Filed Date: May 1, 2013
Closed Date: Jan. 24, 2020
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On May 1, 2013, two men who were arrested for trespassing on property open to the public filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the City of Grand Rapids, its chief of police, and two individual officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the National ACLU and ACLU of Michigan, asked the court for a declaratory judgment, damages, and injunctive relief concerning the use of "No Trespass Letters." The plaintiffs claimed that the City of Grand Rapids, its chief of police, and police officers violated their Fourth Amendment rights.
According to the amended complaint, the Grand Rapids Police Department ("GRPD") had arrested individuals for trespassing based on a City trespass ordinance, under which the City solicits No Trespass Letters from area businesses indicating their intent to prosecute trespassers. The plaintiffs alleged they were arrested for trespassing while sitting in their vehicles in a business's parking lot, without any warning or complaint from the business itself. The plaintiffs claimed their arrests were without probable cause and therefore in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the ordinance violated the void-for-vagueness doctrine of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
On December 3, 2013, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for injunctive and declaratory relief. They argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek declaratory or injunctive relief because they were not suffering an imminent threat of repeated future misconduct. Additionally, defendants argued that the plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were not ripe because the City had changed the No Trespass Letters following the plaintiffs' filling of the Complaint. Defendants did not challenge the Court's jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs' claim for damages.
On August 4, 2014, the Judge Paul L. Maloney dismissed the claims of one of the plaintiffs against the defendants according to the parties' stipulation. However, the other plaintiffs' claims remained.
While the motion to dismiss was still pending, the defendants and the plaintiffs both filed motions for summary judgment. In April 2015, the court postponed the trial date pending the resolution of multiple motions made by both the defendants and the plaintiffs.
Following a hearing on the defendants' motion to dismiss, as well as both parties' motions for summary judgment, Judge Maloney granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for injunctive and declaratory relief on June 21, 2017. 256 F.Supp.3d 742. The Court held that, because the plaintiffs had not alleged sufficient facts to present a threat of an imminent, as opposed to a speculative, injury, they lacked standing to seek declaratory and injunctive relief. The Court also noted that the City's changes to the No Trespass Letters following the filing of this case rendered the requests for prospective relief unripe. The Court did not, however, grant the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim for damages.
Notably, the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the same issue of whether the Grand Rapids ordinance is constitutional and held that it is unconstitutional. People v. Maggitt, 903 N.W.2d 868 (Mich. Ct. App. 2017). Following the Michigan Court of Appeals' ruling, the City effectively ended its practice of arresting individuals pursuant to the No Trespass Letters.
On October 17, 2018, Judge Maloney held that both sides were entitled to partial summary judgment. 407 F.Supp.3d 707.
The Court granted summary judgment for plaintiffs on their municipal liability claim against the City of Grand Rapids. The Court found that the City had an unconstitutional policy or custom whereby police officers arrested individuals for trespassing on property covered by a no-trespass letter without first informing the suspect that he or she must leave the property. However, the Court found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the City's trespass ordinance was unconstitutionally vague.
Additionally, the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims against the individual defendants because it found that the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity. At the time of the arrests, it was not clearly established law what knowledge the officers must have before concluding that they had probable cause to arrest a suspect for violating the City's ordinance.
After a February 4, 2019 conference with Judge Maloney, the parties appeared to move into settlement negotiations. Judge Maloney filed an order on April 12 stating that he had received word from the parties that they had settled the issue on the matter of damages. A damages amount was not publicly disclosed; the ACLU described it as a "favorable settlement agreement resulting in significant compensation for each of our four plaintiffs." The parties continued litigating over attorney fees, but came to a private agreement on the matter on December 23, 2019. Judge Maloney dismissed the case on January 24, 2020.
David Postel (10/20/2013)
Jessica Kincaid (2/27/2016)
Eva Richardson (12/1/2018)
Ellen Aldin (6/12/2020)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6806721/parties/hightower-v-grand-rapids-city-of/
Allen, Marc S. (Michigan)
Aukerman, Miriam (Michigan)
Bloemers, Margaret P (Michigan)
Fossel, Elizabeth J. (Michigan)
Gruszka, Elliot J. (Michigan)
Maloney, Paul Lewis (Michigan)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6806721/hightower-v-grand-rapids-city-of/
Last updated Jan. 27, 2024, 3:04 a.m.
State / Territory: Michigan
Filing Date: May 1, 2013
Closing Date: Jan. 24, 2020
Case Ongoing: No
Two individuals who were arrested for criminal trespass at business open to the public without having committed a crime or been asked to leave.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Amount Defendant Pays: Unknown