Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Class Action Certified in NYC Stop-and-Frisk Lawsuit

Today the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted class certification in a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. The class is defined as “[a]ll persons who since January 31, 2005 have been, or in the future will be, subjected to the New York Police Department’s policies and/or widespread customs or practices of stopping, or stopping and frisking, persons in the absence of a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity has taken, is taking, or is about to take place in violation of the Fourth Amendment, including persons stopped or stopped and frisked on the basis of being Black or Latino in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Judge Shira Scheindlin’s 56-page opinion addresses several aspects of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, noting that “even after Wal-Mart, Rule 23(b)(2) suits remain appropriate mechanisms for obtaining injunctive relief in cases where a centralized policy is alleged to impact a large class of plaintiffs, even when the magnitude (and existence) of the impact may vary by class member” and that “[s]ince Wal-Mart, at least three district courts have granted class certification in cases alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations due to a police department’s policy and/or practice of making unlawful stops and arrests; all of these courts have rejected the notion that the individual circumstances of a stop defeat commonality.” She also writes (footnotes omitted):

Plaintiffs allege that their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights are violated as a result of the NYPD’s policies and practices. As they argue, these claims raise “central and core questions of fact and law that, when answered, will resolve all class members’ Monell claims against the City.” In the terminology of Wal-Mart, a class wide proceeding here will “generate common answers” to these questions that are “apt to drive the resolution of the litigation.”

For additional coverage, check out WNYC.org (Ailsa Chang).

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