Abdur-Rahim et al. v. City of Columbus et al.
This case falls into the legal category of: First Amendment, Fourth Amendment
Case Dates:Thursday, 15 June, 2017 - ongoing
After Donald Trump released his first executive order known as the Muslim Ban, peaceful protests broke out across the nation. On the evening of January 30, 2017, three days after the Ban was announced, organizing groups in Columbus held a rally near the Ohio Statehouse to show resistance to the Ban and solidarity with immigrants.
After a rally and a short march, most protesters left, but a smaller group of them returned to an intersection near the Statehouse. Columbus police formed a line in the street, facing the protesters.
The remaining protesters faced the police and chanted and prayed. Meanwhile the police issued repeated dispersal orders. After about 40 minutes, the police sprayed pepper spray in the air just above the crowd. The protesters turned around and immediately began to disperse. As they were retreating from the area, the police chased several targeted individuals and sprayed them again, directly in the eyes and face, at very close range. The audio provided by police body cameras revealed that some police officers intentionally targeted these specific individuals in advance.
Columbus police officers violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on excessive use of force and the First Amendment rights to speech and assembly when they targeted and pepper sprayed peaceful, unarmed protesters who were in the process of complying with dispersal orders.
On July 12, 2017, we filed suit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on behalf of three of the demonstrators who were sprayed at close range. The Defendants were three unnamed Columbus police officers (identified as “John Doe” defendants), Jeffery Lipp, the commanding lieutenant from the event, Kim Jacobs, the Chief of Police, and the City of Columbus. On October 2, 2017 Defendants filed their Answer. Parties held the 26(f) conference on October 16 and the 26(f) report was filed on November 29.
The first pretrial conference occurred on December 6, 2017. The Court issued a preliminary pretrial order directing the parties to complete discovery by June 1, 2018 and file dispositive motions by August 1, 2018; Plaintiffs to make a settlement demand by January 15, 2018; and Defendants to respond to that settlement demand by February 15, 2018. We orally requested and the Court granted an extension of the deadline for substituting the proper names of and effecting service for the John Doe Defendants.
On December 11, 2017, the Court issued an order setting a settlement conference for February 8, 2019, and a trial for March 25, 2019. We conducted discovery in January and February to identify the John Doe police officer defendants. The Defendants provided incomplete responses to our initial discovery requests. At our request, the Court held a discovery conference on January 29 during which it ordered Defendants to supplement their responses by February 20. The Court also granted our request for an extension of time to amend our complaint. Defendants then served supplemental discovery responses that allowed us to identify two of the three John Doe defendants, and we filed our First Amended Complaint on March 1, 2018. Defendants filed their Answer on March 22.
However, when Defendants answered the First Amended Complaint, they informed us that the supplemental discovery responses they had provided had been incorrect, and that based on that misinformation, the named Defendants in our Amended Complaint were likely incorrect.
On April 5 the Court entered an Order to Show Cause as to why it should not dismiss the remaining John Doe Defendant without prejudice. On April 10 we filed a Response informing the Court of Defendants’ incorrect discovery responses and a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint and to Modify the Discovery Schedule. On April 11 Defendants filed a Response. The Court granted our Motion, extending the time to identify the final John Doe until June 5, granting leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, and extending the discovery schedule.
On April 20 we filed a Second Amended Complaint that corrected the identities of two of the John Doe officers, and a Stipulated Notice of Dismissal of a an individual officer defendant whom we had incorrectly named. Defendants filed their Answer on May 10, 2018.
In the meantime, we propounded a second set of discovery requests on May 5 to determine the identity of the remaining John Doe officer before the June 5 deadline to amend our complaint to join him. On June 4, Defendants submitted incomplete discovery responses again. On June 8 the Court ordered us to show cause by June 22 as to why the John Doe Defendant should not be dismissed. After a Rule 37 conference with Defendants in which we could not resolve our discovery dispute, we requested (on June 19) a discovery conference with the Court. The Court held the conference on June 27, during which she directed Defendants to supplement their discovery responses by July 11 and granted us an extension of time to file a Third Amended Complaint. Finally, Defendants’ supplemental discovery responses identified the third unnamed officer Defendant. On August 3 we filed the Third Amended Complaint, naming the final Defendant, and on August 17 Defendants filed their Answer.
In late August we deposed each of the three officer-defendants and defended two of our clients’ depositions. On September 20 we filed an unopposed motion to extend the discovery cutoff until May 1, 2019 and the dispositive motions deadline until June 15, 2019. On September 21 the Court granted our motion and set a new trial date for February 18, 2020. Discovery in the case remains ongoing.