Public Justice, April 5, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: In the famous "battle of Seattle" in 1999, the Seattle police ran amok, beating peaceful protesters and jailing them without cause. Now, after seven years in court, the protesters have been vindicated.]

By Gerson Smoger

After seven years of litigation, Public Justice has just reached a landmark settlement against the City of Seattle for unconstitutionally arresting peaceful anti-World Trade Organization protesters. The settlement comes on the heels of an 11-day trial and favorable jury verdict Public Justice's litigation team had won this past January 28.

In the January victory, the jury in Hankin v. City of Seattle found that Seattle had unconstitutionally arrested about 175 peaceful protesters in the "no protest zone" it hastily created during the WTO Ministerial meetings in late 1999. Those protesters were wrongfully jailed for up to five days because the city overreacted to disruptive activities by a small number of violent demonstrators. The protesters were ultimately released and never charged with any crime.

Under the settlement just reached, the City will seal the arrest records and help make sure other government agencies expunge the arrests from their records, too. The City will also incorporate the federal court decisions that Public Justice won -- which found that police lacked probable cause for the arrests -- into its police training. Finally, the city will pay $1 million to the class.

The lead trial attorney was former Public Justice President and current board member Mike Withey. A number of Public Justice members and personnel, including executive director Arthur Bryant, worked on the case.


Gerson Smoger is Vice President of Public Justice and a principal in the Smoger Law Firm of Dallas, Texas and Oakland, California.