On April 30, 2012, five members of the Occupy Wall Street movement filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, against the City of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought class certification, as well as injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that officers of the New York City Police Department violated their rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as their rights under the Constitution of the State of New York. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that they were unlawfully detained by NYPD officers during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration held in New York City on November 8, 2011.
The plaintiffs' claims arose from the NYPD's usage of barricades during the demonstration in question, which took place outside a Sheraton Hotel where President Obama was attending a fundraising event. The plaintiffs alleged that they were illegally confined behind police-erected barricades for approximately two hours, during which time they were neither arrested nor charged with any crime. The plaintiffs claimed that the NYPD converted the interlocking metal barricades into a closed pen once the demonstration had begun, and told protesters they were not allowed to leave the enclosure for any reason.
In their suit, the plaintiffs alleged that this conduct amounted to false arrest, and violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association, and assembly, as well as their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. The plaintiffs also argued that this conduct violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, the plaintiffs claimed that the NYPD's officers' failure to intervene when they observed their fellow officers performing false arrests gave rise to a separate cause of action. The plaintiffs argued that NYPD officers have an affirmative duty to assess the constitutionality of their actions, and that their failure to intervene therefore amounted to a separate and distinct violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs argued that the NYPD's conduct violated a Stipulation of Settlement and Order in another Southern District of New York case, Stauber v. City of New York
, 03-cv-9163. That settlement amended Section 213-11, 21(h)(3) of the New York Police Department Patrol Guide to state the following:
Barrier configuration for demonstrations should not unreasonably restrict access to and participation in the event. For example, attendees should be permitted to leave a barricaded area at any time. In addition, if crowd conditions and other circumstances permit, participants should be permitted to leave and return to the same area. Sufficient openings in the barricades should be maintained for purpose of permitted attendees to leave expeditiously and return to the event as described in this paragraph;
In their complaint, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue an order compelling the NYPD to comply with this section.
On March 6, 2013, the defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) for: (1) failure to state a claim; and (2) failure to fulfill conditions precedent to filing suit. In support of this, the defendants argued that the barricades amounted to a reasonable time, place, manner restriction under the First Amendment, and that the need to secure the President's security rendered the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim non-actionable. The defendants also pointed to New York General Municipal Law § 50-i(1), which sets forth certain procedures for suing the City. The defendants claimed that plaintiffs' had failed to comply with § 50-i(1), and that their claims were therefore barred.
On November 21, 2013, the District Court (Judge Thomas P. Griesa) denied the motion to dismiss. Judge Griesa acknowledged that although it was "a close question as to whether [the complaint] states a valid cause of action for violation of constitutional rights . . . [t]he court believes that it is not appropriate at this stage to rule on the merits of the case." Berg v. Kelly
, 12-cv-03391 TPG, 2013 WL 6153253, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2013). The court did however note that "a summary judgment motion, or cross-summary judgment motions, may be appropriate in order to avoid a drawn-out litigation with full discovery and trial." Id.
In early 2014, plaintiffs raised several issues pertaining to discovery with the court. A scheduling conference took place before Judge Griesa on March 12, 2014. As of July 17, 2014, these issues are under consideration by the court.Greg in den Berken - 07/21/2014