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Case: Graham v. District Attorney for Hampden County

SJ-2021-0129 | Massachusetts state supreme court

Filed Date: April 6, 2021

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

The ACLU of Massachusetts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and private counsel filed this lawsuit in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 6, 2021, representing people and groups affected by policing failures. This group comprised individuals who have been prosecuted in Hampden County, criminal defense lawyers, CPCS itself, and a bar advocate organization. The plaintiffs called for an investigation into Springfield police violence and misconduct, and sought assurances tha…

The ACLU of Massachusetts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and private counsel filed this lawsuit in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 6, 2021, representing people and groups affected by policing failures. This group comprised individuals who have been prosecuted in Hampden County, criminal defense lawyers, CPCS itself, and a bar advocate organization. The plaintiffs called for an investigation into Springfield police violence and misconduct, and sought assurances that the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) would properly disclose police misconduct as exculpatory evidence in criminal cases. The plaintiffs’ case reached the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) as a petition for extraordinary relief under G. L. c. 211, § 3, a Massachusetts state law which permits a single justice of the SJC to act as a trial judge or to exercise supervisory power. The petition was assigned to Associate Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt.

The plaintiffs filed a corrected complaint on May 20, 2021. In the corrected complaint, they contended that police misconduct should trigger Massachusetts’s state-law “duty to investigate” and that the court should exercise its superintendence powers “to ensure that appropriate investigation is undertaken and that the defendants’ rights are protected while the investigation unfolds.” The plaintiffs also asked the court to exercise its superintendence powers to issue guidance that would ensure HCDAO complied with its disclosure obligations. 

The plaintiffs based their allegations of misconduct on a now-concluded DOJ pattern and practice investigation. That investigation, which ran from April 13, 2018 to July 8, 2020, found reasonable cause to believe the Narcotics Bureau of the Springfield Police Department (SPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The DOJ likewise found that the SPD’s pattern or practice was “directly attributable to systemic deficiencies in policies, which fail to require detailed and consistent use-of force reporting.” (On April 13, 2022, the DOJ brought its own case—based on the pattern and practice investigation—against the SPD and the City of Springfield. Litigation in that case, United States v. Springfield Police Department, is ongoing as of October 2022.)

Justice Wendlant issued an interim order on July 16, 2021, requiring the parties to submit status reports within sixty days on the progress of the investigation and review of documents. Another order issued October 8, 2021, summarizing the parties’ process and ordering them to “continue to make reasonable efforts to effectuate disclosure of the information” and to “continue to file periodic status reports that detail the specific steps being taken, the process being made, and any alleged shortcomings” in either side’s efforts. Yet another order issued December 8, 2021, extending the instructions of the second order. This third order also required a number of specific disclosures, such as “a joint statement of agreed legal issues and contested material legal issues.” 

The parties filed a joint statement of legal issues and third status update on February 22, 2022. The joint statement provided incomplete responses to one of the court’s questions in the third order. The parties agreed on several legal issues: whether the DOJ report triggered a duty to investigate, what evidentiary disclosures after an allegation of a “pattern or practice” of misconduct, a prosecutor’s obligation when a police department will not turn over exculpatory evidence, and whether the petitioners have standing. The parties also agreed to a series of issues that would arise contingent upon the court’s finding that the petitioners had standing. But disputes remained—as detailed in the third report—over particular factual and legal issues.

Because the parties could not agree to all facts necessary to permit the court to decide the issues raised in the petition and could not come to a complete agreement as to the legal issues that must be decided, the court appointed the Honorable Judith Fabricant as special master. The court entered this order April 19, 2022, and instructed the special master to file a report of her findings and conclusions on or before November 1, 2022. As of October 20, 2022 the special master has not yet filed her report. Litigation in this matter is ongoing.

Summary Authors

Hank Minor (10/24/2022)

People


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Edwards, Ezekiel (New York)

Fantozzi, Martin M (Massachusetts)

Fletes, Abigail (Massachusetts)

Horvitz, Matthew P (Massachusetts)

Jacobstein, Rebecca A. (Massachusetts)

Kosht, Mitchell (Massachusetts)

Lewis, Jessica L. (Massachusetts)

McFadden, Daniel L. (Massachusetts)

Newman, William C. (Massachusetts)

Segal, Matthew (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Edwards, Ezekiel (New York)

Fantozzi, Martin M (Massachusetts)

Fletes, Abigail (Massachusetts)

Horvitz, Matthew P (Massachusetts)

Jacobstein, Rebecca A. (Massachusetts)

Kosht, Mitchell (Massachusetts)

Lewis, Jessica L. (Massachusetts)

McFadden, Daniel L. (Massachusetts)

Newman, William C. (Massachusetts)

Segal, Matthew (Massachusetts)

Trivedi, Somil Bharat (District of Columbia)

Other Attorney(s)

McCord, Mary B. (District of Columbia)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Auer, Kelly L (Massachusetts)

Druzinsky, Jamie (Massachusetts)

Farrell, Benjamin (Massachusetts)

Fleischner, Matthew (Massachusetts)

Hoose, David P. (Massachusetts)

Madden, Lawrence (Massachusetts)

Miles, MarySita (Massachusetts)

Murdock, Katherine (Massachusetts)

Nicoletti, Patrick (Massachusetts)

Nolen, John (Massachusetts)

O'Connor, Thomas D (Massachusetts)

Puryear, Anna-Marie (Massachusetts)

Raring, Nicholas J. (Massachusetts)

Rogers, Jaime (Massachusetts)

Vidal, Ivonne (Massachusetts)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

SJ-2021-0129

Petitioner's Record Appendix Petition for Relief Pursuant to G. L. c. 211, § 3 AND c. 231A, § 1

April 5, 2021

April 5, 2021

Pleading / Motion / Brief

SJ-2021-0129

Petition for Relief Pursuant to G. L. c. 211, § 3 A and c. 231A, § 1

April 6, 2021

April 6, 2021

Complaint

SJ-2021-0129

Re: SJ-2021-0129, Graham v. District Attorney for Hampden County

April 6, 2021

April 6, 2021

Pleading / Motion / Brief

SJ-2021-0129

Corrected Petition for Relief

May 18, 2021

May 18, 2021

Complaint

SJ-2021-0129

Interim Order

Committee for Public Counsel Services & Others v. District Attorney for Hampden County

July 16, 2021

July 16, 2021

Order/Opinion

SJ-2021-0129

Second Interim Order

Committee for Public Counsel Services & Others v. District Attorney for Hampden County

Oct. 8, 2021

Oct. 8, 2021

Order/Opinion

SJ-2021-0129

Third Interim Order

Committee for Public Counsel Services & Others v. District Attorney for Hampden County

Dec. 8, 2021

Dec. 8, 2021

Order/Opinion

SJ-2021-0129

Parties’ Response to Question 1 of the Third Interim Order

Feb. 22, 2022

Feb. 22, 2022

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Docket

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

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 6, 2021

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Plaintiffs are people and groups affected by policing failures in Hampden County, MA.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU National (all projects)

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

District Attorney for Hampden County (Hampden), County

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

General:

Pattern or Practice

Records Disclosure