Case: Farber v. Rizzo

2:72-cv-02052 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: Oct. 27, 1972

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Philadelphia's mayor and several Philadelphia police officers. Plaintiffs were several individuals who had gathered to protest across the street from Independence Hall, where President Nixon was holding a ceremony. Factual BackgroundOn the evening of October 19, 1972, a group of roughly 50 anti-war activists gathered near Independence Hall. They were protesting the arrival of President Nixon, who was …

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Philadelphia's mayor and several Philadelphia police officers. Plaintiffs were several individuals who had gathered to protest across the street from Independence Hall, where President Nixon was holding a ceremony.

Factual Background

On the evening of October 19, 1972, a group of roughly 50 anti-war activists gathered near Independence Hall. They were protesting the arrival of President Nixon, who was to sign the Revenue Sharing Act at the Hall the next day. The protesters were apparently not upset with the signing of the Act, but rather with U.S. involvement in Vietnam generally. At one point, they were asked by a lieutenant with the Philadelphia Police Department to move from one side of the street to another. The protesters did so and spent the night there. The next morning, however, at about 7:15 a.m., the same lieutenant came by and told them that they would now only be allowed to stay on that side of the street if they relinquished their anti-Nixon and anti-war placards. About 15 minutes later, 16 of them were arrested while peacefully protesting. The Philadelphia police never charged them with anything.

At 9 a.m. that same day, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Louis Natali, had a conversation with the Police Commissioner and a police lieutenant. The Commissioner told Natali that those arrested could be released and come back to the area if they did not bring placards. The group that had been arrested refused. After Natali told the Commissioner that the group refused the offer, Philadelphia police arrested another group of people carrying placards, in the presence of Natali and the lieutenant and at the direction of the Commissioner.

Two hours later, the plaintiffs filed a complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order. After a conference that same day, the court granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) that enjoined the police from arresting people with placards outside of Independence Hall. The city's attorney was given a copy of the TRO, and Natali immediately called another lieutenant regarding the contents of the TRO. Natali told the other lieutenant that he must release those who had been arrested, but the lieutenant said that he needed confirmation by a superior.

Meanwhile, by 1 p.m., another protester had been arrested, even after showing the police a copy of the TRO. The police conferred with the city attorney who had been present representing the city when the judge issued the TRO, and the city attorney told them they were not violating the TRO. Ten others were also arrested after the TRO had originally been issued.

Legal History

On October 27, 1972, the plaintiffs filed this petition for civil contempt, claiming numerous violations of the TRO. They sought to hold the Commissioner and one of the lieutenants in civil contempt. The Court (Judge Daniel Henry Huyett III) granted the request as to some petitioners but not others. For example, with respect to a sizable group of peaceful protesters, the court found the defendants in contempt. With regard to a different protester, who was apparently yelling and interfering with the officers, it did not. Finally, with respect to the first group of protesters who were arrested, the Court held that the defendants had violated the TRO by keeping them in custody even after the TRO was issued and after they had confirmed that the protesters were not a security risk.

While the Court did find the defendants in contempt and held that they could be held liable for compensatory damages, it held off on imposing those damages, as there was a separate civil case to address that issue. Instead they asked plaintiffs to submit a proposed order. Because this case is pre-PACER, we do not have that order, and the Clearinghouse is not aware of what, if any, damages the plaintiffs eventually obtained. Due to its advanced age, the case is likely now closed.

Summary Authors

Jack Hibbard (10/21/2020)

People


Judge(s)

Huyett, Daniel Henry III (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Levine, Jack J. (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

Huyett, Daniel Henry III (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Levine, Jack J. (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Opinion

363 F.Supp. 386

June 22, 1973 Order/Opinion

Docket

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

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: Oct. 27, 1972

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Protesters against President Nixon at Independence Hall who were arrested by police.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commissioner (Philadelphia), City

Mayor (Philadelphia), City

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Unknown

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

False arrest

Over/Unlawful Detention