First offer of judgment for Justice Lab presents swift justice for client and signals a willingness by police to accept responsibility
BASTROP – The ACLU of Louisiana, alongside Covington & Burling LLP, secured an offer of judgment in a civil rights lawsuit against the Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Office (MPSO). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ms. Tamekia Olive, a Black woman who was threatened, unreasonably seized, and wrongfully arrested.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana entered a judgment in favor of Ms. Olive and against MPSO Sheriff Michael Tubbs and Investigator Alvin Holmes. The judgment, the first to date in the Justice Lab program’s three-year history, includes a money judgment and attorney’s fees.
“Initiating offers of judgment just after the filing of a legal complaint is a step toward repairing relationships between community members and the police officers sworn to serve and protect them. The Morehouse Sheriff’s Office did right by Ms. Olive in presenting this resolution. We hope that other police departments see the wisdom in taking their lead,” said Nora Ahmed, ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director. “This significant victory for our client signals an awareness by law enforcement that retaliating against black people for reporting police misconduct must not be tolerated.”
As alleged in the complaint, Ms. Olive went to file a complaint with MPSO the day after she was verbally threatened by an officer at her home. The Chief Deputy refused to allow her to do so without giving her name and threatened to arrest her if she did not leave the building. Ms. Olive, exercising her First Amendment right to film police in public spaces, recorded this interaction on her cell phone. After she exited the building, an investigator followed and illegally ordered Ms. Olive to identify herself, insisting she was required to do so regardless of whether he had probable cause or reasonable suspicion that she had committed a crime. When Ms. Olive declined to identify herself, which was within her legal rights, the officer wrongfully arrested her for ‘resisting by refusing to identify’ and, while handcuffing her, confiscated the cell phone she was recording on.
“Ms. Olive’s wrongful arrest was unfair, unconstitutional, and deeply harmful to her and her family. We are delighted to have helped her hold the MPSO accountable in partnership with the ACLU,” said Michael Scheininger of Covington & Burling LLP.
The lawsuit asserted violations of Ms. Olive’s constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments and in violation of Louisiana’s common-law prohibition against false arrest. This suit further alleged that Sheriff Mike Tubbs, in his official capacity, created a custom of unlawfully arresting individuals who refused to identify and that the MPSO failed to supervise and train officers adequately.
Five months after the complaint was filed in federal court and before any substantive motions were filed, the defendants extended an offer allowing judgment to be made against them.
Olive v. Tubbs et al. was the 40th lawsuit filed as part of the ACLU of Louisiana’s Justice Lab campaign. This victory comes on the heels of four settlements, all announced within the last three months. Justice Lab has filed 50 cases across Louisiana against law enforcement agencies since launching in 2020. For more information, visit aclujusticelab.org.