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Thursday
Feb162012

Chicopee jailers violate female inmates' civil rights by allowing male guards to videotape strip searches

Check out this article in the Valley Advocate about our class action lawsuit against the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee.

The firm filed this lawsuit in September 2011, alleging that since the facility opened in 2007, male correctional officers have been routinely videotaping female inmates’ naked bodies while the women are strip searched. The lawsuit alleges that this practice is degrading and unconstitutional. Read more here.

Tuesday
Jan312012

Lowell police detective with history of aggressive behavior is sued for excessive force

On January 30, 2012, the firm filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that Lowell police detective Stephen Ciavola used excessive and unreasonable force against our client Cindy Thach. Check out this article in the Lowell Sun or read about the case below.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan272012

Boston police officer fired for excessive force and lying

Boston police officer David Williams was fired for using unreasonable force on our client Michael O’Brien, and for lying about his use of excessive force. This is a rare example of a police department finding a police officer guilty of brutality and terminating him for abuse of a civilian.

Read more in The Boston Globe.

Friday
Jan132012

State Police reforms suggested after arrests of multiple troopers

Wednesday
Jan112012

Glik v. Cunniffe in the news

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published an article about Glik v. Cunniffe, a case this firm is handling: Decision reversed on taping of police; Bystander found to be within rights, Internal Affairs says officers were in error. This case is also the subject of an editorial published in the Globe today, Police and cameras: Get used to it.

Thursday
Dec152011

Lawsuit filed, alleging Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) violates free speech

Today this office filed a lawsuit in federal court along with co-counsel Alexander Reinert and attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

Blum v. Holder is a federal lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. The plaintiffs are five longtime animal rights activists whose advocacy work has been chilled due to fear of being prosecuted as a terrorist under the AETA. Read more about the plaintiffs and the lawsuit on the website of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Wednesday
Dec072011

To Protect and Serve?

Howard Friedman wrote an article titled "To Protect and Serve?" for the December 2011 issue of Trial magazine. You can view the article by clicking here.

Or, expand this post to read the text of the article.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov232011

News media favors police

Check out this article in the Huffington Post discussing how the media are biased in favor of the police. The article states that media often describes police brutality as a “clash” between police and protesters, but “these are not conflicts between rivals of equal proportion, as ‘clash’ connotes. These are incidents of police violence and media should start calling it for what it is. With so much amateur video, the media has little choice but to set aside convention and report what's happening.”

Wednesday
Nov022011

Lawsuit Alleges Boston Police Falsely Arrested and Beat Teenager for Recording Officers with his Cell Phone

The firm filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Maury Paulino, alleging that four Boston police officers falsely arrested him and used brutality against him because he recorded the officers’ activity with his cell phone. The lawsuit states that although Mr. Paulino’s recording was legal, the officers punched, kneed, and pepper-sprayed him in the face, then charged him with violating the wiretapping statute.

On November 18, 2009, Mr. Paulino (19 at the time) was outside the B2 station after bailing out a friend. Mr. Paulino saw officers mistreating his friend, so he began to record the incident with his phone. Mr. Paulino did not interfere with the officers’ actions, but the officers decided to arrest him and brought him to the ground. Officer Seth Richard punched Mr. Paulino in the face three times, kneed him in the face, and sprayed him with pepper spray. Officers Nicolas Onishuk, Richard Davis and James Moore assisted or stood by without preventing this unreasonable force.

The officers brought criminal charges against Mr. Paulino, including the charge of violating the Massachusetts wiretapping statute. He was found not guilty at trial. In another recent lawsuit, Glik v. Cunniffe, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers in public spaces performing their official duties. Since Boston police officers should have known that it is unlawful to arrest people for recording police performing their official duties in public, Mr. Paulino’s lawsuit also includes a claim against the City of Boston for failing to supervise and discipline officers for their pattern of unlawful arrests.

“I was recording the police officers to make sure they didn’t hurt my friend. I didn’t expect the police officers would arrest and hit me for recording them,” says Mr. Paulino.

Click here to see a copy of Mr. Paulino’s complaint.

Here is the video that Mr. Paulino recorded shortly before his own arrest.

Here is a news story about Mr. Paulino's case:

Monday
Oct312011

First Circuit Affirms the Right to Record the Police in Public

Imagine you are strolling through the Boston Common and you see three Boston police officers using force to arrest a young man on a park bench. Someone shouts, “You’re hurting him!” You think this looks like police brutality. Do you pause to watch? Do you perhaps take out your cell phone and begin recording the arrest from a safe distance? Even if you would rather walk on by, would you be at all surprised if other bystanders pulled out their cell phones to videotape the event?

This is exactly what attorney Simon Glik did on October 1, 2007. And as August’s decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, it is perfectly legal. When an officer asked Mr. Glik to stop taking pictures, Mr. Glik responded, “I am recording this. I saw you punch him.” The officers then handcuffed Mr. Glik and arrested him for illegal wiretapping (a felony), aiding the escape of a prisoner, and disturbing the peace. The charges were eventually dismissed.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct282011

Court Finds that Evidence Supports Claim that South Hadley Resident’s First Amendment Rights were Violated

Last year, South Hadley resident Luke Gelinas filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated when Chairperson Edward Boisselle removed him from a public meeting for criticizing the school’s handling of the Phoebe Prince case. On October 18, 2011, the Court issued a memorandum denying the defense motion for summary judgment and stating that Gelinas "has presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Boisselle prevented him from speaking solely on the basis of his viewpoint, thereby violating his First Amendment rights."

During the public comment period of the school committee meeting on April 14, 2010, Gelinas was speaking from a prepared statement. Gelinas began to say that it was time for school officials, including Boisselle, to be held responsible for their role in the death of Phoebe Prince. Before he could finish, Boisselle ordered Gelinas to stop speaking and sit down. Gelinas was eventually escorted out of the meeting by police officers.

The defendants in this case, Boisselle and the two police officers, filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a ruling that there was no question that Boisselle removed Gelinas from the meeting for valid, viewpoint-neutral reasons.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct192011

Resisting arrest

Check out this great editorial in the New York Times. The author discusses one man’s story, revealing how easily police officers can abuse the charge of resisting arrest. The article notes, “Civil rights lawyers have long complained about trumped-up arrests of mainly minority citizens who are dragged into the criminal justice system.”

Wednesday
Oct192011

Public access to police disciplinary records

An article in the Cape Cod Times discusses the law in Massachusetts that allows public access to police departments' disciplinary records. The article quotes Attorney Howard Friedman and notes that our firm "has handled many high-profile cases involving alleged violations of civil rights by police."

Thursday
Sep292011

Women bring class action lawsuit for practice of male guards' viewing and videotaping strip searches of female inmates

On September 15, 2011, the firm filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of two former inmates at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center (“Chicopee Jail”), alleging that since the Jail opened in 2007, male correctional officers have been routinely videotaping female inmates’ naked bodies while the women are strip searched. The lawsuit alleges that this practice is degrading and unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs Debra Baggett and April Marlborough filed suit on behalf of the hundreds of women affected by the practice against Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. and Assistant Superintendent Patricia Murphy. They designed and implemented the Jail’s strip search policy and they permitted males to routinely view and videotape naked female inmates. When women are moved to the Segregation Unit for mental health or disciplinary reasons, they are strip searched. With four or more officers present, the inmate must: take off all her clothes, lift her breasts and, if large, her stomach, turn around, bend over, spread her buttocks with her hands and cough, and stand up and face the wall. If the woman is menstruating, she must remove her tampon or pad and hand it to a guard. An officer with a video camera stands a few feet away and records the entire strip search. This officer is almost always male.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep292011

Justice in New Orleans

Five current and former New Orleans police officers were convicted on August 5, 2011, of civil rights violations for unlawfully shooting and killing two people, wounding four other people, then covering up their conduct by bringing false criminal charges and lying to the FBI. Four of the officers shot at unarmed innocent people on the Danziger Bridge in September of 2005, five days after the horror of Katrina. The fifth officer helped them cover up their conduct, rewriting reports to explain why the victims had no weapons. Six years later, they have been held accountable for their conduct. This result was not certain; these officers almost got away with their crimes.

In September 2007, I was in New Orleans. My friend Mary Howell, a civil rights lawyer there, invited me to watch a motion in the state murder prosecution against four New Orleans police officers for their conduct on the Danziger Bridge that day. A young state prosecutor was arguing a motion. The police officers were free on bail, sitting in sport jackets with their criminal defense lawyers. The officers were leaning back in their chairs and laughing. That’s right, police officers charged with murder were laughing in court. The judge had to remind them that they were facing serious charges and laughing was not appropriate.

The police officers had reason to laugh; everyone in the courtroom knew that they would not be convicted in that Louisiana state court. It was not a surprise when in August 2008, a state court judge dismissed the murder charges. The case was dismissed because the prosecution had improperly disclosed grand jury testimony. The officers were free from charges for almost two years, then, in July 2010, they were indicted in federal court by lawyers from the Justice Department’s civil rights division.      

In September 2010, I was back in New Orleans and the officers were back in court facing criminal charges.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep292011

Westport police officer settles false arrest and excessive force lawsuit

Westport police officer Francis Napert 3rd settled a civil rights suit filed against him one month ago with a payment of $50,350.00. Carl Conforti filed a civil rights lawsuit in United States District Court in Boston on June 28, 2011, alleging Napert falsely arrested him and used excessive force during the arrest.

Mr. Conforti was arrested by off-duty officer Napert when he was assisting his handicapped sister and brother-in-law by collecting wood to heat their home. Napert, who was not on duty or in uniform, arrested Conforti for larceny of wood, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and cited him for failure to stay within the marked lanes.   

At end of the criminal trial Mr. Conforti was found not guilty of all charges. The judge said, “I have absolutely no doubt, not guilty on all the criminal charges and not responsible on the civil infraction.” At trial, Napert testified that he was not aware of a Town Regulation defining tree limbs as debris or trash and after 23 years on the Westport Police Department he testified under oath that he was not familiar with the Police Department’s Policies Manual. 

On Jan 30, 2010, Conforti traveled to Westport to help his sister, who is confined to a wheelchair. Conforti made arrangements with his sister’s neighbor to collect fallen branches from the neighbor’s yard, in order to heat his sister’s home. As Conforti drove through his sister’s neighborhood, he was followed and then confronted by Napert, who was off-duty, in civilian clothing and driving his personal vehicle. When Conforti requested to see a badge and photo identification to verify that Napert was an officer, Napert refused, became agitated, and began swearing at Conforti.

Officer Napert allegedly used unreasonable force when he used his hands and knees to force Conforti’s chest to the ground, and broke Conforti’s eyeglasses. Witnesses heard Conforti, a cancer survivor who had tracheal resection surgery, plead for help because he had wires in his chest and he had trouble breathing.

The civil lawsuit, brought by the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, sought money damages for violations of Conforti’s federal and state civil rights. The case settled before trial. Conforti is represented by Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton of the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C.

Thursday
Sep292011

The right to videotape police

On June 8, 2011, attorney David Milton argued in the federal appeals court in Boston that the First Amendment protects the right to videotape police officers making an arrest on Boston Common. The case is brought on behalf of Simon Glik, who was arrested and charged with illegal wiretapping for openly using his cell phone to record what he believed to be police brutality by the Boston police. After the criminal charges were dismissed, the firm brought a lawsuit with the ACLU of Massachusetts arguing that the arrest violated Mr. Glik’s clearly established constitutional rights. Read more here, here, and here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights submitted an amicus brief, which you can read here.

Thursday
Sep292011

Selected News and Events from 1980's to July 2011

National and local news media frequently report on cases handled by Howard Friedman. They also call on the firm for commentary on and analysis of civil rights, civil liberties, and constitutional issues. Here are some articles and events from over the past several decades.

Click to read more ...

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