Case: Philadelphia Resistance v. Mitchell

2:71-cv-01738 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: July 14, 1971

Closed Date: 1974

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Currently, only two opinions regarding the discovery in this case are available electronically; the docket sheet and other documents are not. On March 8 and 9, 1971, a burglary took place at the Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) in Media, Pennsylvania. Several government documents were stolen during the burglary and later disseminated to media. According to Ivan Greenberg, The Dangers of Dissent, disclosure of the materials helped lead to the end of Counter Intelligence P…

Currently, only two opinions regarding the discovery in this case are available electronically; the docket sheet and other documents are not.

On March 8 and 9, 1971, a burglary took place at the Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) in Media, Pennsylvania. Several government documents were stolen during the burglary and later disseminated to media. According to Ivan Greenberg, The Dangers of Dissent, disclosure of the materials helped lead to the end of Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). After the burglary, the F.B.I. conducted an investigation which included the surveillance of the plaintiffs (although in the end nobody was charged). The F.B.I. claimed that the investigation served valid law enforcement purposes; the plaintiffs in this case alleged that the investigation constituted illegal harassment.

The anti-war groups subsequently filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against then-Attorney General of the United States Mitchell and then-F.B.I. director Hoover in 1971. Represented by private counsel, they sought declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief, accusing the defendants of illegal and unconstitutional surveillance, harassment and intimidation due to the groups' political ideology.

During the discovery, the plaintiffs submitted interrogatories to the defendants, who refused to answer by asserting investigatory, informer, and executive privilege. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs were subject of a valid ongoing criminal investigation for law enforcement purposes. The plaintiffs moved to compel.

On August 3, 1972, the District Court (Judge Donald W. Van Artsdalen) ordered the defendants to produce the relevant investigation documents that supported their claim to the Court for an in camera inspection. Philadelphia Resistance v. Mitchell, 63 F.R.D. 125 (E.D. Pa. 1972). Upon inspection, the Judge Van Artsdalen concluded that the plaintiffs were subjects of a valid ongoing investigation for law enforcement purposes and that the defendants could properly assert their privilege.

On December 27, 1972, Judge Van Artsdalen examined individually the interrogatories to determine the applicability of the defendants' privilege. Philadelphia Resistance v. Mitchell, 58 F.R.D. 139 (E.D. Pa. 1972). He ordered the defendants to answer the interrogatories that were closely related to the surveillance at issue but not those that were highly sensitive and vital to public security.

The discovery proceedings in this case revealed crucial information about the F.B.I.'s unlawful searches and wiretapping, which led to two other closely related cases: Forsyth v. Kleindienst and Burkhart v. Saxbe.

We have only two discovery-related opinions in this matter, but according to a published newsletter ("First Principles: National Security and Civil Liberties,"), the parties settled the case in 1974 through a consent decree. The defendants agreed to pay the litigation costs and not to conduct any surveillance or harassment of the plaintiffs in the future. This ended the case.

Summary Authors

Emma Bao (7/9/2013)

People


Judge(s)

VanArtsdalen, Donald West (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Burt, C. Oliver III (District of Columbia)

Straub, Peter T. (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

VanArtsdalen, Donald West (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Rudovsky, David (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Burt, C. Oliver III (District of Columbia)

Straub, Peter T. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Memorandum Opinion and Order

63 F.R.D. 125

Aug. 3, 1972 Order/Opinion

Memorandum Opinion and Order

58 F.R.D. 139

Dec. 27, 1972 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 14, 1971

Closing Date: 1974

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Anti-Vietnam war groups in Philadelphia subjected to the F.B.I.'s surveillance and harassment following the burglary of the F.B.I. office in Media, Pennsylvania.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

United States Department of Justice, Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1974 - None

Issues

General:

False arrest