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Case Name Sharp v. Baltimore City Police FA-MD-0001
Docket / Court 1:11-cv-02888-CCB ( D. Md. )
Additional Docket(s) 24-C-11-005636  [ 11-5636 ]
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On August 29, 2011, a resident of Baltimore County filed this § 1983 claim in Maryland State Circuit Court against the Baltimore City Police Department and three unnamed police officers. The plaintiff alleged that the Police Department had a practice and policy of arresting and destroying the ... read more >
On August 29, 2011, a resident of Baltimore County filed this § 1983 claim in Maryland State Circuit Court against the Baltimore City Police Department and three unnamed police officers. The plaintiff alleged that the Police Department had a practice and policy of arresting and destroying the property of persons engaged in recording the public actions of police officers, in violation of Constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. He also claimed that this practice amounted to a misapplication of the Wiretap Statute. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that he had used his cell phone to videorecord the police arresting his friend in a public place. Three police officers subsequently arrested and detained him for the filming, confiscated his phone, and wiped all video data from the device. This action destroyed not only the video of the arrest, but also images of plaintiff's children and other personal events. The plaintiff sought a permanent injunction that would bar defendants from engaging in arrest and destruction of property for video recording police actions as well as compensatory damages. On October 11, 2011, the case was transferred to the U.S. District Court of Maryland.

On November 30, 2011, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cognizable cause of action or for partial summary judgment in the alternative. The Police Department argued that the plaintiffs claims were no more than speculation as to a general practice and that the Department's existing training on bystander videotaping rendered any viable claim moot. On January 10, 2012, the United States filed a Statement of Interest, arguing that the District Court should deny the Police Department's summary judgment motion.

On February 17, 2012, the District Court (Judge Benson Everett Legg) denied the Police Department's motion to dismiss the case or for partial summary judgment. In his opinion, Judge Legg noted that the First Amendment protected the plaintiff's right to photograph on-duty police officers in public, and that the defendants might have violated the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights by deleting videos from the plaintiff's phone if this was done without a legitimate reason. Judge Legg further recognized the factual dispute regarding the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim: whether the plaintiff voluntarily surrendered the phone to the police officers or not. Whether the Police Department promulgated or was deliberately indifferent to an illegal practice was also disputable. The claims proceeded and the parties began discovery.

Settlement talks were unsuccessful and discovery disputes continued over the course of 2013 and early 2014. However, on April 7, 2014, the parties filed a joint stipulation of dismissal which included a settlement agreement. The settlement included an award for the plaintiff of $25,000 in damages and $225,000 in attorneys fees, but the parties agreed that the payment could not be construed as an expression of liability or concession to the facts alleged. The Police Department also agreed to implement new policies that would properly preserve citizens' rights to record and provide training for officers on the right.

On April 11, 2014, the stipulation of dismissal was granted by Judge Catherine C. Blake. The case was dismissed with prejudice subject to the Court's continuing jurisdiction to enforce compliance with the settlement agreement. The case is now closed.

Emma Bao - 06/24/2013
Richard Jolly - 11/26/2014
Sarah Du - 11/10/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Retaliation Prohibition
Training
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
False arrest
Loss or damage to property
Pattern or Practice
Phone
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Baltimore City Police Department
Plaintiff Description Resident of Baltimore County, MD, detained by the police after video recording a public arrest of his friend.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
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
Filing Year 2011
Case Closing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:11-cv-2888 (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/11/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [Jury Trial Demanded] [ECF# 2]
FA-MD-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/29/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 24]
FA-MD-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum to Counsel re: Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept et al. [Denying Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 33] (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Letter Order [ECF# 33] (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/17/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Re: Christopher Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department
FA-MD-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2012
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Memorandum to Counsel re: Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Dept. et al. [ECF# 75] (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/13/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting In Part and Denying in Motion to Quash [ECF# 80] (2013 WL 937903) (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/01/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement and Release [ECF# 105-1]
FA-MD-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Stipulation of Dismissal] [ECF# 106] (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Blake, Catherine C. (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0009 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Gauvey, Susan K. (D. Md.) [Magistrate]
FA-MD-0001-0007
Legg, Benson Everett (D. Md.)
FA-MD-0001-0003 | FA-MD-0001-0004 | FA-MD-0001-0006
Plaintiff's Lawyers Borja, Mary E (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0002 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Delaney, Joshua (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0001
Jeon, Deborah A. (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-0002 | FA-MD-0001-0008 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Kohr, Benjamin J (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0002 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Mygatt, Timothy D (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0001 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Ogletree, Rashida J (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0001 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0001
Simpson, Richard A (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0002 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Smith, Craig Michael (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0002 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-0001 | FA-MD-0001-0010
Defendant's Lawyers Beck, Daniel C (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-0008 | FA-MD-0001-9000
Cooper, Lindsay Cohn (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-9000
Grimes, Mark H (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-9000
Lundy, Christopher Russell (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-9000
Lynch, Kara K. (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-9000
Nilson, George A. (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-0008
Sparaco, Daniel J (Maryland)
FA-MD-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Trepel, Samantha Kay (District of Columbia)
FA-MD-0001-9000

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