Archives for posts with tag: first ammednment

Police warrants on protest groups before the Republican National Convention – implicates the rights to associate and protest and rights of search and seizure. The warrants were for bomb-making materials, but at one plaintiff’s address they found ninja foot spikes. This is the decision on motions for summary judgments.

SCOTT DEMUTH, ALEXANDER LUNDBERG, CELIA KUTZ, NATHAN CLOUGH, VINCENT COLLURA, and ANDREW FAHLSTROM, individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROBERT FLETCHER, individually and in his official capacity as Ramsey County Sheriff, INSPECTOR SAMEC, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, COMMANDER RICH CLARK, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, COMMANDER SOMMERHAUSE, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, COUNTY OF RAMSEY, a Minnesota municipal entity CERTAIN UNKNOWN AND UNNAMED SAINT PAUL POLICE OFFICERS, CITY OF SAINT PAUL, CERTAIN UNKNOWN AND UNNAMED CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICERS, and CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, a Minnesota municipal entity, Defendants.

Civil No. 08-5093 (JRT/LIB)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA

2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34638

Decided March 31, 2011

Opinion by US District Judge John R. Tunheim:

Defendants Robert Fletcher, Tony Samec, Dale Sommerhause, and Rich Clark (“defendants”) executed search warrants at various locations in August 2008 in relation to alleged illegal activity undertaken by members of a group known as the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee (“RNCWC”). Defendants seized a large quantity of documents and other items, some of which allegedly belongs to plaintiffs Scott Demuth, Alexander Lundberg, Celia Kutz, Nathan Clough, Vincent Collura, and Andrew Fahlstrom (“plaintiffs”).

Plaintiffs are alleged co-owners of various materials seized by police officers during a raid of several buildings in 2008, prior to the Republican National Convention (“RNC”). Kutz, Fahlstrom, and Clough were members of a collective known as the RNCWC which raised funds to rent space to congregate, share ideas, and organize various protest activities related to the RNC. The RNCWC provided space and tables to allow the distribution of their own literature, as well as the literature of other groups and activists. The RNCWC intended to shut down the RNC to prevent it from occurring, and to prevent delegates from arriving at the RNC’s location.

The documents include statements such as “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BE SMART AND DANGEROUS DURING THE RNC BEFORE YOU ASK,” and explicit instructions for making a Molotov cocktail.

On August 29, 2008, Inspector Tony Samec, Commander Dale Sommerhause, and Commander Rich Clark of the RCSO applied for and received a warrant to search for assembled and unassembled bombs and materials to construct bombs, documents, and other materials at the Convergence Center. The application and resulting warrant described a variety of weapons and materials the affiants believed would be found there, including “[a]ssembled improvised incendiary devices . . . [i]gnitable liquids . . . [s]moke bombs . . . [and] [m]anuals, books and/or instructions for the construction of Molotov cocktails, bombs and other direct action techniques[.]”

One of the addresses searched:

D. 3500 South Harriet Avenue

On August 30, 2008, at 8:00 am, officers executed a search warrant at 3500 South Harriet Avenue. (Incident Report 3500 S. Harriet Ave., Samec Aff. Ex. A, Docket No. 56.) Officers located several weapons, including “ninja foot spikes,” a slingshot, and documents relating to the RNC. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff Vincent Collura alleges that after entering the house, police ordered him to lie on the floor, where he was handcuffed and searched, then was unbound and taken outside approximately a half-hour later.

Collura testified that he resided at the residence at the time of the search, and shared a bedroom with Max Specktor. Collura also asserts ownership of a two-page address and phone list, from which he was transferring phone numbers into a new cell phone, that was seized by officers effectuating the warrant. Collura testified that the raid had a chilling effect on his desire to participate in the planned protests of the RNC for fear of further interactions with the police. (Collura Dep. 54:5-7, Apr. 30, 2010, Angolkar Aff. Ex. P.)

A whole bunch of legal analysis – concluding:

Based upon all the files, records and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 53] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part;

a. The motion is GRANTED as to plaintiffs’ claims for conspiracy, failure to prevent, and claims under Monell;

b. The motion is GRANTED as to claims against any unknown officers. The “certain unknown and unnamed Saint Paul Police Officers, including officers John Doe and Jane Roes 1 thru 100” and “certain unnamed and unknown City of Minneapolis Police Officers, including officers John Doe and Jane Does 1 thru 100,” are DISMISSED with prejudice.

c. The motion is DENIED in all other respects.

2. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Docket No. 51] is DENIED.

DATED: March 31, 2011

at Minneapolis, Minnesota.

/s/ John R. Tunheim

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This 1996 case is about a Buddhist prisoner (convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison) who claims violations of his First Amendment right to practice his religion while in Michigan prison.

TEMUJIN KENSU, Plaintiff, V. DAVID CASON, JR., et al., Defendants.
Case No. 1:91-CV-300
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN, SOUTHERN DIVISION
1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5468

Decided – March 29, 1996

The Court explains:

While plaintiff’s claims might be succinctly characterized simply as free exercise and retaliation claims, in reality his grievances impact on virtually all aspects of the terms of his confinement. His claims involve the recognition of his religion and the right to individual and corporate practice; the availability of Buddhist books or literature in the prison libraries and visiting rooms; the composition of the Chaplains Advisory Council; shake-downs on visitations; the MDOC policy on assuming religious names; transfers to impede his ability to practice his religion and/or in retaliation for grievances filed in connection with his right to practice his religion; name-calling by prison guards; surveillance of plaintiff and his visitors in prison visiting rooms; prison newspaper publication policies; security reclassifications based upon or in retaliation for his exercise of his religious rights; cell assignments, mock pack-ups of prisoner property; the availability of tallow-free soap and hair conditioner; the composition of religious task forces; the right to sleep on the floor notwithstanding prison count policy; approval of religious vendors; the availability of protein tablets to supplement a meat-free diet; and the availability of an extensive amount of religious items and clothing.

The court notes that:

Plaintiff is also trained in several martial arts. He testified that he has a brown belt in Japanese karate and a black belt in Korean Tae Kwon Do. He admitted that he was referred to as the “Ninja Assassin” in his trial and that he had discussed his interest in the martial arts with various prison guards. Although plaintiff contends he is a pacifist, he testified that there had been at least 15 attacks on him by inmates at various prisons.

And that:

Plaintiff’s complaints about harassment were corroborated by inmates Andrew Trombley, Patrick Brown, Robert Harris and Jeffrey Terry. Mr. Trombley testified that Buddhists were not permitted to pray at meals and they were threatened with a major misconduct by the guards. Mr. Brown testified that Buddhists were called Ginsu knives and Ninja warriors by the guards at Muskegon. He also testified that Buddhists were subjected to general harassment, including mock pack-ups, pat downs, reviews of their identification and shake-downs. Mr. Harris testified that Buddhists were shaken down and harassed by guards when reading in a group. He also contended he had been denied parole three times due to his religion. Mr. Terry testified that Buddhists were called Buttyists by prison guards.

Analysis under RFRA, most of the plaintiff’s claims were denied (including denying claims for better vegetarian food options, protein supplements, soap made without animal products, chopsticks, and extra blanket to sleep on the floor, among others) but the Court did find one violation of his rights:

defendants’ policy, practice or custom of prohibiting all use by plaintiff of a simple altar and incense in his practice of Buddhism is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000bb et seq. Because the use of an altar and incense is fundamental or central to the exercise of plaintiff’s religion, and because defendants have failed to show that outright prohibition of such items is the least restrictive means of serving defendants’ legitimate penological objectives, defendants must either allow plaintiff to possess and use an altar and incense in his cell or must offer him the opportunity to use such items regularly in a designated location in the prison facility on terms comparable to those on which members of other religious groups are permitted to participate in religious rituals and ceremonies.

Therefore, as a prevailing party, the plaintiff’s attorney fees were paid. Still most of his complaints were denied.