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Case Name Ahmad v. City of St. Louis PN-MO-0008
Docket / Court 4:17-cv-02455 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Policing
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
This case was litigated by the ACLU of Missouri’s against the City of St. Louis for declaratory and injunctive relief arising from the police response to protests from September 15 to September 17, 2017, against the acquittal of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officer Jason ... read more >
This case was litigated by the ACLU of Missouri’s against the City of St. Louis for declaratory and injunctive relief arising from the police response to protests from September 15 to September 17, 2017, against the acquittal of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officer Jason Stockley. There was also a separate class action filed after this suit was initiated, litigated by private counsel, seeking monetary relief for injuries caused by the police “kettling” of protesters on the night of September 17, 2017.

Following the acquittal on September 15, 2017, of a SLMPD officer for the 2011 killing of the 24-year-old-African American man, Anthony Lamar Smith, protests broke out in St. Louis. On September 22, 2017, two individuals involved in protests on the night of September 17, 2017, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs alleged that they were subjected to unlawful retaliation by police after exercising their right to engage in First Amendment protected activity, namely, the right to record police officers in public places. The plaintiffs sued the City of St. Louis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and alleged unlawful seizure, excessive force, and procedural due process violations.

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction requiring the City of St. Louis to act in accordance with the Constitution when declaring protests “unlawful assemblies” and ordering protesters “to disperse.” The plaintiffs also asked for attorneys’ fees. The case was assigned to District Judge Ronnie L. White, who set the first hearing for about two weeks later on October 3, 2017. Before that hearing, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in which they added more individual plaintiffs to the case. The plaintiffs also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which mooted a request for a temporary restraining order made on the same day as the original complaint. The requested preliminary injunction sought to prevent officers from giving any order of dispersal in the absence of violence by protesters and to prevent enforcement of an order of dispersal without first allowing sufficient opportunity to exit the area. The plaintiffs also asked the court to prohibit the unlawful utilization of chemical agents, such as tear gas, and to prohibit retaliation against any individual who photographs or records law enforcement officials in the course of their duty.

On October 5, 2017, the plaintiffs moved to certify a class consisting of all persons “who will observe, record, or participate in protest activity within the City of St. Louis in a traditional or designated public forum.”

On October 13, 2017, the plaintiffs moved to disqualify Judge White because of Judge White’s relationships with the City Counselor’s Office and concerns of partiality. On that same day, the court granted the request; District Judge Catherine Perry replaced Judge White.

Judge Perry held a hearing over two days in October, and on November 15, 2017, granted the preliminary injunction, noting the video, photographic, and documentary evidence of police misconduct. 2017 WL 547840. The district court found that plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence showing that the SLMPD violated Section XIII of its own Special Order 1-01 relating to the use of pepper spray for crowd dispersal and the 2015 settlement agreement they entered into to resolve a prior lawsuit, Templeton v. Dotson.

The preliminary injunction prohibited the defendant and its agents from declaring unlawful an otherwise lawful assembly and prohibited the use of chemical agents against persons engaged in expressive, non-violent activity in the City of St. Louis in the absence of probable cause and without granting adequate warning and sufficient opportunity to exit the area. 2017 WL 5478410. On that same day, the district court referred the case to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and mediation. Though the preliminary injunction was an appealable interlocutory order under 28 U.S.C. §1292(a)(1), the City did not appeal.

On May 4, 2018, the District Judge Perry ordered ADR to continue for another six months, to conclude before June 1, 2019 and scheduled a bench trial for September 26, 2019.

The plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint on September 5, 2018 and filed another motion to certify the class in accordance with the Second Amended Complaint on February 1, 2019. On March 29, 2019, the City moved for a dissolution of the preliminary injunction and dismissal of the Second Amended Complaint for lack of equitable jurisdiction.

The mediator informed the district court on May 6, 2019, that the parties had not reached a settlement. On May 7, 2019, the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, but ordered that the class be defined so as to exclude protesters who engaged in violent, unlawful activity. 2019 WL 2009589.

In another order dated May 15, 2019, the district court denied the City's motion to dissolve the injunction, finding that it was trying to relitigate its failed attempt to stop the preliminary injunction with new counsel. As for the motion to dismiss, District Judge Perry rejected this as well, noting that she had subject matter jurisdiction over the matter and that a dispute over the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims did not warrant dismissal.

The City appealed both the certification of the class and the denial of its motions to dismiss and dissolve to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. On July 12, 2019, further proceedings were stayed at the district court pending resolution of the appeal. 2019 WL 3068046. (But the prliminary injunction remained in place.)

The Eighth Circuit ruled on the appeal in an order and opinion issued on April 27, 2021. Writing a majority opinion for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge James Loken affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction and reversed its certification of the class action. On the preliminary injunction issue, Judge Loken held that the district court erred in its May 15, 2019, order by not considering the length of time that had passed since the entry of the preliminary injunction (November 15, 2017) a changed factual circumstance that would make the continued enforcement of the injunction “detrimental to the public interest.” Circuit Judge Loken noted that while the preliminary injunction was meant to control the City’s activities “pending a prompt trial” on the merits of the claims for a permanent injunction, this trial never occurred after mediation failed. Though the circuit court affirmed the denial of the motion to dissolve, on remand it instructed the district court to vacate and dissolve the injunction no later than October 31, 2021, if at that time it is not replaced with a final order either granting a permanent injunction or denying injunctive relief. Judge Ralph Erickson agreed with the reversal of the class certification discussed below but wrote a concurring opinion where he disagreed with Judge Loken’s holding that passage of time by itself constituted a factual change sufficient to consider the dissolution of a preliminary injunction. 995 F.3d 635.

As for the issue of class certification, Circuit Judge Loken found that the individual claims which would be brought by class members were not suited to the requirements of a Rule 23(b)(2) class. Importantly, the circuit court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that class members were harmed in “essentially the same way.” However, the Eighth Circuit left open the possibility that the plaintiffs could renew their request for certification once a final order is entered on their claim for permanent injunctive relief. As such, the class certification order was vacated without prejudice to plaintiffs. 995 F.3d 635.

The Eighth Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ request for a rehearing of the appeal en banc on June 8, 2021, with a formal mandate issued on June 15, 2021.

Things got moving back in the district court after the Eighth Circuit ruling came down in late April 2021. The plaintiffs filed a motion to lift the stay which was granted on April 29, 2021. On May 17, 2021, Chief District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri transferred the case from Judge Perry to Judge Matthew Schelp. In June 2021, Judge Schelp set a non-jury trial for August 23, 2021.

Jake Parker - 05/22/2018
Hope Brinn - 05/12/2020
Esteban Woo Kee - 06/30/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Required disclosure
Retaliation Prohibition
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Pepper/OC spray
Restraints : physical
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) City of St. Louis
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were allegedly subjected to unlawful retaliation by police following their participation in September 2017 protests in St. Louis, MO. In May 2019, the district court granted class certification to future participants or observers of non-violent demonstrations (and people who record such demonstrations or police activity at them) for the exercise of First Amendment rights in St. Louis. In April 2021, the Eighth Circuit vacated, without prejudice, the grant of class certification.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2017 - 2021
Filed 09/22/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PN-MO-0009 : Street v. O'Toole (E.D. Mo.)
PN-MO-0005 : Templeton v. Dotson (E.D. Mo.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Ahmad v. City of St. Louis
ACLU Missouri
Date: Sep. 22, 2017
By: ACLU Missouri
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
U.S. Court of Appeals
06/17/2019
19-2221
PN-MO-0008-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
06/15/2021
4:17-cv-2455
PN-MO-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Mo.
09/22/2017
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-MO-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
09/28/2017
First Amended Complaint for Prospective Relief [ECF# 9]
PN-MO-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
11/15/2017
Memorandum and Order of Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 57] (2017 WL 5478410)
PN-MO-0008-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
09/05/2018
Second Amended Complaint for Prospective Relief [ECF# 90]
PN-MO-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
05/07/2019
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 157] (2019 WL 2009589)
PN-MO-0008-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
05/15/2019
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 159]
PN-MO-0008-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
07/12/2019
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 191] (2019 WL 3068046)
PN-MO-0008-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
04/27/2021
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 5029333] (995 F.3d 635)
PN-MO-0008-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Erickson, Ralph R. (D.N.D., Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0008
Loken, James B. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0008
Perry, Catherine D. (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0003 | PN-MO-0008-0005 | PN-MO-0008-0006 | PN-MO-0008-0007 | PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Schelp, Matthew Thomas (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Shepherd, Bobby E. (W.D. Ark., Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Carney, Molly E (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
DeLoach, Kayla (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Praiss, Omri E. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Rothert, Anthony [Tony] E. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0001 | PN-MO-0008-0002 | PN-MO-0008-0004 | PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Steffan, Jessie (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0001 | PN-MO-0008-0002 | PN-MO-0008-0004 | PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Wilcox, Gillian R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-0001 | PN-MO-0008-0002 | PN-MO-0008-0004 | PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Bruyns, Megan Kathleen G. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Dierker, Robert H. Jr. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Duncan, Abby J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Laird, Brandon D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
McDonnell, Thomas R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Raimondo, Amy M. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000 | PN-MO-0008-9001
Relys, H. Anthony (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Other Lawyers Ellinger-Locke, Margaret E. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Mass, Laurence D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000
Waldron, John McCann (Missouri) show/hide docs
PN-MO-0008-9000

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