September 1, 2014

Ferguson Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed

The race to the courthouse has begun. As reported a few days ago, six people have filed suit against St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, Ferguson P.O. Justin Cosma, and others, alleging a variety of police abuses during the period of August 11-13. The case is White v. Jackson, 14-CV-1490 (HEA), and is pending in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The plaintiffs, Dwayne Matthews, Kerry White, Tracey White, Damon Coleman, Theophilus Green, and an infant plaintiff, encountered various police officers in different locations and at different times. But the nature of the allegations are consistent; i.e., excessive force, unlawful seizures, false arrest, and so forth, each of which would violate the plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth Amendment.

The attorneys are Reginald Greene, Gregory Lattimer, and Malik Shabazz, are not local counsel. Greene is from Georgia, while the other attorneys are based in Washington D.C. 

The case appears to have been filed just this past Thursday, August 28, 2014. To say it's early in the litigation would be an understatement. But, while I don't practice in Missouri, I would expect that the case will be stayed, pending the completion of various investigations into the police riots that followed the Michael Brown shooting.

In addition to a local grand jury investigation, there will be or already are a variety of offices, commissions, etc., looking into the Michael Brown shooting and police response to the public protests that followed. Defense counsel may well want (or be compelled) to seek a stay of the civil case until these reviews are completed. This is particularly true if criminal or disciplinary charges are brought.

More suits are coming. How they are framed, and how they are defended or resolved, will depend in no small part on the types of findings that flow from these reviews.


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