Police Practices on the Docket

Abdur-Rahim et al. v. City of Columbus et al.

This case falls into the legal category of: ,

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.

Legal Theory:

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. That same day the Court issued a preliminary pretrial order directing the parties to complete discovery by June 1, 2018 and file case-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 in 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 named Defendants provided incomplete responses to our 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 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’ answer is due March 23. We will conduct additional discovery to identify the third John Doe defendant.