Check out this Boston Globe article about solitary confinement. The article describes the experiences of Neil Miller, a client of this firm who spent ten years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Mr. Miller reached a landmark $3.2 million settlement with the City of Boston after this firm and the firm of firm of Cochran, Neufeld and Scheck in New York alleged civil rights violations, police misconduct, and misconduct at the police lab that resulted in Mr. Miller’s wrongful conviction. As the article describes, Mr. Miller is still recovering from the pain of spending a decade in in prison, including time in solitary confinement, for a crime he did not commit.
On April 19, David spoke at a symposium on “Eavesdropping and Wiretapping in Illinois” at Northern Illinois University College of Law. Despite its narrow title, the daylong event featured speakers on a wide variety of topics concerning technology, privacy, and law enforcement. David spoke about developments in the law regarding videotaping police since the First Circuit’s landmark decision in our firm’s case, Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011), which recognized that recording on-duty police officers is protected by the First Amendment.
David Milton speaks at Harvard Law School on representing current or former drug abusers in civil rights cases
David spoke today at Harvard Law School on representing current and former substance abusers in civil rights cases. The talk focused on the many obstacles that people involved with drugs face when they seek to vindicate their rights through the civil justice system. The difficulty in securing representation and bringing a successful civil rights lawsuit leaves those involved with drugs especially vulnerable to abuse by the police. David spoke about several police misconduct and prisoners rights cases our firm has brought on behalf of drug abusers whose rights were violated by police, prison medical staff, and other public servants who viewed them as less than human. We occasionally take these very hard cases not because we expect to make a lot of money for the firm, but because we simply cannot not let certain callous and outrageous government abuse go unchallenged.
Yesterday, a federal judge dismissed Blum v. Holder, our lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed this case in December 2011. We are co-counsel along with Professor Alexander Reinert.
Several Boston police officers who were accused of police brutality in high-profile cases have been awarded medals for their actions. This story first broke last month in the Blackstonian, and this month was in the Phoenix. One of the awarded officers is Michael T. McManus, who can be seen throwing punches and knee strikes in the video of the Roxbury Community College beating.
McManus was also involved in the death of David Woodman. David Woodman was a twenty-two-year-old man who was walking home from the Fenway Park area after the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship in 2008. As David passed a group of police officers, including McManus, he was arrested for carrying an open container of beer. Witnesses reported that police officers slammed David to the ground.
Check out this opinion editorial in the Boston Globe by Juliette Kayyem: Numbers Matter in Public Safety Reform. Kayyem questions the effectiveness of the New York’s stop-and-frisk tactics. Data from the NYPD shows that of the vast numbers of people stopped-and-frisked by police officers, 9 out of 10 were black or Hispanic. This is racial profiling, and it does not reduce crime. In fact, the New York American Civil Liberties Union (NYACLU) reports that nearly 9 out of 10 New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked were completely innocent.
Kayemm’s article compares the stop-and-frisk tactic to the police tactic favored in the 1990’s: aggressively policing minor crimes such as breaking windows, in the hopes that there would be a consequential decline in serious crimes. The “broken windows” tactic was, for a time, credited with the significant reduction in crime in New York City. However, as Kayemm explains, the reduction in crime was seen across the country, not just in New York City, and data shows that the “broken windows” tactic was not actually effective.
Likewise, NYPD data now shows that the stop-and-frisk tactic is not only ineffective, but in practice embraces racial profiling. As the NYACLU summarizes, the vast majority of stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers are non-white, even in primarily white neighborhoods. While violent crime has decreased in New York City, other cities without an intrusive stop-and-frisk policy experienced even larger reductions in crime. You can help learn more about the NYPD’s discriminatory practice on the NYACLU website. People in New York can use the stop-and-frisk app to record and report stop-and-frisks.
Check out this important article in the New York Times: Why Police Lie Under Oath, by Michelle Alexander. In the article, Michelle Alexander describes how federal grant programs richly reward police departments that arrest greater numbers of people. This causes police supervisors to compel their police officers to make more arrests. In order to meet this pressure some police officers lie and charge people with crimes even if no crime occurred.
Understanding the monetary motivation behind police officers’ lies is important because people often assume that officers have no reason to lie. Many people, including judges and juries, trust officers to tell the truth because it’s hard to believe that officers could benefit from lying. However, Michelle Alexander’s article makes it clear officers actually have a strong incentive to lie. This results in innocent people being arrested without probable cause.
Police officers are rarely disciplined for lying. However, in two of our cases in 2012, police officers were fired for their lies and other misconduct. Boston police officer David Williams was fired for using unreasonable force on our client, and for lying about his use of excessive force. And Somerville Police Officer Marcos Freitas was terminated because he had lied repeatedly, including some lies at a deposition taken in our case against him. Additionally, in 2004, after we filed a case against Boston police sergeant Joseph LeMoure, he was convicted of perjury for lying at his deposition and encouraging witnesses to lie. While these police officers were punished for their harmful lies and other misconduct, police officers routinely get away with lying under oath. This isn’t going to change until the judges in criminal cases stop tolerating testimony by untruthful police officers and federal grant programs stop rewarding high arrest rates.
$20,000 judgment against Boston in our lawsuit alleging police violated transgender woman’s rights; Boston Public Health Commission pays additional $10,000
Our client Brenda Wernikoff has agreed to accept a judgment against the City of Boston in which the City pays her $20,000 to resolve her claim that she was falsely arrested and subject to discrimination for using the women’s bathroom at a homeless shelter. The lawsuit alleged that the City failed to train its police officers how to treat transgender people. The City offered to have judgment entered against it shortly after we filed the complaint.
Ms. Wernikoff is a transgender woman. (She was assigned male gender at birth, but she identifies as a woman and is legally female.) Boston ordinance 12-9.7 makes it illegal to discriminate against a transgender woman like Ms. Wernikoff from using women’s bathrooms. (Read the ordinance here.) On May 19, 2010, Ms. Wernikoff was using a stall in the women’s bathroom at the Woods Mullen Shelter. When Ms. Wernikoff emerged from her stall, BPD officer Loletha Graham-Smith arrested her for using the women’s bathroom. At the police station, male police officers degraded Ms. Wernikoff by ordering her to remove her top and jump up and down, causing her bare breasts to jiggle for the officers’ own amusement.
Court approves settlement and attorneys’ fees in our lawsuit claiming New Balance toning shoes were falsely advertised
Yesterday in federal court, at a hearing for final approval, the judge approved a class action settlement against New Balance and also determined that New Balance should pay the fees and costs of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys. New Balance agreed to pay up to $3.75 million to settle claims that the company misrepresented the benefits of wearing Toning Shoes to consumers.
Since 2005, the Boston Police have failed to implement a system to monitor officers who are prone to misconduct. These systems, often called Early Intervention Systems (EIS), are used in police departments across the country to detect and assist police officers who may be abusing their power or experiencing a personal difficulty that is hindering their job performance. Once officers are flagged by EIS, they could receive additional training or resources, and closer supervision. Although all professions should monitor the performance of their employees, oversight is particularly important in police culture, where officers rarely report the misconduct others and complaints against police are investigated by fellow officers.
In 1989, a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park was brutally beaten and raped. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged with this heinous crime, which became a symbol of a society supposedly overrun by depraved and remorseless “wolfpacks” of black and brown youths. Although the five boys knew nothing about the attack, New York City police coerced them into “confessing” to a crime they did not commit. DNA evidence recovered from the victim pointed to a single rapist, whose DNA profile did not match any of the boys’. No other physical evidence tied the boys to the crime. On the basis of their false confessions, the “Central Park Five” were convicted and spent years in prison. Finally, many years later, the real rapist came forward and admitted his guilt. The DNA evidence proved this man, who had committed other rapes, was guilty of the crime.
A powerful new documentary, The Central Park Five, explores this miscarriage of justice.
On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, David Milton was a panelist at an American Bar Association teleconference entitled “Videotaping Police, Wiretapping Laws and the First Amendment.” The teleconference was a continuing legal education (CLE) program attended by more than 50 attorneys nationwide, including many from federal, state, and local government entities. David discussed the status of the right to record throughout the country, as well as ongoing challenges to protecting this right in the law and in practice. The other panelists were Professor Lyrissa Lidsky, a First Amendment and media law expert at the University of Florida College of Law, and Robert Ross, a Virginia State Magistrate and former attorney for the Fairfax County Police Department. The program was moderated by Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
On November 14, a tourist took a photograph of New York City police officer Lawrence DePrimo giving a barefoot homeless man a pair of boots that the officer had bought for him with his own money. Officer DePrimo’s actions, captured by a civilian’s camera phone, clearly get to the heart of what it means for him to serve and protect.
Howard and David served on the Supreme Court in the National Moot Court competition Region 1 Final Round at Suffolk Law School on Sunday, November 18. Every year, over 150 law schools from around the country compete in this competition, which is cosponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and the New York City Bar Association. The case the students argued was a police misconduct case alleging a false arrest for making a video recording of a police officer. The case alleges violation of the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiff’s team relied heavily on Glik v. Cunniffe, the case we won in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Howard and David enjoyed experiencing the view from the bench. They still prefer advocating as members of the bar.
On November 13, Howard Friedman and David Milton participated in the American Constitution Society’s program Lightning Talks - Cutting Edge Stories of Constitutional Law in Action. (A lightning talk is a five-minute presentation using 20 slides; each slide is shown for 15 seconds.) Howard discussed changing policies and lives through police misconduct and prisoner’s rights litigation. David discussed constitutional protections for filming the police.
We added two new class representatives to our lawsuit against the Foxborough police chief and the Town of Foxborough. The lawsuit challenges the Town’s unlawful policy of holding people in protective custody at Gillette Stadium even though they are not incapacitated.
To learn more:
2013 “Best Law Firm” rankings: Law Offices of Howard Friedman rated Tier 1 in Boston for Civil Rights Law
Our firm was rated as a first tier best law firm in Boston for the practice of Civil Rights Law when U.S. News & Best Lawyers released their 2013 “Best Law Firm” rankings earlier this month. The rating system considers evaluations from clients and attorneys, and peer review from attorneys who lead each field of law. The goal of the “Best Law Firm” ratings is to guide clients towards excellent law firms within different areas of practice. We appreciate the recognition.
On October 24, Howard spoke on a panel at the Boston Bar Association on the constitutional right to perform strip searches after the recent Supreme Court decision in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders. Howard discussed the rights of people who were strip searched. Currently, jails in Massachusetts do not strip search people who are held in custody before their first court appearance unless the officer has probable cause to believe that the detainee has contraband. The Florence decision, which passed 5-4, allows strip searches when people are placed in the general population unit of a jail, regardless of their reasons for being detained. The Massachusetts Constitution provides greater protection than the U.S. Constitution.
The other panelists were lawyers who defend civil rights cases from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department and the Attorney General’s office.
Super Lawyers, an attorney rating service, just announced its ratings for 2012. For the 9th straight year, Howard Friedman was recognized as a Massachusetts Super Lawyer. This year David Milton was recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Star. The rating system names no more than 5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Super Lawyers, and no more than 2.5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Rising Stars.
On October 19, 2012, Howard Friedman was a panelist at the 2012 Bench and Bar Conference, hosted by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The topic of the panel was Emerging Trends in Civil Rights. Howard discussed Glik v. Cunniffe, a case our firm handled which resulted in a landmark decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2011. The First Circuit’s decision upheld the right to videotape the police while they are on the job. The Glik decision provided the strongest and most complete discussion of the constitutional principles that protect the right to record public officials. Howard said, based on the reasoning of the decision, a court will eventually find that the state wiretap statute which prohibits secret recording of sound is unconstitutional when applied to secret recording of police officers or other public officials performing their public functions in public.
The Glik decision is invaluable to the media, cop watch groups, and citizens who wish to monitor the public activities of police officers. We hope that as more and more officers realize they could be recorded, officers will feel more accountable for their actions and instances of police misconduct and police brutality will decrease.