Lloyd Marbet Is Not Alone
The Belmont Law Center Writes About the Recent Civil Rights Lawsuit Settlement
As you all know, Alan Graf, a number of other lawyers, and the NW Center for Constitutional Rights (Plaintiff's Lawyers) recently settled a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Portland for police brutality. As a result of that settlement, Alan on 2 December wrote a piece he posted here entitled "Fast Food Activism." The Belmont Law Center publishes here its response to that piece, and the settlement generally.
As you also may know, Paul Loney and Stu Sugarman, aka The Belmont Law Center, have been fighting for various lefty causes since attaining adulthood, in a variety of roles. Since 1992, they have been at the forefront of Green Party politics, run a state wide nonprofit environmental group, fought for legalization of marijuana, defended forests and the environment, and defended animal rights. The Belmont Law Center has defended or helped defend every forest protester, and then every Oregon protester, in criminal court since 1995.
We would like to make it clear upfront we are impressed with the commitment of time and energy by the Plaintiff's lawyers in this case. Only lawyers who have sued the cops and other governmental entities, as have we, can understand the immense amount of work that goes into prosecuting such a case.
In "Fast Food Activism," Alan writes "all of the Plaintiffs and lawyers, other than Lloyd, have committed to funding the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, a project of the National Lawyers Guild." In fact, Paul and Stu are members of the legal team on this suit but have not committed to funding the NWCRC at this time.
Alan also writes "all of the guild lawyers who I have spoken with nationally, who have worked in mass prosecution of protest cases and who have sued other cities over protest violations tell me that if you keep hitting them in their pocketbook, again and again, they will change." We believe lawyers with a financial interest in the outcome may believe this is true, but we do not believe this is true for several reasons. First, some of the best trial lawyers in Portland for many years have made their living by suing the City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau for money. These suits, which include suits on behalf of mass protesters, have not changed a thing. So what is the difference between their suits and this suit? Those other lawyers never promised to achieve an injunction, and were straightforward from the beginning about getting as much money as possible. Second, the amount of money awarded in this case is insignificant to this city, which has a budget of 1.73 Billion dollars (that's Billion with a B) and can tax at will to ensure it can meet its obligations. Third, if we are wrong and the city did become financially stressed by paying out a relatively small amount every 2.5 years, it would either raise taxes again or drop some important public service. Neither option is attractive to us or to Lloyd Marbet.
It has also been said that all lawyers were unanimous in favoring this deal. In fact, Stu and Paul were and remain strongly against this deal. The BLC informed Alan of its carefully considered opinion that the money offered might cloud Plaintiffs' Lawyers' ability to think clearly. We believe the City Attorney's office protected its client by employing its usual methods: First, exhaust the plaintiffs' lawyers until they would be significantly weakened without a substantial monetary settlement. Then, give the lawyers what the city could afford -- lots of money, and no meaningful injunction whatsoever.
We define victory differently than the Plaintiffs who settled and their lawyers. We stand with Lloyd Marbet when he says a monetary payout is not a victory. When there is a change on the streets, as there was recently in the civil injunction against cops in Oakland, California ending the use of pepper spray and other less-lethal weapons, that is a victory.
We continue to have high hopes for the NWCRC. The devotion of BLC's free criminal lawyers and the NWCRC's civil lawyers to winning substantial injunctions against cops at trial will help protesters take back our rights.
Those interested in protesters and the law should know something else. Since 1995, the BLC has used indymedia and protester-shot video tapes to win criminal cases at trial. Since 2002, Alan Graf has publicly and wisely sought videotapes from protesters as well. Even when the BLC shared the videos it receives from protesters with the Plaintiffs' Lawyers, the Plaintiffs' Lawyers did not share those tapes with us. As a result, 171 of the 175 Iraq war protesters' cases were closed before we received the tapes protesters gave to Plaintiffs' Lawyers. Alan has recognized this problem and has agreed to publicly ask that all protesters give their tapes to us for criminal defense first. In return, we pledge to promptly share those tapes with Alan's work on the slower developing civil cases. So Please Please Please, give us the tapes you record at protests so we can defend those arrested. We will then let Alan use them so he can sue the cops.
-- Stu Sugarman and Paul Loney, Belmont Law Center
contribute to this article
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion