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Houston-ites you have a problem.

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Warren, Jul 31, 2005.

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  1. Warren

    Warren Member

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    Link

    I would expect your taxes to go up as the payouts are going to be immense. Hopefully 100 million or more when it is all over.

    After the lawers get paid that will leave about $25.62 for each plaintiff.


    original story





    July 29, 2005, 12:46PM
    Judge rips Kmart raid's mass arrests
    Calling actions unconstitutional, she rules 10 suits can now proceed
    By HARVEY RICE
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

    Calling the operation "almost totalitarian," a federal judge says a Houston police plan that led to 278 arrests in a Kmart parking lot almost three years ago was unconstitutional.


    The ruling by U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas allows all 10 lawsuits filed in the wake of the Aug. 18, 2002, mass arrest, and a smaller operation the previous night, to proceed.

    The "plan to detain all persons ... with no regard for the existence of open businesses and their customers, is facially unconstitutional," Atlas wrote in an opinion made public this week.

    The sweep by police was planned to crack down on illegal street racing, but the lawsuits contend that most of those arrested in the parking lot in the 8400 block of Westheimer were innocent Kmart customers or diners at a nearby Sonic restaurant. Police had arrested 25 people the previous night outside a nearby James Coney Island restaurant.

    Most of those arrested were charged with trespassing or curfew violations, but no one was accused of street racing.

    In response to public outrage, the city dropped all charges and the Houston Police Department conducted the largest internal investigation in its history, resulting in disciplinary action against 32 officers. Capt. Mark Aguirre was fired for his handling of the raid.

    The lawsuits accuse police of brandishing pistols and shotguns, verbally abusing customers and knocking food from diners' hands and off their tables.

    The lawsuits allege that those arrested were forced to sit for hours while plastic cuffs cut into their arms, and some people soiled their clothes when denied permission to use restrooms.

    Atlas' ruling came in response to the city of Houston's request to be dropped from the lawsuits, contending that the plaintiffs failed to show that the arrests resulted from official policy.

    Former Police Chief C.O. Bradford is named in all of the lawsuits, which seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, but the names of other officers and city officials listed as defendants vary among the suits.

    'A signal victory'

    Joseph Lanza, an attorney representing more than 60 of the more than 100 plaintiffs, called Atlas' ruling "a signal victory for the plaintiffs because it continues to allow them to press their claims in federal court."

    Senior Assistant City Attorney Robert Cambrice said it was merely another step in a long process. He predicted the lawsuits will never reach trial.

    "When you look at the total picture, the city is still in great shape," Cambrice said.

    Atlas threw out a number of the lawsuits' claims, but allowed the plaintiffs to go forward with allegations that Bradford knew about the mass arrest plan, known as the "Jackson plan" for the officer who devised it.

    "It reflected an unjustified, almost totalitarian, regime of suspicionless stops and was completely inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment rights Americans hold dear," Atlas wrote, referring to the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    She also allowed them to go forward with an accusation that a police "zero-tolerance" policy customarily allowed improper arrests and that Bradford knew about it.

    Bradford has denied knowing about the plan or the policy.

    Cambrice said no one has testified Bradford knew about the Jackson plan or that the zero-tolerance policy was understood to mean improper arrests.
     
  2. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Using your $100 million number, that works out to maybe $100 per adult Houstonian. What goes up, mostly, are the city's insurance premiums.

    What's important is that if successful, the suit will send a serious warning signal around the country to other high muckety-mucks in both elected office and the upper echelons of law enforcement. Those are the ones whose policies enable and/or encourage violations of civil rights.

    Art
     
  3. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    Sure scared those street racers, I'm sure!
     
  4. rich636

    rich636 Member

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    That was a disaster here in Houston...they also raided the nearby Sonic picnic area and ziptied a 12yr old girl and took her into custody while her dad was inside getting their food. It was mindless and indiscriminate.
     
  5. MechAg94

    MechAg94 Member

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    Yeah, I remember all the raido talk on this when it happened. They went way beyond what they should have done. A number of people were arrested at the nearby Sonic. I can't remember if parents were actually arrested or not. I remember hearing that some of those arrested claimed to be K-Mart customers as well. It was basically a big dragnet and they arrested everyone they could find, even those having nothing to do with drag racing. I can't even remember if drag racing was going on at the time.

    I think our new tort laws should limit the damages on this though I don't know how they apply exactly.
     
  6. Flyboy

    Flyboy Member

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    "Should" as in "may have an effect," or "should" as in "we ought to make sure the law limits damage from this sort of thing?"

    The former is a neutral statement; the latter, I disagree with. These are exactly the sort of actions which need mind-blowing judgements. When government abuses the people, it must be made to pay, and pay dearly. Yes, I know that bill will fall to the citizens; in fact, I'm counting on it. The city officials and police probably can't be fired for this, but sure as shootin', if taxes go up significantly to cover an official foulup, the people are likely to start firing city officials. Call the tax increase tuition for the school of hard knocks, and hope the people pass the class.
     
  7. db_tanker

    db_tanker Member

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    I remember thinking that Bradford was saying to himself "Why me? Why ME?" :banghead:


    Oh well...those young whippersnappers racing into and out of K-Mart and Sonic got what they deserved... :scrutiny:
     
  8. HankB

    HankB Member

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    +1 on that.
     
  9. Warren

    Warren Member

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    What if the insurance company decided not to pay?

    Or just cancelled the policy?


    What could the city do?
     
  10. scottgun

    scottgun Member

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    I remember reading the original story when people were arrested. Its nice to see the follow up and jusatice prevailing.
     
  11. O.F.Fascist

    O.F.Fascist Member

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    I concur completely.

    I remeber reading about that when it first came out, and I thought it was competely ????ed up.
     
  12. CAS700850

    CAS700850 Member

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    Talk about a lawyer's pipe dream!

    "Clearly, my 12 year old client was not participating in this illegal street racing. She's not old enough to drive a car! She probably can't even reach the pedals!"

    Check, please!
     
  13. johnster999

    johnster999 Member

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    Nice to see some judges still think the Bill of Rights apply to everyday life.

    999
     
  14. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    Instead of the big fat cash payoff to the victims, why isn't the primary effect of these kind of police abuses just a bunch of unemployed cops?

    I'm not saying that those who where falsely arrested don't deserve some recompense (I can understand being paid for their time ... maybe a couple hundred bucks a pop for the inconvenience), but it shouldn't be a "lottery ticket" (unless they where genuinely harmed) ... mostly, there is no reason that police officers that commit these crimes against the constitution should still be cops.


    Instead you get the fat cash payoffs to the victims AND you still have JBTs on your police force.

    Sounds like a lose-lose to me.
     
  15. YankeeRebel

    YankeeRebel Member

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    Anyone care to bet that should they win at level one, the city will appeal the decision. Then at the appeals court they will uphold the decision, but reduce the monetary amount to ZERO. You win, but you lose. This happened here in the KC area twice to the same plaintiff over the same case.
     
  16. Mr. James

    Mr. James Member

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    :fire: Why on earth is that a defense? Hey, CAPTAIN Bradford, the ship went down on your watch. You are BY DEFINITION responsible. :fire:
     
  17. North Texan

    North Texan Member

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    Although I don't agree with the actions taken, I can sympathize with the police trying to cut down on street racing. It has been a problem in some cities for years, and cities have had a difficult time keeping things in check.

    As far as the lawsuit, the plaintiff's will have to figure out a way to get around the Tort Claims Act. The City is immune from most tort actions, with only a few limited exceptions as provided in the act.

    IMHO, monetary recovery is not warranted. The taxpayers would be the ones punished, and they didn't make the sweep. Many large cities self insure, so don't count on an insurance settlement.

    BTW, I was apprehended at the Houston stock show and rodeo for pointing a laser pointer at the police. I didn't have a laser pointer on me, nor did I own a laser pointer. Running across my ag teacher on the way to the patrol car was about the only that kept me from spending the night in the pokey.
     
  18. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

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    Sounds like one head rolled, and quite possibly the correct one. Line officers don't make decisions like 'cordon off this whole area and detain everyone'. Looks like the guy who did got his pink slip, and the subordinates under him got reprimands.

    Mike
     
  19. Kurt S.

    Kurt S. Member

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    Ahem, that's "Houstonian", not "Houston-ite".
     
  20. Joejojoba111

    Joejojoba111 Member

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    The main problem is still that those enforcing the law are never feel it's sting. Instead of 32 unemployed police officers you should have 32 new federal inmates. (though I hear state time is harder, kidnapping is federal)

    And everyone who was aware of the plan ought to be struggling in court to illustrate that they were completely unaware and thus not an accomplice.

    And making those citizens who were abused give the police more money so that the police can give some of it back to them in compensation? Yea that's fair and just. The police should pay for their abuses with their houses and cars and life savings, in a civil suit seperate from their criminal trials.
     
  21. HankB

    HankB Member

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    They'd be punished for electing the wrong city officials. If they feel the pain, maybe they won't re-elect someone who hires and tolerates JBTs on the force.
    Ahh, but most were only following orders, right?
     
  22. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    Insert obligatory comment about how the most common heard phrase at Nuremberg was "I vas just followink orders!"

    (apologies for the Godwin)
     
  23. North Texan

    North Texan Member

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    So it is fair to punish citizens who elect officials, who select a police chief, who selects a panel, who hires the officers? Even though some of those citizens that will be punished will likely have not voted for the election winner, and even though their council member may not have voted to hire the police cheif?

    What about suing gun manufacturers? Should they be sued when they sell guns to the people that sell guns to the people that sell guns to criminals?
     
  24. Flyboy

    Flyboy Member

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    The difference, of course, being that every level of management in the city has oversight authority over its underlings, so the top of the city council has the authority to police the police. And the citizens have oversight authority over their elected representatives (in fact, think for a minute about the term "representative," or it's near cousin "delegate," which some cities use instead). Contrast this to the gun industry (or any other product manufacturing industry, for that matter): once the product is sold, all control reverts to the purchaser. The manufacturer, barring contractual or technological provisions to the contrary, has no control over the product after it's sold--look up the "doctrine of first sale" for a better explanation.

    Or, as I said upthread, "call the tax increase tuition for the school of hard knocks, and hope the people pass the class."
     
  25. Joejojoba111

    Joejojoba111 Member

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    That's like failing an entire class because some students skipped the final. It's ludicrous.

    What they NEED to do is file Criminal Charges when Criminal Acts are committed. It's not a difficult concept. You break the law, you face charges. You break the law as an officer, you should face Additional charges, for abusing your office. Instead they face NO charges, because they are buddy buddy with those who could in theory charge them.

    Who will police the police indeed.
     
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