Legal costs in protest lawsuit stack up for Seattle, could top $600,000 if judge awards fees

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Legal costs in protest lawsuit stack up for Seattle, could top $600,000 if judge awards fees

Legal costs pile up in a federal lawsuit that resulted in an injunction and judicial disdain against the Seattle Police Department (SPD) for using unnecessary violence against Black Lives Matter protesters this summer, and could exceed $ 600,000, when a federal judge gives lawyers in the local BLM group what they ask for.

Attorneys for Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County are calling on US District Judge Richard Jones to impose sanctions on the SPD by demanding additional control over the use of force by officials.

The BLM attorneys are also asking Jones to grant them $ 263,708.50 in fees and costs payable by the city after successfully relocating the court to sue the SPD for multiple violations of its previous order, according to which officials do not use force to leave peacefully, despise protests against police violence.

The city has already spent more than $ 345,700 on private attorneys to represent the law enforcement agency on the BLM affair, according to assistant prosecutor John Schochet. The case and settlement are ongoing. Lawyers for this law firm, Christie Law Group, which specializes in law enforcement and government defense, filed a motion this week asking Jones to reconsider his finding of contempt.

BLM attorneys are also calling on Jones to impose non-monetary sanctions on the law enforcement agency in the form of an additional, timely review of any incident in which an officer uses force during a protest. The city says the sanctions are unnecessary and redundant for the SPD’s internal review processes, ordering Jones and overseeing reforms by U.S. District Judge James Robart, which stem from an eight-year-old consent decreee between the police and the Ministry of Justice.

The city also opposes the amount of attorney fees and fees that lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the University of Seattle, and the private Seattle firm Perkins Coie are requesting the SPD for their response to account for the protests that broke out in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd on May 25th by police.

The lawsuit was filed on June 9 after thousands took to the streets of downtown and Capitol Hill to protest the police and institutional racism following Floyd’s murder. The SPD responded with tear gas, pepper spray, explosive balls and other less lethal weapons to disperse the crowd.

Jones found the police reaction exaggerated, saying officials likely violated the First Amendment rights of thousands of peaceful protesters by responding to the anger of the crowd and isolated incidents of vandalism, including broken windows, looting, burned police cars and stolen police weapons. overreacted. Jones asked the department to do it again.

Following a July warning following violent clashes between police and the crowd on Capitol Hill, in which the judge warned and further restricted the division, Jones found that the SPD earlier this month despised his restraining order and noted incidents involving officials indiscriminately had applied – blowing balls and pepper, in particular spraying – while responding to perceived threats from individuals.

The city has argued that it “essentially obeyed” the court order and that it cannot be held liable for the actions of individual officials, but Jones disagreed. While the judge also pointed out incidents where police forces were warranted, he said incidents that did not go against the letter and spirit of the injunction.

The motion for contempt included the court reviewing hundreds of hours of police camera video and private video posted on social media. Browsing was a Herculean task, argued city lawyers, and BLM lawyers argued they still had not received all of the video available.

As a sanction, the BLM is asking the court to order the SPD to hand over the video with the body camera and the official’s report for any use of violence against demonstrators to their lawyers within five days of their occurrence.

The city says it would be nearly impossible, arguing that a BLM review of the incidents would be redundant to enforce reviews carried out by the SPD itself through its civilian-run police accountability office, as well as the inspector general and community’s office Police commission are formed, both based on the approval decree of 2012.

“Plaintiffs’ main recommendation is a system to monitor the use of post-violence violence to compete with the sophisticated system of accountability already introduced by the consent decree,” argued the city in a motion against the sanctions. “In a system that is already fully transparent, the reporting requirements to plaintiffs do nothing to promote compliance.”

The use of violence within the SPD often takes months, however, and the BLM argues that prompting the SPD to consider any use of violence would enable the department to comply quickly with the order.

The requirements would be “within the discretion of the court to eradicate contempt and aim to change the harmful behavior of the police that the court found contemptible,” wrote BLM lawyers filed briefs earlier this month. “The proposed sanctions will help the Court remove the contempt and prevent future violations of the Court’s orders.”