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Case Name Horse v. District of Columbia PN-DC-0013
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-01216 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Policing
Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 21, 2017, a photojournalist, a practicing attorney, and two demonstrators filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia, the individual police officers who committed the alleged acts, the police officers’ supervisors, and the chief of D.C. police in the U.S. District Court of the ... read more >
On June 21, 2017, a photojournalist, a practicing attorney, and two demonstrators filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia, the individual police officers who committed the alleged acts, the police officers’ supervisors, and the chief of D.C. police in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. Another female demonstrator and her 10-year-old son joined the suit through an amended complaint on January 3, 2018. The plaintiffs claimed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that defendants violated their rights under the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and various D.C. laws. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, sought compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs. The case was assigned to Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The plaintiffs alleged that on the morning of Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, they traveled to DC to peacefully demonstrate and document the demonstrations protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump. After several acts of vandalism performed by third parties, the plaintiffs claim that the police took several illegal actions against them. Plaintiffs allege that defendants failed to give dispersal orders before firing chemical irritants on the crowd and chasing them toward an enclosed street corner. The plaintiffs claim defendants falsely imprisoned the plaintiffs, along with 200 other individuals, violating D.C.’s First Amendment Assemblies Act and their protected free speech. Defendants used a practice called “kettling” where plaintiffs claim they were kept up to 9-10 hours and were denied access to food, water, or toilet services. Plaintiffs claim defendants intentionally trapped plaintiffs before sealing off the kettle preventing escape and continued to use chemical irritants on plaintiffs after they were trapped in the "kettle."

The plaintiff mother, son, and legal observer, who were outside of the “kettle” allege that they peaceably observed and protested the kettling of the other demonstrators. Plaintiffs stated that, without any dispersal order, defendants fired chemical irritants on the crowd, including the 10-year-old plaintiff, and knocked him to the ground. After being taken out of the kettle, the plaintiffs claimed that defendants physically injured their wrists, causing one plaintiff's wrist to bleed from the zip ties for several hours. Moreover, two plaintiffs claimed that the defendants subjected them to unreasonable searches via rectal probing with no just cause.

On March 30, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. They based their motion on the grounds that they are entitled to qualified immunity against the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims, there was probable cause to arrest certain plaintiffs, and other plaintiffs failed to state a claim for assault or battery, among others.

On the same day, a defendant officer John Doe filed a motion to dismiss Claim 16 of the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that certain plaintiffs’ allegations contradicted their prior allegations and their allegations were disproved by the evidence.

On April 19, the plaintiffs filed a motion to strike the defendant's motions. However, on November 12, Judge Jackson ruled that the motion to strike is procedurally improper and treated the motion as an opposition to the defendant’s motion to dismiss. In addition, Judge Jackson denied defendant John Doe’s motion to dismiss or for summary judgment without prejudice on the grounds that it is premature because the defendant was not yet named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

On January 3, 2019, defendant officer John Doe renewed his motion to dismiss, which was then opposed by the plaintiffs. The defendants’ motion to dismiss filed on March 30, 2018 was pending at the same time.

On September 27, 2019, Judge Jackson granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint as to claims 2 (arrest for protected speech), 4 (negligence per se for the violation of the protected assemblies act through kettling), 5 (negligence per se for the violation of the protected assemblies act through failure to provide a dispersal order), 8 (negligence per se for the violation of the protected assemblies act through use of chemical irritants), 9 (excessive force for knocking down a minor), 10 (assault for knocking down a minor), 13 (negligence per se for the violation of the protected assemblies act through failure to provide food), and 14 (negligence per se for the violation of the protected assemblies act through failure to process arrestees promptly). The motion was denied as to all other claims (arrest without probable cause, false arrest, excessive force and assault for use of chemical irritants, excessive force for zipties, unlawful pre-trial confinement, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unreasonable search). Defendant John Doe’s motion to dismiss, which was based on search practices, was denied in whole. Class certification litigation was stayed pending further order of the court.

With the consent of the parties on October 18, the matter was referred to the court’s mediation program to commence on October 22, 2019. The parties filed a joint motion to extend time for mediation on December 16, which was granted by Judge Jackson the next day. It was ordered that mediation shall conclude by February 7, 2020, but the court granted extensions on the mediation deadline based on status reports. The court ordered mediation conclusion date was set at June 12, 2020.

The case is still ongoing.

Will McCartney - 01/17/2018
Sichun Liu - 05/20/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Conditions of confinement
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pepper/OC spray
Restraints : chemical
Restraints : physical
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description Peaceful demonstrators, a photojournalist, and legal observer protesting the inauguration of President Trump.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 06/21/2017
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)
  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:17-cv-01216 (D.D.C.)
PN-DC-0013-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/17/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Damages [ECF# 1]
PN-DC-0013-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Damages [ECF# 29]
PN-DC-0013-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Jackson, Amy Berman (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Knizhnik, Shana (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-0001 | PN-DC-0013-0002
Michelman, Scott (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-0001 | PN-DC-0013-0002 | PN-DC-0013-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-0001 | PN-DC-0013-0002 | PN-DC-0013-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Blecher, Matthew Robert (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Bluming, Micah Ian (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Browder, Rachel A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Gonzalez, Joseph A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Johnson, Eric Uriol (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Kennedy, Scott Patrick (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Montee, Amanda (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000
Onorato, Danny C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-DC-0013-9000

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