Hankin v. City of Seattle
This class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of hundreds of peaceful protesters who were arrested and jailed on December 1, 1999, pursuant to the City of Seattle’s “no-protest zone” policy that was put into effect during the WTO Ministerial Conference. The case sought damages, alleging that the arrest of these protesters violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as the free speech provision of the Washington State Constitution.
The City agreed to pay $250,000 to settle the class action on behalf of those arrested outside the no-protest zone. The court approved the settlement, and the money was distributed to class members and counsel.
Public Justice successfully sought class certification for 200 protesters arrested inside the no-protest zone — specifically, those arrested in Westlake Park in downtown Seattle. In December 2006, Judge Marsha Pechman of the Western District of Washington held that police had lacked probable cause to arrest the class at Westlake. The next month, in January 2007, after a nine-day jury trial and two-and-a-half days of deliberation, the jury found the City of Seattle liable for violating the class members’ Fourth Amendment rights. The jury also found, however, that the City was not liable for violating the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by discriminating against them on the basis of viewpoint.
In late March 2007, a settlement was reached with the City on behalf of the Westlake protesters. Under the settlement, the City sealed all of the protesters’ arrest records and requested that other government agencies expunge the arrests from their records as well. The City also incorporated the federal court decisions won by Public Justice — which found that police lacked probable cause for the arrests — into its police training. Finally, the City paid $1 million to the class, including attorneys’ fees and costs.
The plaintiffs’ trial team consisted of lead trial counsel Michael Withey in Seattle; lead cooperating counsel Tyler Weaver of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Seattle; Fred Diamondstone in Seattle; and Public Justice’s Leslie Bailey. Other members of the plaintiffs’ team included Public Justice’s Victoria Ni and Arthur Bryant; Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, John Muenster of Muenster & Koenig; Yvonne Kinoshita Ward in Auburn, Wash.; Ben Schwartzman in Bellevue, Wash.; and Professor Erwin Chemerinsky of Duke University School of Law.