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Friday, October 05, 2007
Duke Lacrosse Players File Civil Rights Suit

Evans v. City of Durham, No 07-CV-00739; get used to hearing about it.

This is the civil rights action filed Friday by David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, three of the wrongly accused Duke lacrosse players, against ex-District Attorney Mike Nifong, the City of Durham, several police officers, and several lab personnel. Reports here, here , and here. The players seek compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys fees, and a laundry list of structural reforms to the Durham City Police Department, including the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the department.

I have asked our law-school librarian to track down a copy of the complaint, which I plan to distribute to my civil procedure and civil rights classes. I think this could be a rich teaching tool--about pleading and what goes into a complaint, constitutional litigation, prosecutorial and executive immunity, and the niceties of structural government reform litigation.

I will say more once I have had a chance to read it (hopefully early next week). My initial reaction, based on news reports, is that the plaintiffs may be overreaching in seeking these structural reforms. First, some of what they are requesting--such as injunction preventing the Durham Police Department from "targeting students of Duke University for selective enforcement of the criminal laws"--seeks to stop conduct that already is unlawful, so a judge is not going to issue an injunction for that (the old adage is that "equity will not enjoin a crime"). Second, victims of past police misconduct typically are deemed not to have standing to seek prospective relief in the form of changes to government operations, absent some facts indicating that the plaintiffs will again be subject to the same unconstitutional behavior in the future--in other words, allegations that any of these plaintiffs will again be arrested and charged with a crime and subject to the same improper departmental procedures that caused their past injuries.

Again these are merely preliminary thoughts, based on news reports (which I rarely trust fully). I want to hold off saying more until I have read the whole thing.



The WSJ had the following link to the complaint:

Thought this might help.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/07/2007 9:06 PM  

Doesn't the Eleventh Amendment bar them from money damages?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/07/2007 10:06 PM  

Thanks. Found it at NYT, but have not yet had a chance to read it. The thing is 154 pages long--which initially suggests it msy be a"kitchen-sink" complaint. As for the Eleventh Amendment, it protects states, not local government and not individual government officers.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 10/08/2007 7:51 AM  

For those who have not read the complaint, one has to remember that getting your facts from the MSM is what fueled this event. The NYT still has not corrected the errors they made on the case. Neither has CNN, the LA Times, and others.

I find it a very curious comment on selective enforcement of the law in regards to Duke students. Though it's true that traffic enforcement officers cannot catch all speeders, if they only targeted blacks for speeding, I think most fair-minded people would think it was wrong. One only has to look at the crime rate in parts of Durham, were rapes, aggravated assults,robberies, and murders go unsolved year in and year out, and what are they doing? They are giving tickets for noise and drinking in private homes. The basketball team also had a party with stripers and drinking. No one complained. It looks like racial profiling (white, Duke, male athletes.)

The second point you make will be cleared up once you read the complaint. Under the color of law-they went after anyone who disagreed with Nifong and the DPD. Many of the students are still at Duke, and when you read the complaint, it's amazing how brazen Nifong and others were about denying students and other citizens their civil rights. The Durham bunch persecuted and prosecuted those who gave testimony that supported the innocence of the lacrosse players.

I can only hope the students get their $30M and even more. These people wanted to send 3 students to prison for a crime that never occured (according to the NC AG and evidence)-- and for 30 years!

Don't let the 150 plus pages deter you from reading the complaint. Once you start reading it, you cannot put it down. It is a very detailed anatomy of a fraud by the city of Durham, DPD, Nifong and the DA's office, the Meehan lab, etc.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/08/2007 11:45 AM  

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