Police and Government Misconduct

See information on some of our current cases here.

Rachel Lederman has been litigating on behalf of persons whose rights have been violated by police and government agents since 1989. One of her first civil rights cases involved AIDS activists who had been clubbed and unlawfully detained by SFPD in what became known as the “Castro Sweep”. This case settled during trial for more than $225,000.

A few years later, SFPD swept the Mission District, unlawfully arresting 350 people after then-Mayor Frank Jordan declared a local State of Emergency in response to unrest over the acquittals of the LAPD officers whose beating of Rodney King had been captured on video. A planned San Francisco demonstration that night had not even begun before the police arrested hundreds of would-be demonstrators and passersby, without opportunity to disperse. Rachel obtained a $1 million settlement for the arrestees after five years of hard-fought litigation, and after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in their favor in Collins v. Jordan. That appellate decision confirmed that the government may not suspend fundamental rights to freedom of speech and assembly during volatile times.

Along with years of other organizing and policy work by many groups and individuals, Collins v. Jordan played a role in changing SFPD’s practices toward demonstrations. But when the U.S. began bombing Iraq in 2003, the Oakland Police responded to a peaceful community picket at the Port of Oakland by shooting more than 50 antiwar demonstrators and longshoremen with so-called “less lethal” munitions, such as wooden bullets and lead shot-filled “beanbag” rounds. Rachel was part of a National Lawyers Guild – ACLU legal team, who along with Jim Chanin and John Burris sued Oakland in Local 10, et al. v. City of Oakland. This case resulted in a comprehensive overhaul of OPD Crowd Control Policy, as well as monetary settlements totaling more than $2 million. The OPD Crowd Control Policy that Rachel helped write is a model policy which prohibits unconstitutional tactics such as firing impact munitions into crowds, or making mass arrests without individual justification and without notice and opportunity to disperse.

Unfortunately, the minute OPD was once again faced with volatile protests, it dispensed with the negotiated Crowd Control Policy, even though the Policy was part of the federal court settlement order in the Local 10 litigation. Rachel was the lead counsel in a National Lawyers Guild legal team who sued OPD and the City of Oakland in two companion federal civil rights cases, Spalding v. City of Oakland (a class action for wrongful mass arrest of Justice for Oscar Grant protesters) and Campbell v. City of Oakland (a multi-plaintiff action for Scott Campbell and 11 other people who were injured during fall, 2011, Occupy Oakland demonstrations.) In June 2013, settlements were reached in both cases which include a stipulated injunction providing for federal court enforcement of the Crowd Control Policy along with other reforms, including reforms greatly reducing typical detention time for mass arrestees, as well as nearly $2.2 million in monetary settlements for those who were injured and/or arrested.

Rachel brought a separate lawsuit, along with co-counsel Dennis Cunningham and Bobbie Stein, on behalf of Kayvan Sabeghi, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who lost most of his spleen when he was beaten with a baton by OPD Officer Frank Uu during the November 2, 2011, Occupy demonstration. That case settled in December, 2013, for $645,000.

Rachel, Jim Chanin, and Julie Houk also brought a separate lawsuit on behalf of Scott Olsen, a Marines veteran who was shot in the head with a lead-filled “beanbag” round during the October 25, 2011, Occupy demonstration. Olsen’s skull was shattered and he suffered a serious permanent brain injury. After he was lying critically injured on the ground, Officer Robert Roche threw an explosive CS Blast grenade onto him and people who were trying to come to his aid. Read the complaint here. In March, 2014, Rachel and co-counsel obtained a $4.5 million settlement for Mr. Olsen.

Rachel accepts a limited number of individual police and government misconduct cases, for people who have been beaten, shot, wrongfully arrested, or otherwise abused by law enforcement agents.

General information that may be useful for survivors of police misconduct can be found in the NLG NPAP Manual for Victims of Police Misconduct.