City Settles Lawsuits in RNC Arrests for $18 Million

, New York Law Journal

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Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, speaks at a press conference Wednesday on the steps of City Hall to announce a settlement with New York City for the arrests that occurred at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Behind him are Jonathan Moore and Rose Weber, two of the other principal plaintiffs lawyers in the case.
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, speaks at a press conference Wednesday on the steps of City Hall to announce a settlement with New York City for the arrests that occurred at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Behind him are Jonathan Moore and Rose Weber, two of the other principal plaintiffs lawyers in the case.

At City Hall on Wednesday, Jonathan Moore said the settlement "reaffirms the principle that there is no such thing as group probable cause."

However, Koeleveld pointed to Sullivan's other rulings as victories for the city—namely the judge's conclusion that the city's decision to arrest people for disorderly conduct and parading without a permit, and its decision to fingerprint arrestees, comported with the Constitution.

Among other wins, Koeleveld cited the Law Department's successful effort to keep "sensitive and confidential intelligence documents from being disclosed" under the law enforcement privilege, a decision upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

More than 100 cases were settled in 2006 for a total of about $1.8 million after the Law Department made an offer. Many of the settlements were for $2,500, $5,000 or $7,500 plus attorney fees.

But plaintiffs lawyers argued that the city stretched out the litigation because it was invested politically in defending police actions,and they criticized the Law Department for using outside firms to abet slow motion practice.

Speakers at the press conference blamed the Bloomberg administration and police for a heavy-handed approach to the convention.

"What happened was an orchestrated plan led by the intelligence division of the NYPD to suppress peaceful protest," attorney Alan Levine said.

Rose Weber, who represented more than 175 plaintiffs, said the NYPD set out to "clear the street of protestors before George Bush arrived at the convention," and then make sure they stayed off the street by detaining them in "miserable" conditions at the Pier.

Plaintiffs in the class action will receive $4 million and individual plaintiffs will receive $6,345,869.

The Law Department puts the figure as "up to $10.3 million."

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