NEW YORK, May 20 (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge on Thursday certified a class of as many as 1,400 individuals who claimed they were illegally arrested and detained during protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.
The plaintiffs filed suit in 2004, seeking monetary damages from the city and police officials for allegedly indiscriminate mass arrests during the citywide protests, and for their detainment at a group holding area the lawsuit described as "filthy, hazardous and dangerous." Approximately 1,800 people were arrested and detained during the four-day event, according to court documents.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan certified classes of individuals from six of the eight arrest locations cited in the suit, as well as those pursuing constitutional claims against the city for excessive detention on minor violations and the allegedly inhumane conditions of their confinement. The certification permits the plaintiffs to aggregate their claims and pursue them as a single lawsuit, rather than as individuals.
However, the plaintiffs will not be permitted to pursue class claims against individual police supervisors, nor under state law, the judge ruled. For the two arrest sites at which arrestee classes were not certified, Judge Sullivan said he found no evidence of group arrest decisions or procedures. Arrestees from those sites will be permitted to pursue their claims individually.
A SIGNIFICANT STEP
Jonathan Moore, an attorney whose firm, Beldock Levine & Hoffman, was appointed class counsel, called Thursday's ruling a significant step toward resolving the long-running case.
"We're hoping to finally be in a position to get justice," Moore said.
Moore said class certification may give the city a reason to come to the table and hammer out a settlement to resolve the suit. He speculated that damages could range from several thousand dollars to more than $30,000 per class member.
The city's attorneys are still reviewing the ruling, a spokeswoman said.
New York faced an onslaught of litigation in the wake of the RNC arrests. To date, 152 plaintiffs have settled, withdrawn or dismissed their suits, and the city has spent $1.8 million on settlements, according to the New York City Law Department. Cases are still pending for an additional 474 plaintiffs.
The case is MacNamara et al v. City of New York et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, no. 04-9216.
For the class: Jonathan Moore and Clare Norins of Beldock Levine & Hoffman.
For the city: New York Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo with Assistant Corporation Counsel Curt Beck, Jeffrey Dougherty, Peter Farrell, Tonya Jenerette and Raju Sundaran.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)