[WATCH] Who Can Sue When Police Shoot to Kill? This Federal Court Ruling Says Siblings Can

The sisters and brothers of a man killed by Sacramento police won a pivotal federal court ruling this week that potentially expands who can legally sue in the aftermath of police shootings and opens a window on more information about the controversial incident.

Joseph Mann was shot 14 times in July of last year by two Sacramento police officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya.

Mann’s father previously sued the city and settled for $719,000.

But Mann’s five siblings were unhappy with the outcome of their father’s suit because they wanted it to include public tracking of police reforms in Sacramento and information on whether the two officers who fired shots had been disciplined by the department.

In June, they filed an unusual lawsuit using the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Most commonly known for protecting free speech, the First Amendment also protects the right of association – usually invoked for social or political groups.

Lawsuits involving police shootings are usually filed in federal court using the due process clause of 14th Amendment. But the Supreme Court has limited who can file those suits to parents and children of the deceased.

In the Mann case, Sacramento lawyer Mark Merin argued that the killing deprived Joseph Mann’s sisters and brothers of the right to associate with him.

A judge said that legal angle raised “perplexing” questions, but was valid.

United States District Judge William B. Shubb ruled that nothing in the language of the Constitution or case law around the two amendments clearly excludes siblings from suing under the First Amendment, making it legal for the Mann siblings to make their claim.

Highlighting the ambiguity and gaps in current case law that lead to his decision, Shubb wrote, “It is sometimes said that tough cases make bad law. Here it might be more appropriately said that bad law makes tough cases.”

Merin called the ruling “potentially hugely significant.”

“It really says that the claims that can be brought are not limited to the parents and the children of the persons who are killed but extend at least to the nuclear family because its recognized that the intimate relationships, the family relationships, are severed, and that damages the people in those categories,” Merin said.

Aaron Tang, an acting professor of law at UC Davis and a First Amendment expert, called the suit “a novel argument” and said he hadn’t “heard of these kinds of arguments working before.”

The unconventional approach led defense lawyers to ask the judge to dismiss the suit, prompting this week’s ruling. Attorney John Whitesides, whose firm Angelo, Kilday & Kilduff is representing Tennis and Lozoya, said he disagreed with Shubb’s ruling, but agreed with the judge that the case law around the issue was “murky.”

He said the defense team, including lawyers for the City of Sacramento, which is named as a defendant along with the police department, hadn’t had time to decide if they would challenge it.

For the full story visit: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article174716086.html

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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