The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY SPORKIN
Plaintiffs are the operators of the Community for Creative Non-Violence homeless shelter ("CCNV shelter") at 425 Second St., N.W., Washington, D.C. along with the class of homeless people who were present at the shelter in the early morning hours of January 9, 1992. Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants, the United States Marshals Service for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Marshals"), violated their Fourth Amendment rights when they conducted a pre-dawn 'raid' of the shelter that day. After conducting a trial in this case, it is clear that the Marshals' actions did violate the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Therefore this Court will enter a judgment for the Plaintiffs and order appropriate relief.
The Court has observed three days of testimony, a videotape, and numerous documentary exhibits in this case. It is helpful, then, to begin by noting what is not at issue in this case. First, Plaintiffs in this case are not alleging that the Marshals used any type of excessive force either on January 9, 1992 or in any previous encounter at the CCNV shelter. There has been absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Marshals in this case engaged in any physical abuse or misused force. Second, this case neither presents the Court with the need nor the opportunity to make broad judgments concerning the fairness and restraint of the United States Marshals Service. It is clear to this Court that the United States Marshal Service is an elite federal law enforcement organization. The Marshals are charged with the task of locating fugitives and executing outstanding arrest warrants for those fugitives. That task is both difficult and dangerous. Therefore, it is beyond dispute that the Marshals must have certain latitude in executing arrest warrants within the means permitted under the constitution. It is clear both from the evidence presented in this case and from the Marshals Service's past actions that, in general, the Marshals discharge their responsibilities in a serious and professional manner.
This case only requires the Court to examine the conduct and policies of the Marshals as they relate to the CCNV shelter located at 425 Second Street. On January 9, 1992 that conduct did not meet the constitutional standard owed the Plaintiffs. Moreover, in the absence of a change from past practice, the Marshals will likely continue to violate the rights of the residents of that shelter -- many of whom are among this country's most defenseless citizens. Accordingly, the Marshals' procedures and actions for executing arrest warrants at the CCNV shelter must be altered to conform with constitutional mandates.
Plaintiffs' complaint is based on the actions of the Marshals on January 9, 1992. The previous day the Marshals had received a tip from a confidential informant that Earl Hughes, a fugitive, was staying at the CCNV shelter. On January 8, 1992 the Deputy Marshal who was assigned to the Hughes case assembled a group of ten Marshals to plan the next morning's activities. He informed them that they would be looking for Hughes at the CCNV shelter the following day. He also stated that the Marshals "might have to have people identify themselves [and] show IDs." Tr. Vol. III at 6-8; Deposition of Floyd White at 42-43. It was agreed at that time that the Marshals would take a printout of all fugitives on the chance that some of the others might also be at the shelter. This Court finds that from the outset the Marshals intended to look not only for Hughes but to conduct a general sweep of the shelter looking for any fugitive who might be there.
The next morning the Marshals assembled and proceeded to the CCNV shelter. This Court credits the testimony of the CCNV staff members who were present in the shelter that morning. That testimony reveals that the following events occurred. In the early morning hours of that day nearly 500 homeless people were sleeping in the '2 South' and Emergency drop-in areas of the shelter, having spent the previous winter night there. Mr. Louis Juluke, the CCNV staff person on duty, testified that the entrance to the shelter is only opened once every half hour from 12:00 am. to 6:00 am. At 5:30 am. on that morning ten Marshals came through the only entrance to the CCNV shelter and approached the glass enclosed front desk, or 'bubble.' The Deputy Marshal in charge of the operation testified that the Marshals purposely came at 5:30 am. because they knew the door would be unlocked and that they could gain entry to the lobby at that time without having to be let in. Tr. Vol. II at 164.
The 2 South section of the shelter houses male residents who are employed. In the early morning of January 9, 1992 there were over 300 Plaintiff class members who had been sleeping in 2 South for the night. The Marshals entered the 2 South section without the consent of the person on duty there, they showed that CCNV staff person the picture, and asked if Earl Hughes was in 2 South. The CCNV member informed the Marshals that he did not recognize the person in the picture and that there was no Earl Hughes in 2 South.
Despite being told that the person the Marshals were seeking was not present, the Marshals demanded to see the records of all the people in 2 South. CCNV keeps a Rolodex file, which it regularly updates, containing the names of all 2 South residents.
The staff member showed the Rolodex and two other rosters to the Marshals. Earl Hughes' name was not listed on any record at the desk. One Marshal then told the CCNV staff member "We're going to check anyway." Tr. Vol. I at 49. Another Marshal told a CCNV staff person to turn on the lights and to use the public address system to tell the 2 South residents that the Marshals were present and that the residents should have identification ready to be checked if they wanted to leave the building. Tr. Vol. I at 5l-53.
The CCNV staff person obeyed the Marshal's order, and he woke up the 2 South residents by turning on the lights and making the required announcement.
At the same time that this was occurring at the desk, other Marshals were walking back into the sleeping area of 2 South. Those Marshals wanted to make sure that there was no back exit to the shelter.
In addition, the Marshals entered the private cubicles of certain residents, and woke them up
to check their i.d.'s and their faces against the picture of Hughes. The Marshals checked certain of those individuals' i.d.'s against the master printout of all outstanding arrest warrants.
The group of Marshals who had remained at the only exit to 2 South began checking the identification of every person in the line-up or who attempted to leave the premises. The residents who wished to leave -- many for work -- had to form a line starting at the door. At the head of that line, one Marshal blocked the exit and two others set up stations at the front desk. These Marshals had copies of the computer printout listing fugitives both according to name and address. One of the employees of the shelter at some point began to videotape what was transpiring. The videotape and testimony demonstrated that every person attempting to exit the room, regardless of race, age, or appearance was required to present identification. One resident of 2 South testified that a Marshal informed him that if he tried to leave without showing identification he would be arrested. Tr. Vol. I at 79. The Marshals checked each i.d. presented against the list of outstanding warrants. If the name did not produce a "hit," the Marshal at the door would step aside and the person would be allowed to leave. Five fugitives were actually found and placed under arrest.
The testimony concerning the number of 2 South residents forced to show an i.d. ranged from slightly over 100 to nearly 200. The Marshals stayed at the exit to 2 South and checked i.d.'s for approximately one and one half hours.
At the same time as the events in 2 South were occurring, a second group of Marshals had proceeded to the Emergency Drop-in area of the shelter. The purpose of this area is to provide emergency overnight shelter for homeless individuals during the winter months. Over 100 homeless individuals were present in the Drop-in area on the morning of January 9, 1992. The Marshals approached the locked steel mesh door of the Drop-in section and told Greg Shea, the CCNV desk attendant, that they were searching for the man in the picture. Shea opened the door only to get a better look at the picture. Several Marshals pushed past him and entered the interior of the Drop-in section without his consent. Tr. Vol. II at 16. One of the Marshals accompanied Shea to check the Drop-in roster. Earl Hughes' name did not appear. The Marshals then told Shea to turn on the lights because they were going to "check" anyway. Tr. Vol. II at 18. Shea asked if he could call his supervisor, and the Marshal responded that he "could call anyone he wanted so long as he turned the lights on first." Tr. Vol. II at 18-19. Shea, feeling he had no choice, complied.
The Marshals then began going to various beds in the Drop-in area and rousing the residents to see if they could locate Hughes. The Marshals also informed the CCNV staff member that no one would be permitted to leave the Drop-in area without showing identification. For the next hour no person was permitted to leave the Drop-in area without producing identification which was checked against the computer printout of all outstanding warrants.
Shortly after the Marshals began checking i.d.'s in both areas of the shelter, Plaintiff Carol Fennelly, a director of CCNV, and Plaintiff Cliff Newman, a CCNV team leader, were alerted. Both of these people are known by the Marshals to be senior CCNV officers who live at and operate the shelter. Mr. Newman, whose testimony is credited by the court, loudly announced to 2 South residents that he could not advise them whether or not to disobey the Marshals, but that he personally believed that what they were doing was illegal and that CCNV was going to pursue the matter. He stated that the only reason that the Marshals were still permitted to stay at the shelter was that "they are the ones with the guns." Tr. Vol. I at 150. Newman also approached the Marshals directly and vehemently argued that what they were doing was impermissible.
Plaintiff Fennelly, whom the Marshals knew to be a CCNV leader, also confronted several Marshals. First, she approached the Marshals on 2 South and "demanded that the Marshals leave" stating that she also believed that what they were doing was "illegal and unconstitutional." Tr. Vol. II at 72, 72-75. When the Marshals ignored her request and continued to check i.d.'s, she demanded to know who was in charge of the operation. Fennelly, who took notes, located the "Deputy in charge" in the Drop-in section and "told him to get out of the building." Tr. Vol. II at 74. A heated exchange between Fennelly and the Deputy Marshal ensued, during which the Deputy Marshal informed Fennelly that she would be arrested if she continued to interfere with the operation in progress. The Deputy Marshal himself testified that the very vehemence of Fennelly's request that he leave the premises was a factor in his decision not to leave and to continue examining i.d.'s. Tr. Vol. III at 22. Finally, Plaintiff Fennelly asked what the Marshals would do to anyone who refused to produce identification. As her notes reflect, the Marshal responded, "take them in." Tr. Vol. II at 74.
The Marshals did not leave the CCNV shelter until after 7:00 am. Hughes was not found in the shelter. On the way out of the shelter both the video tape and testimony show that the Deputy Marshal in charge stated to Fennelly that the Marshals "might be back tomorrow, and if the doors are locked, they [can] come down." Tr. Vol. II at 79. The Plaintiffs filed this action seeking to prevent such dragnet raids.
Fennelly also testified credibly as to the harms which have befallen both CCNV and the class of homeless Plaintiffs as a result of the January 9 incident and the threat of future incidents at the shelter. Tr. Vol. II at 85-89. Fennelly testified that CCNV's ability to fund its activities has been damaged by the raid and the resulting perception that the shelter harbors fugitives. CCNV accepts no federal money and depends on private donations to provide the wide range of services available at the shelter.
Fennelly also testified as to the damage that has been done to the trust relationship between the CCNV shelter and the homeless people in the shelter. Id. at 87. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 49 L. Ed. 2d 826, 96 S. Ct. 2868 (1976). Both CCNV and the shelter residents are hurt when such fragile bonds are damaged. To fulfill its mission of providing safe, reliable shelter for the homeless, CCNV must maintain the trust of the people it attempts to bring in off the streets. If homeless people cease believing that the CCNV shelter can ...