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TATUM v. MORTON
March 13, 1974
LYLE TATUM, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
ROGERS C. B. MORTON, ET AL., Defendants *
The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH
This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiffs' cross-motion for partial summary judgment. Plaintiffs seek money damages against District of Columbia Police Chief Jerry V. Wilson and Inspector William Trussell also of the Metropolitan Police Department as well as the District of Columbia.
The relevant facts which are essentially undisputed by each side are set forth below.
Plaintiffs, who were participating in a "vigil" near the White House, were arrested for failure to disperse after the establishment of a police line around their gathering on Sunday, April 25, 1971, on the sidewalk on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between East Executive Avenue and West Executive Avenue.
The basic tenor of this demonstration was peaceful
and there was no evidence of the open use of narcotics or alcoholic beverages.
More significantly, there was no observation of any destruction of property or the blocking of the passage of pedestrians on the sidewalk.
The gist of plaintiffs' case
is their challenge to the validity and reasonableness of the judgment of Inspector Trussell that although this Quaker gathering was peaceful for the moment, he concluded there was justification for establishing police lines due to the imminent danger of property damage and personal injury created by the influx of "outsiders" into the vigil lines. Inspector Trussell gave the following statement as to his view of the outsiders:
Well, for the most part they were very dirty, mostly carrying knapsacks. Obviously, they were the people I had observed down on the Monument grounds. By this time those numbers that I spoke about earlier who had slept in on the Monument grounds were leaving by various means and directions, most hitchhiking. Many of them came north on 17th Street and went east on Pennsylvania Avenue and continued out New York Avenue exiting from Washington.
Many of them appeared to be lost, bewildered and really sort of no strings attached. As I say, it was obvious they slept out not only for one night but for periods of time and didn't at all resemble the people who came and identified themselves to be the Quaker Peace Action Group. And they were rather loud and boisterous. And when they would join the line they called to all their type to come and join, and things of that nature.
And it was visually apparent that they were not with the original group. And it was visually apparent where they had come from.
It was Inspector Trussell's belief, therefore, that these "outsiders" were from the group that he had observed the night before on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The scene on the Monument grounds can best be described by Inspector Trussell's own words:
I stayed very close to that and monitored it.
Based upon the similarity of appearance and the direction from which these persons approached, Inspector Trussell concluded that there might very well be the same type of destruction of property near the White House that occurred at the Monument. This he believed warranted the establishment of police lines. However, Inspector Trussell saw no "outsider" commit any violation of the law nor destroy any property.
Furthermore, when asked whether he could identify any of these "outsiders" as being persons whom he had seen destroying property on the Monument grounds, he answered in the negative.
The Inspector could only speculate based on his judgment as to all the surrounding circumstances, that these were persons from the group that had spent the night on the Monument grounds.
The questions with which this Court is faced, therefore, are: (1) whether the actions taken by Inspector Trussell were of such a nature in light of all the circumstances to warrant his legal liability; (2) whether the District of Columbia is liable for the actions of its employee, Inspector Trussell, under the theory of respondeat superior ; and (3) whether Police Chief Jerry V. Wilson is liable for the misuse of the police line ordinance and his ...
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