National Lawyers Guild Detroit & Michigan Chapter

To all: 

As previously reported here, last summer a team of National Lawyers Guild Attorneys filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Detroit and Detroit Police Department to stop the DPD from violently assaulting non-violent protesters against police brutality.  On September 4, 2020, Federal Judge Laurie Michelson issued a Temporary Restraining Order directing the DPD to not use violent and abusive tactics against peaceful protesters.    This T.R.O. ultimately became a stipulated Court Order that functions as a Preliminary Injunction and continues the directives of the T.R.O. until the end of the litigation. These Court Orders have been incredibly successful. Since the T.R.O. was issued, the DPD has not arrested a single protester!   And this means that since the TRO was issued, the DPD has not arrested any protesters illegally; has not beaten or abused any protesters illegally; has not placed unlawfully tight zip ties on the wrists of any protesters; and has not interfered with the First Amendment Rights of any protesters.

The City of Detroit’s next tactic was to file a counterclaim for civil conspiracy against the Plaintiffs. This counterclaim was a completely frivolous allegation, which had no support in the law or the facts. It is the type of lawsuit commonly called a SLAPP action, which stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  SLAPP lawsuits are commonly filed by government entities and predatory capitalist corporations to discourage social justice organizations from exposing their wrongdoing, by draining members’ time and financial resources.  Further, the Detroit Law Department petitioned the Detroit City Council to allocate $200,000 to pay the corporate law firm Clark Hill to defend the City from the DWB lawsuit and in particular to prosecute the meritless counterclaim. 

DWB and many other community activists petitioned and appeared at City Council meetings, contending that the Council should deny the requested allocation.  Several City Council members responded, and voted against the allocation, but it passed by one vote. It now turns out that the DWB and other community activists were completely right in contending that the $200,000 was a waste of Detroit taxpayer’s dollars. DWB’s NLG attorneys filed a devastating motion to dismiss the counterclaim. Today, Judge Michelson issued a scorching Opinion dismissing the Detroit Counterclaim WITH PREJUDICE — which means it is dead.

But one striking excerpt in Judge Michelson’s Opinion points out that the Plaintiffs have submitted evidence that during a protest on July 10, 2020, a Detroit Police Officer placed DWB founder and leader Nakia Wallace in a chokehold. Judge Michelson quotes verbatim the City of Detroit’s absurd explanation for this evidence: “The Officer taking Counter-Defendant Wallace down lost her hold, which caused her arms to momentarily touch Wallace’s neck.”  (Opinion, 3/10/21, at 4). What a pathetic defense this is!      

The team of NLG attorneys who are litigating this lawsuit are to be commended for their outstanding work and their commitment to the protection of the rights of Black Lives Matter protesters.  The Detroit City Council needs to wake up and stop allocating Detroit taxpayer funds to defend the DPD from liability for its lawless, violent and abusive conduct.

John Royal, National Lawyers Guild Detroit & Michigan Chapter

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