Orrick Pro Bono Team at Center of Successful Fight for Police Accountability in New York

August.21.2020

In a case focused on police accountability, a New York federal judge today denied efforts by police unions to block the city of New York from releasing the vast majority of records relating to police misconduct that had just become public in June when the state Legislature repealed a controversial law preventing their disclosure – agreeing with legal arguments raised by an Orrick pro bono team on behalf of an influential police reform organization that sought to intervene in the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla denied the unions’ request for a preliminary injunction in an order today, allowing the city to immediately release the records, and thus to publish a database of these records, without major categories of misconduct and discipline hidden from public review. The ruling rejected efforts to end run the state Legislature’s repeal of New York’s Civil Rights Law § 50-a, an important step in increasing transparency and community oversight of police departments.

An Orrick team, collaborating with the Center for Constitutional Rights, intervened in the case on behalf of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). The judge has not yet decided our client’s intervention motion, but relied in part in her ruling on the arguments we raised opposing the unions’ request for a preliminary injunction. Our team, led by senior associate Chris Cariello, submitted declarations from elected officials, victims and families of victims of police violence, experts and others who told the judge public access to misconduct and disciplinary records is essential to community and officer safety and continued policymaking and reform.

“The public is entitled to know when the officers sworn to serve and protect it, endowed with firearms and color of law, have been the subject of complaints, and how those complaints were resolved,” our brief opposing the injunction stated.

In addition to Chris, the Orrick team included partner Alex Chachkes, Pro Bono Counsel Rene Kathawala, Margaret Wheeler-Frothingham and Anna Saber, as well as Alison Epperson, DeMarr Moulton, Logan Dwyer, Haley Tynes, Ayanna Lewis-Gruss, and Patrick Kessock.