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Case Name Spalding v. City Of Oakland PN-CA-0022
Docket / Court 3:11-cv-02867 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Policing
Special Collection Occupy
Case Summary
On November 5, 2011, hundreds of people rallied in downtown Oakland to protest what they considered to be the inadequate sentence given to former police officer, Johannes Mehserle, for the killing of unarmed BART passenger, Oscar Grant. After the rally, a group of the demonstrators began to march ... read more >
On November 5, 2011, hundreds of people rallied in downtown Oakland to protest what they considered to be the inadequate sentence given to former police officer, Johannes Mehserle, for the killing of unarmed BART passenger, Oscar Grant. After the rally, a group of the demonstrators began to march to the BART station where Grant had been killed. The Oakland Police and other law enforcement agencies forced this group of marchers onto a side street, where they announced that the demonstration had been declared an unlawful assembly. The demonstrators were then detained, prevented from dispersing, and arrested.

This class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the nearly 150 demonstrators who allegedly were never ordered to disperse or given an opportunity to do so, and who allegedly were arrested without probable cause or legal basis. One of the named plaintiffs informed the police that he was there as a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild and asked to be allowed to leave. He was arrested nonetheless. The demonstrators were held in buses and vans for several hours with their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Many class members alleged that they were denied bathroom access and were thus forced to urinate on themselves in the crowded vehicles. Almost all of the class members were then imprisoned in the Alameda County Jail overnight in overcrowded holding cells without room to lie down. All of the female class members were forced to submit to pregnancy tests under threat of transfer to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, CA, where they would be held for a longer period. Some class members were forced to submit to oral DNA swabbing. None of the class members were ever charged with crimes relating to these arrests.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and related individual defendants (the Chief of Police, various officers, etc.) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The complaint alleged that the Oakland Police Department actions violated multiple provisions of the Oakland Crowd Management/Crowd Control Policy established in accordance with the settlement agreement in Local 10 ILWU et al. v. City of Oakland. The Crowd Control Policy restricted the City's power to declare an assembly unlawful only to those circumstances where demonstrators had already acted illegally or where they posed a clear and present danger of imminent violence. It also forbade the City from dispersing demonstrations that had not been declared unlawful, and required the City to provide an opportunity for demonstrators to disperse prior to arrest.

Plaintiffs also alleged that the mass arrest was the result of unlawful and unconstitutional policies and practices of Oakland, its Police Department, and Alameda and its Sheriff's Department. The Complaint specifically alleged that the defendants had violated the plaintiff class members' constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech and association, their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, their rights to equal protection and due process, their right to be free from the use of excessive and arbitrary force, and their right to privacy. The case was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which allows private actions to be brought against States for violations of rights guaranteed by federal constitutional and statutory law.

The plaintiffs sought class certification, and injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from engaging in the alleged unconstitutional and unlawful practices in the future. They sought an injunction ordering the sealing and destruction of all records of the arrests of the class members, including fingerprints, DNA samples, and photographs, as well as the disclosure of any agencies and entities to whom such information had been relayed. They also sought compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages, and legal costs.

On March 23, 2012, the Court (Judge Thelton E. Henderson) granted the plaintiffs' unopposed motion to certify a class of, "the approximately 150 people who were arrested in the mass arrest on 6th Avenue between East 17th and 18th Streets in Oakland on November 5, 2010, and who were never charged with any crime related to this arrest. (2012 WL 994644).

The parties spent the next several months discussing a settlement, which the Court preliminarily approved on June 13, 2013. The proposed agreement would result in the a payment of $1,025,000 to the class members, of which $350,000 would be paid to the plaintiffs' attorneys for fees and costs. The four plaintiffs acting as class representatives would receive $9,000 each for serving in that role. The remaining money would be distributed between the class members. The settlement also would require the sealing and destruction of the arrest records and related documents and information arising from the incident.

The agreement would also require systemic changes. It would authorize the parties to amend certain sections of the Local 10 Settlement, in consultation with the National Lawyers Guild - SF Bay Area Chapter. The Oakland Police Department and the Alameda Sheriff's Department would, in compliance with state law, be required to cite and release qualifying individuals accused of misdemeanors. Other provisions regarding the treatment of detained demonstrators, for instance, guaranteeing access to bathrooms and forbidding the taking of fingerprints and DNA samples of demonstrators facing only misdemeanor citations, were also included in the settlement.

On September 9, 2013, the Court approved the settlement and ordered sealing and destruction of arrest records for those found factually innocent of the charges for which the arrests were made. The agreement was set to last for four years, with the option of extending for an additional three if requested by either party.

The initial four-year timeline passed without request for extension, and so the case is now presumed closed.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 07/09/2013
Averyn Lee - 03/10/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Conditions of confinement
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
Records Disclosure
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Alameda County
City of Oakland
Plaintiff Description Class of approximately 150 demonstrators whose march was redirected into a closed side street and who, without prior opportunity to disperse, were arrested and held overnight.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2013 - 2017
Filed 11/05/2011
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PN-CA-0018 : Local 10 ILWU v. City of Oakland (N.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0048 : Angell v. Oakland (N.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
PN-CA-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-CA-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 41] (2012 WL 994644)
PN-CA-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 95-1]
PN-CA-0022-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement [ECF# 96]
PN-CA-0022-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Approving Class Action Settlement [ECF# 99]
PN-CA-0022-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Beeler, Laurel (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Henderson, Thelton Eugene (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0002 | PN-CA-0022-0004 | PN-CA-0022-0005 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Flynn, Robert Michael (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Lederman, Rachel (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0001 | PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Messineo, Carl L (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Sobel, Carol A. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Stein, Bobby Fay (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara E (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hall, Randolph (California) show/hide docs
Kee, Christopher (California) show/hide docs
Rockwell, Gregory James (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0022-0003 | PN-CA-0022-9000
Sazama, Jill (California) show/hide docs
Simmons, William Edmond (California) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Huang, Yolanda (California) show/hide docs

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