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June 18, 2014 at 2:24 PM

City counters cops’ lawsuit: Judge ruled SPD reforms constitutional

In their first response to a federal lawsuit in which more than 120 Seattle police officers are challenging new use-of-force policies, city attorneys today filed a short document with U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman informing her that another federal judge overseeing police reforms has found the policies to be constitutional.

The two-page document, called a “Notice of Related Case,” does not request any specific action.

The other judge, James Robart, is overseeing the 2012 consent decree between the city and Department of Justice, which requires the Seattle Police Department to adopt reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing. He approved the new use-of-force policies in a Dec. 17 written order.

In its notice, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office informed Pechman that Robart concluded the policies “conform(ed) to the requirements of … the United States Constitution, and judicial decisions interpreting the City’s constitutional obligations.”

According to U.S. District Court rules in Western Washington, a party in a lawsuit “must file a Notice of Related Case alerting the court as soon as it knows or learns that another action that was or is pending in this district may be related to the party’s case.”

The notice should include the case number, presiding judge, parties involved in the related case and an explanation of the relationship between or among the cases, the rules say.

As defined in the rules, an action is related to another when the actions:

“(A) concern substantially the same parties, property, transaction, or event; and (B) it appears likely that there will be an unduly burdensome duplication of labor and expense or the potential for conflicting results if the cases are conducted before different judges. “

A spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, Kimberly Mills, said the notice was filed to fulfill a “formal requirement” of the court.

In their lawsuit, 123 officers, detectives and sergeants maintain the policies, which became effective Jan. 1, are “mechanical” and unrealistic, violate their civil rights and put them and the public in danger.

The officers, who are representing themselves in the case, brought the suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and others.

It seeks an injunction to block implementation of the policies and declaratory judgment that they are unconstitutional, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, which did not approve or support the suit, reached a memorandum of understanding in March with the city over terms of the use-of-force policy, in which the union agreed not to oppose or contest adoption or implementation of the policy.

Unclear is how Pechman will respond to the notice, including whether she will keep the case, dismiss it or transfer it to Robart.

Murray has previously stated the city will comply with the consent decree.

The lawsuit stirred an angry reaction from some in the community, who saw it as blatant resistance to reforms.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: City Attorney's Office, Seattle Police Department, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

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