Litigation

Current Litigation

ACLU of Oregon Files Lawsuit Demanding Documents on Implementation of Trump Muslim Ban

protesters at Portland International AirportApril 12, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today against the regional U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office in demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.

Today’s action is part of a total of 13 FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country. The ACLU of Oregon lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Portland Field Office. In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Portland International Airport, Denver International Airport, Ted Stevens International Airport, Boise International Airport, Casper/Natrona County International Airport and at port of entry offices in Anchorage, Denver, Boise, Portland, Casper.

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP on February 2, 2017. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing.

“Oregonians have been cut off from their families, friends, and business associates by President Trump’s Muslim bans and the chaotic implementation that followed,” said Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon legal director. “Portland International Airport is our gateway to the world and we deserve to know how the executive orders have been carried out here.”

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Victory! ACLU of Oregon Settles Lawsuit on Behalf of Portland Woman Whose Phone was Seized While Filming Police in 2013

Carrie Medina filming policeApril 10, 2017 – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) today announced that a settlement had been reached with TriMet, the City of Portland, and the City of Gresham in a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2013 incident when a Portland woman’s phone was seized while live streaming police activity. The lawsuit, Carrie Medina v. City of Portland, et al, argued that Medina’s constitutional rights were violated when a Gresham police officer snatched her phone from her hands, twisted her arm, and detained her while she was live streaming police activity.

“My experience may have been eye opening for many, but it was no surprise to those who have regular encounters with law enforcement,” said Carrie Medina, plaintiff in the suit.

The ACLU lawsuit alleged that police violated Medina’s free speech and free press rights when they stopped her live stream broadcast of a police encounter involving multiple law enforcement agencies near a Trimet stop. The suit also alleged that Medina’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when the officer seized and then searched her phone without her consent or a search warrant, and that the officer also unlawfully detained her that day.

WATCH: An officer grabs Carrie Medina's phone in Portland in 2013.

The settlement agreement stipulated that Portland and Gresham must adopt new police policies and training regarding the public’s right to film police activities. The City of Gresham’s new policy under the settlement went into effect in May 2016 and the City of Portland’s new policy went into effect in October 2016. The City of Gresham was also required to pay $85,000 in legal fees to Medina.

“Carrie wholeheartedly believes in the power of filming the police as a tool to increase accountability,” said Alan Galloway, attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who represented Medina. “Carrie was clear that she wanted her case to bring about policy changes to protect the right to film police, not monetary damages. Although the settlement took a lot of time and effort to reach, the resulting policies and training clearly recognize the Constitutional right to film the police.”

“Bystander video has had an incredible impact on the way Americans understand police encounters,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. “Now anyone with a cell phone can expose injustice and hold police accountable. It is critical that police policies recognize and respect the public’s right to film police.”

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Police Accountability Advocates Call for Portland Police Bureau Protest Policy Changes

March 22, 2017 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon, joined by the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and Oregon Lawyers for Good Government, submitted another round of comments to Portland Police Bureau’s directive 635.10 – Crowd Control / Crowd Management. 

These comments continue the call for a more sensible approach to policing protest in an attempt to avoid clashes seen in Portland in recent months

We call for:

1. De-escalation tactics over force;

2. Demilitarization of the police; and,

3. The prohibition of dangerous projectile and chemical weapons.

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ACLU of Oregon Demands for Documents on Implementation of Trump’s Immigration Ban

FOIA Filed As Part of Coordinated Campaign with 50 ACLU Affiliates

FOIA filed image February 2, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today with its local U.S. Customs and Border Protection office (CBP) to reveal how Trump administration officials are interpreting and executing the president’s immigration ban, and whether they are complying with orders from federal courts partially staying the ban’s implementation. The filing today is part of a coordinated effort from 50 ACLU affiliates, which filed FOIA requests with 18 CBP field offices and its headquarters spanning 55 international airports across the country.

“The exclusion of Muslims and refugees is shameful and runs counter to core American values,” said Kelly Simon, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “Yesterday, we sued the Trump administration on behalf of immigrants and refugees in Oregon. Today, we teamed up with ACLU affiliates across the country in an effort to force out information about how these orders are being carried out.”

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Oregon Immigrants’ Rights Groups File Lawsuit Against Trump’s Muslim and Refugee Exclusion

press conference at Unite OregonFebruary 1, 2017 - The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) and Immigrant Law Group PC filed a lawsuit today in federal district court challenging President Trump’s Muslim and refugee exclusion order. The complaint was filed on behalf of Unite Oregon, a social justice organization whose members include Muslim immigrants and refugees.

“Today, we tell the world that Oregonians reject Trump’s inhumane orders that exclude Muslims and refugees,” said an emotional Manijeh Merhnoosh, Unite Oregon’s board co-chair. 

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Statement on Trump's Executive Order Banning Refugees

refugees welcome signIn response to President Trump’s Executive Order banning entry into the United States by people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the ACLU of Oregon has joined with local attorneys to assist in the representation of anyone affected. If you or someone you know has a family member who will be arriving in the next 72-hours from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan or Yemen at Portland International Airport (PDX), or who was detained already by Customs pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order, please call the ACLU of Oregon at (971) 412-2258 or email us at info@aclu-or.org.

We are deeply relieved that, on Saturday evening, a federal judge stayed the removal of individuals with approved refugee applications, valid visas, and other individuals from the seven banned countries legally authorized to enter the United States. The stay means that people detained at airports may not be deported, but people may still be detained pending these proceedings.

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Only Two States Allow Non-Unanimous Juries to Deliver Felony Convictions: Oregon and Louisiana

By Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

court exhibit of 1932 newspaper article that talks about a "mixed-blood jury"December 15, 2016 - UPDATE: Today, Multnomah County Circuit Court denied Olan Williams a new trial in his challenge of the non-unanimous jury verdict returned in his felony criminal case.

We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case challenging the law for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. While the court ultimately denied Williams’ request for a new trial, the ruling goes to great length to explain the racist past of Oregon’s history generally, as well as concluding that race and ethnicity were motivating factors in the passage of Oregon’s non-unanimous jury law and that “the measure was intended, at least in part, to dampen the influence of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities on Oregon juries.” 

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ACLU Sues Oregon Department of Corrections Over Denial of Medical Care to Transgender Prisoner

Lawsuit highlights relentless suffering of transgender prisoner and demands medically-necessary care for all transgender prisoners

 October 17, 2016 - The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a lawsuit today in federal court against the officials at the Oregon Department of Corrections on behalf of a transgender prisoner who is being denied essential medical care. The suit, on behalf of Michelle Wright, a transgender woman who is currently housed at Two Rivers Correctional Facility, argues that it is cruel and unusual to deny medically-necessary care to prisoners. Michelle Wright in prison

“The Oregon Department of Corrections is denying our client lifesaving care,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. 

Wright, age 25, felt a deep disconnect between the gender she was assigned at birth and her female gender since childhood. Although she identified as transgender, she was unable to begin hormone therapy prior to her incarceration. According to the complaint, Wright has been denied medical care despite submitting nearly 100 requests. Facing repeated denials of care, she has attempted suicide multiple times and, on three occasions, attempted to castrate herself. 

“At this point, I’m afraid I will lose her forever,” said an emotional Victoria Wright, mother of the plaintiff. “She should be held accountable for her mistakes, but I’m worried she is being damaged in prison in a way that might not be fixable.”

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Oregon Supreme Court Ruling in Eugene Taser Case Strengthens Public’s Right to Records

ACLU Lawsuit Increases Transparency in Police Use of Force Inquiries

still from video of tasing incident shows man on ground with two police standing over himSeptember 15, 2016 – The Oregon Supreme Court ruled today that the City of Eugene must turn over records to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon in their inquiry into the high profile use of force against Eugene protester Ian Van Ornum. In 2008, Van Ornum was twice tased while peacefully protesting against the use of pesticides in downtown Eugene.

The City of Eugene relied on an exemption to the public records law to deny the release of documents in the case. 

In the unanimous decision, the court said that the public has strong interest in police oversight.

 “Without mutual trust, the police cannot do their work effectively and the public cannot feel safe,” wrote Oregon Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters. “One way to promote that necessary mutual trust is to make police practices and procedures transparent and to make complaints about police misconduct and the discipline that is or is not meted out open to public inspection.”

The decision reinforces the strong public interest in disclosure of information about the use of force by officers, alleged police misconduct, and the process by which those allegations are reviewed. 

Oregon law says that when an investigation does not result in discipline of any public safety officer then the records will not be released except “when the public interest requires disclosure of the information.” 

With this decision, the court places significant value in the public interest exceptions in Oregon’s public records laws. This will be very important in future public records requests, particularly requests that relate to video captured by police body cameras or dashboard cameras on patrol cars.

Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director, said the case was a very significant win for Oregonians. 

“Today is a big day for police accountability in Oregon,” said McCullough. “In this time of national concern regarding what is appropriate police conduct, we are proud that Oregon’s answer is now to shed more light on the review process.” 

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Oregon Motorcyclist Scores a Win in Discrimination Case

motorcyclistsAugust 19, 2016 - For 14 years, Ron Godwin worked as the chaplain, religious services coordinator, and volunteer coordinator at the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility (RVYCF) in Grants Pass. Ron loved his work and was deeply appreciated by the youth he served, the volunteers he worked with, and his coworkers. 

By all accounts, he was a fantastic employee. Ron even received an award for his excellent service, which described him as “the glue” that held the facility together. However, three months later, he was abruptly suspended after being seen riding his motorcycle with members of the Vagos Motorcyle Club and wearing their logo on his jacket. After a brief investigation, the Oregon Youth Authority fired him. 

Freedom of speech and association for government employees is an important right protected by the First Amendment. A public employee cannot be fired because he spends his hours outside of the work environment associating with a certain group unless this association is disruptive to the workplace. In Ron’s case, he was fired because of his lawful expression and association related to the Vagos motorcycle club. Nothing suggested his activities did, or were even likely to, disrupt his work.

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