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Angell v. City of Oakland

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

January 5, 2015

STEVEN ANGELL, and others, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF OAKLAND, and others, Defendants.


NATHANAEL M. COUSINS, Magistrate Judge.

This case arises out of the mass detention and arrest of individuals during an "Occupy Oakland" march and protest on January 28, 2012. Before the Court are plaintiffs' unopposed motion for class certification and the parties' joint motion for preliminary approval of class action settlement. Dkt. Nos. 62, 63. The Court previously denied the motion for preliminary approval without prejudice due to several deficiencies in the proposed settlement agreement and class notice. Dkt. No. 68. After the parties submitted a revised settlement agreement and class notice, Dkt. Nos. 70-1 and 70-2, the Court held a preliminary approval hearing on December 17, 2014. No objectors appeared.

Because the Court finds that the proposed class meets the requirements for certification under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(3), the Court GRANTS plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Additionally, because the parties have made a sufficient showing for the purposes of preliminary approval, the Court GRANTS their joint motion. However, because the revised proposed notice to the class continues to suffer from several defects, plaintiffs must file a second revised class notice in accordance with this order for the Court's approval.


A. Plaintiffs' Allegations

The complaint alleges that, on January 28, 2012, class members and others participated in an "Occupy Oakland" political protest demonstration in Oakland, California. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 64. In the late afternoon, a group of approximately 500 to 1000 individuals marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza. Id. ¶ 65. As they were marching on Broadway, all class members were corralled and trapped in front of the Oakland YMCA between 23rd and 24th Streets by two lines of armed police and peace officers. Id. ¶ 66. The complaint alleges that the class members were pushed, clubbed, and driven into a shrinking space by these two advancing lines. Id. ¶ 67. The complaint further alleges that these tactics were unjustified and created a melee, filling the crowd with confusion, panic, and fear, and causing injuries. Id. There was no exit except into the YMCA, and some class members entered there. Id. According to the complaint, no dispersal orders were given on Broadway and no one gave orders or announcements telling the marchers where to go or what to do until after the police announced that the marchers were under arrest. Id. ¶ 66. The complaint further alleges that the entire group was placed, without probable cause, under arrest, allegedly for failure to disperse although they were given no notice or opportunity to disperse. Id. ¶ 68. After the announcement of the arrest, class members requested permission to disperse, which was denied. Id. Those who attempted to disperse were met with the use of force, causing injuries. Id.

The complaint further alleges that class members corralled at the detainment area, without probable cause or lawful justification, were forced to stand or sit in the street for hours. Id. ¶ 70. Class members were not allowed to use toilet facilities, so the only place to relieve themselves was on the street or in their clothing. Id. Some class members were placed on buses and held there for additional long periods without access to toilet facilities. Id. As a result, class members suffered discomfort, embarrassment, and humiliation. Id. Class members with medical needs were barred from taking their medications. Id.

According to the complaint, after detaining the class members on the street, defendants tied each of the class members' hands with plastic handcuffs behind their backs. Id. ¶ 71. Class members were kept handcuffed for inordinate and unnecessarily long periods of time, and handcuffs/ties were intentionally or heedlessly applied too tightly, causing pain, extended discomfort, and injuries. Id. Defendants refused to loosen or remove the handcuffs until the class members arrived at the jail, late that night or in the early morning. Id.

The complaint alleges that rather than cite and release the class members, the decision was made to arrest and transport them to an Alameda County jail. Id. ¶¶ 3, 69. The class members were loaded onto buses and vans. Id. ¶ 72. The lengthy detention on the cold street was followed with lengthy waits on the cold buses where the windows were open. Id. All class members were transported to an Alameda County jail, and were imprisoned for 12 to 85 hours. Id. ¶ 3. Some class members were taken to Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland, but the majority was taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Id. ¶ 72. Class members were driven on the freeway for 45 minutes to Santa Rita Jail, enduring wind and cold. Id.

The complaint further alleges that the decision to transport class members to an Alameda County jail subjected class members to imprisonment for long periods in overcrowded and inhumane conditions, including unheated or deliberately chilled cells, with limited seating, no sleeping facilities, sometimes standing room only, no toilet facilities, no feminine hygiene, and no food, water, or medical care. Id. ¶¶ 3, 69. Female class members were embarrassed and humiliated by the forced urination and pregnancy testing. Id. ¶ 73.

The complaint alleges that, at Santa Rita, class members were held in extremely over-crowded cells and other spaces, which lacked cots or other sleeping surfaces. Id. ¶ 74. Many cells were so over-crowded that there was not room for everyone to sit or lie down on the floor. Id. Phone calls were denied for long periods of time. Id. Class members were denied access to legal counsel. Id. Toilets and sanitary facilities were inadequate or non-existent. Id. Means for personal hygiene, particularly feminine hygiene were denied. Id. Despite the winter weather, cold air was continually being blown in and class members' extra clothes were taken away. Id. No one was provided with blankets or other means to stay warm. Id. Some were deprived of food and water for extended periods of time. Id. Class members with particular medical needs continued to be deprived of needed medical care, and medication. Id. The complaint further alleges that the class members were subjected to physical and mental abuse and other inhumane and unreasonable conditions of confinement, which caused them to suffer pain, discomfort, distress, and injury. Id. All class members at Santa Rita were held for excessive periods. Id. ¶ 76.

No class members were charged or prosecuted, but all now have arrest records and will incur legal costs to attempt to have the arrests removed from their records. Id. ¶ 78.

B. Procedural History

This case was filed on January 14, 2014, by eight plaintiffs-Steven Angell, Miles Avery, Molly Batchelder, Sri Louise also known as Louise Coles, Cicily Cooper, Shareeff Elfiki, Theodore Hexter, and Lindsay Weber. See Dkt. No. 1. The proposed class alleged in the complaint consists of "persons who were herded, corralled and then arrested in the mass arrest that occurred on the evening of January 28, 2012 on Broadway in Oakland, between 23rd and 24th Street, " and who were "detained, arrested, imprisoned and never charged with any crime." Id. ¶ 57.

The complaint names as defendants the City of Oakland, the County of Alameda, and individual defendants employed by the City and the County. See Dkt. No. 1. The complaint alleges causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as state law rights against false arrest and false imprisonment. Id. Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and the class, seek (1) declaratory and injunctive relief to restrain defendants from continuing to violate plaintiffs' federal and state constitutional and statutory rights, the protections for these rights in the Oakland Crowd Management/Crowd Control Policy, and from using false arrests, false imprisonment, unreasonable conditions of confinement, and other unlawful actions to disrupt, interfere with and deter future demonstrations and protest activities in the City of Oakland and Alameda County; (2) an injunction requiring the defendants to seal, return, and/or destroy any records of plaintiffs' arrests; and (3) monetary damages for the injuries plaintiffs suffered when they were falsely detained, arrested and imprisoned. Id. ¶ 8.

The parties engaged in discovery, which included exchanging written discovery, taking the depositions of the named plaintiffs and City and County personnel, and inspections of the Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer jail facilities. Dkt. No. 19 at 2. The parties participated in settlement conferences with Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler over several months. Dkt. Nos. 36, 55. As a result, the parties were able to reach a settlement in September 2014. Dkt. No. 60. Plaintiffs then filed a motion to certify the class, which defendants do not oppose. Dkt. Nos. 62, 62-3. The parties also moved jointly for preliminary approval of the settlement. Dkt. No. 63.

While this case was pending, the case of Spalding v. City of Oakland, No. 11-cv-02867 TEH, resolved. The Spalding case was also a class action arising out of a mass arrest involving the City of Oakland and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. Part of the resolution of Spalding included injunctive relief regarding the application of cite/release and booking procedures that will be applied in multiple simultaneous arrest situations. See Spalding, No. 11-cv-02867 TEH, Dkt. No. 95-1 at 7-9. Plaintiffs assert that the injunctive relief obtained in Spalding addresses and resolves the injunctive relief issues raised in plaintiffs' complaint in this case and that, as a result, they are no longer requesting injunctive relief. Dkt. Nos. 62 at 22 n.2; 63 at 3.

C. Jurisdiction

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 9. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. All parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Dkt. No. 15 ¶ 13.

D. Overview of the Settlement Agreement

1. Class Definition

The settlement agreement defines the class as "the approximately 360 people who were arrested in the mass arrest on Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets in Oakland on January 28, 2012, and who were never charged with any crime related to this arrest." Dkt. No. 70-1 at 6. The parties explained that 360 is the number of arrestees confirmed through discovery. Id. n.3.

2. Monetary Payment to the Class

Under the settlement agreement, the City and the County will jointly pay the sum of $1, 360, 000 within 15 days of the Court's entry of final judgment. Dkt. No. 70-1 at 7. Those class members who have submitted approved claims will receive an equal part of the $1, 360, 000 payment after attorneys' fees and costs and the class representatives' awards have been deducted from this amount. Id.

The settlement agreement further provides that, in the event that any check to a claimant is undeliverable or is uncashed 180 days after it is placed in the mail, the funds thus unclaimed will be turned over to Families With a Future, a project sponsored by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a non-profit based in San Francisco. Dkt. No. 70-1 at 8.

3. Non-Monetary Benefits of the Settlement

In addition to the monetary benefits, the settlement agreement includes a stipulation for the sealing and destruction of all arrest records, police reports, investigative reports, booking information, online data, or any other documentation or information pertaining to the arrests of the plaintiffs and those class members who submit approved claims, in the possession of the City and the County. Dkt. No. 70-1 at 8. The parties stipulate that the relief will be the equivalent of a determination of factual innocence pursuant to California Penal Code § 851.8. Id. The parties also request a Court order in the names of all of the plaintiffs and those class ...

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