NLG Litigation Update

The Bay Area Chapter is currently involved in three lawsuits: one as a plaintiff, and two as the attorneys.

NLGSF v. Urban
In National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, v. Diane Urban, et al., Amitai Schwartz and the ACLU are representing the NLG Chapter in a petition for injunctive relief and writ of mandate under the California Public Records Act. Last year, we made a Public Records request for the Hayward Police body camera videos of the December 6 and 7, 2014, Black Lives Matter demonstrations at which Hayward provided mutual aid to Berkeley. The petition challenges the City of Hayward’s demand that we pay more than $3,000 to obtain nine video segments. The charge is largely for Hayward’s staff time spent redacting things from the videos before they were produced. We are arguing that the Public Records Act does not authorize any charges beyond the direct cost of duplication. Such excessive charges would undermine the Public Records Act by making access to police records unaffordable to most people. The hearing on our motion for declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting this type of charge, and for a writ requiring our money to be returned, is scheduled for January 27, 2016 in Alameda County Superior Court Department 14.

Johnson v. City of Berkeley and Soules v. City of Berkeley
These two companion civil rights cases arise from the December 6 and 7, 2014, Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Berkeley. NLG lawyers Rachel Lederman and Jim Chanin are representing thirteen plaintiffs in the name of the NLG, to challenge the police use of unnecessary force and wrongful arrests at the protests. The plaintiffs include a Chronicle photographer who was hit over the head by a Berkeley officer and others who were targeted for photographing or videotaping the police; activists and students who the Berkeley Police forcibly herded from the campus area to the Oakland border; and a man who was shot by Hayward officers with Specialty Impact Munitions as he was trying to comply with police orders. We are seeking policy reforms, as well as compensation for the individuals who were harmed. Both cases are still in an early stage. The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to discuss the Police Review Commissions findings and recommendations regarding the December 6 police response, on January 26, 2016 at 7pm at Old City Hall. (The Police Review Commission has not yet begun its investigation of the December 7-8 events.)