19, 2015, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion.

In response to a joint motion by the parties, the court ordered the appointment of a special master, Joe D. Whitley, on June 22, 2016 to monitor the Atlanta Police Department's compliance with court orders and assist the parties in addressing any obstacles with compliance or relevant discovery. On September 23, 2016, the court granted the parties' Consent Order Setting Forth Initial Special Master Monitoring, Discovery, and Dispute Resolution Procedures. The consent order laid out detailed procedures for ensuring compliance and a feedback mechanism for the creation of a civil rights training program. The consent order also provided a detailed monitoring scheme. Further, all post-judgment discovery requests were stayed without prejudice.

In two 2016 status reports, Mr. Whitley found that the police department had complied or attempted in good faith to comply with the requirements of the court order. However, after six months, it became clear that there were existing areas of disagreement between the parties regarding the following elements of the court order: (1) the identification requirement for officers; (2) the requirement of no interference with audio or video recordings; (3) documentation of warrantless seizures and identification checks; and (4) timely resolution of citizen complaints. But at that point, Mr. Whitley still believed that all of the issues could be resolved, particularly through increased communication between the parties.

After nine months had passed, however, Mr. Whitley determined that there were fundamental disagreements between the parties regarding the court order's requirements and how compliance should be evaluated. At Mr. Whitley's urging, on July 25, 2017, the Court issued two orders: one requiring that the police department show cause why it should not be held in contempt for violating the court order and another requiring that the department show cause as to why it is entitled to relief from any of the court order's provisions.

On September 25, 2017, the police department filed a motion to disqualify the special master and reassign matters to the district court, as well as an emergency motion to stay the special master's activities. However, the court did not grant the emergency motion and the special master continued to carry out his responsibilities. And on November 28, 2017, the court denied the police department's motion to disqualify the special master and adopted his October 2017 status report.

On February 12, 2018, the court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by responding to the police department's emergency petition. The court called for briefing and a special master report and recommendation on the issue of whether the attorneys' fees sought were reasonable.

Throughout 2018, the parties have engaged in extensive settlement discussions with the goal of reaching an agreement with respect to the show cause order on contempt issues and the police department's compliance with the original settlement agreement. As of September 2018, the finalized new settlement agreement is still pending.

Xin Chen - 04/03/2011
Katherine Reineck - 01/30/2016
Virginia Weeks - 11/06/2016
Eva Richardson - 12/20/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Recordkeeping
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Excessive force
False arrest
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Over/Unlawful Detention
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) City of Atlanta Police Department
Plaintiff Description Patrons of Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia, who were unlawfully searched, detained, and/or arrested on September 10-11, 2009, by the Atlanta Police Department.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Lambda Legal
Southern Center for Human Rights
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2010 - n/a
Filing Year 2009
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Atlanta Eagle Raid
http://atlantaeagleraid.com/
Date: Sep. 10, 2009
By: Dan Grossman
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:09−cv−03286 (N.D. Ga.)
PN-GA-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/11/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 44]
PN-GA-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Discovery and for Sanctions [ECF# 236]
PN-GA-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/06/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Discovery and for Sanctions [ECF# 251]
PN-GA-0003-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Approving the Settlement [ECF# 265] (N.D. Ga.)
PN-GA-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/08/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibit A: Reforms of the Atlanta Police Department [ECF# 265-1]
PN-GA-0003-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/08/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Sanctions [ECF# 271]
PN-GA-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Contempt [ECF# 281]
PN-GA-0003-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order Setting Forth Initial Special Master Monitoring, Discovery, and Dispute Resolution Procedures [ECF# 323] (N.D. Ga.)
PN-GA-0003-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Special Master Quarterly Compliance Report Dated September 29, 2016 [ECF# 324]
PN-GA-0003-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Special Master Quarterly Compliance Report Dated April 12, 2017 [ECF# 341]
PN-GA-0003-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Special Master Quarterly Compliance Report Dated July 14, 2017 [ECF# 346]
PN-GA-0003-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Special Master Quarterly Compliance Report As of October 13, 2017 [ECF# 391]
PN-GA-0003-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 398] (N.D. Ga.)
PN-GA-0003-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 403] (N.D. Ga.)
PN-GA-0003-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Batten, Timothy C. Sr. (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0004 | PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-0013 | PN-GA-0003-0014 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Monitors/Masters Whitley, Joe D. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-0009 | PN-GA-0003-0010 | PN-GA-0003-0011 | PN-GA-0003-0012 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burnett, Katharine Madison (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Butler, Marla R. (New York) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Grossman, Daniel J. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0001 | PN-GA-0003-0002 | PN-GA-0003-0006 | PN-GA-0003-0007 | PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Kung, Lisa L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Lee, Graham Spencer (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0001 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Littman, Aaron Michael (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Littrell, Elizabeth Lynn (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0001 | PN-GA-0003-0002 | PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Nevins, Gregory R. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0001 | PN-GA-0003-0002 | PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Warring, Jane (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0001 | PN-GA-0003-0002 | PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baines, Tamara Nikki (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Brown, Bruce P. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
DeLoach, Jerry L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0003
Godfrey, Robert N. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0003 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Miller, Staci J. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Power, Stephen A. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Rashad, Maiysha (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Shahar, Robin Joy (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Terry, LaShawn W. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Valladares, Richard J. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000
Wyatt-Bullman, Alisha Irene (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-0008 | PN-GA-0003-9000
Young, Dennis McRay (Georgia) show/hide docs
PN-GA-0003-9000

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