First SCOTUS petition for Justice Lab campaign underscores need for statewide police reform
NEW ORLEANS – ACLU of Louisiana Justice Lab clients have requested the U.S. Supreme Court review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that the Louisiana State Police (LSP) should not be held liable for failing to intervene and protect peaceful protesters during a June 3, 2020 demonstration in New Orleans after the murder of George Floyd. On that day, peaceful protestors were unlawfully attacked with batons, sprayed with rubber bullets, and doused with tear gas, all while LSP troopers stood by watching.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP filed the petition on behalf of Remingtyn Williams, Lauren Chustz, and Bilal Ali-Bey—putative class action plaintiffs who participated in the protest that was dispersed by law enforcement officers with excessive force.
“The Fifth Circuit’s decision, in this case, represents the disarray among the courts of appeals on the issue of pendent appellate jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary to align the circuits and correct the harm caused by the decision below,” said Charity Lee, a senior associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
The petition urges the Supreme Court to resolve the split among the circuits that now results in some and not others taking up the issue of legal standing when inappropriate to do so. The petition argues that the Fifth Circuit failed to apply the proper test for determining whether it could decide the question of whether LSP could be sued in the first place. That issue was not essential to resolving the question of whether LSP was immune from suit for its conduct during the June 3, 2020, protest.
“The people entrust the courts to follow the law and for circuit courts to uphold the law when the lower court gets it right,” said Nora Ahmed, Legal Director for the ACLU of Louisiana. “When lower courts are in disagreement and disarray, the Supreme Court has the last word in protecting our rights.”
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is representing the plaintiffs at the trial court, where they were initially successful in overcoming LSP’s efforts to escape accountability. The Fifth Circuit improperly reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling that LSP could not be held liable for its misconduct.
The Louisiana State Police is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ indicated that they are examining allegations “of use of excessive force by LSP Troopers” and “of discriminatory policing by LSP, including on the basis of race,” and have invited community members to share testimonials of LSP misconduct to aid in the investigation. Learn more about the investigation and how to submit a complaint against LSP by visiting laaclu.org/doj-investigation.
Williams et al. v Davis is the 51st lawsuit filed as part of the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab campaign. This filing comes on the heels of six settlements and an offer of judgment, all announced within the first quarter of this year. Justice Lab has filed over 50 cases and appeals against Louisiana law enforcement agencies since launching in 2020. For more information, visit aclujusticelab.org.