An Occupy demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL)
The federal government will pay thousands of dollars to settle two lawsuits challenging the arrests of protesters affiliated with the Occupy movement.
The government on Thursday agreed to pay $4,000 to Fitzgerald Scott, who sued following his arrest for wearing an “Occupy Everywhere” jacket inside the U.S. Supreme Court. In an unrelated case, the government also agreed to pay $10,000 to Anthony Michael Patterson, who claimed he was unconstitutionally arrested for using profanity.
Scott was appealing the July 2013 dismissal of his lawsuit by a federal trial judge in Washington. On Thursday, the parties notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit they had reached a settlement and agreed to dismiss the case. Court papers didn’t include details on the settlement, but Scott’s lawyer, Washington solo practitioner Jeffrey Light, confirmed the amount.
Scott was arrested for unlawful entry under District of Columbia law, Light said, but the charge was based on federal law that governs expressive activity at the high court. In an unrelated case, Hodge v. Talkin, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell last year struck down the federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing Howell’s decision in the D.C. Circuit. (Light represents Harold Hodge in the D.C. Circuit case.)
“Now that the statute has been invalidated—and the D.C. Circuit will rule on that—there wasn’t a much of a point to continue to litigate the constitutional issue of the proper application of the statute,” Light said about Scott’s case. “The point of the case was more of a constitutional, First Amendment challenge, rather than money. All of those constitutional issues are being dealt with by the D.C. Circuit.”
Light also represented Patterson in his suit. During Occupy D.C. demonstrations in Washington’s McPherson Square in 2012, Patterson was arrested for disorderly conduct. One month after his arrest, the government dropped the case.
In December, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denied the government’s effort to dismiss Patterson’s claims against three U.S. Park Police officers. The judge said that based on the facts Patterson alleged—which she had to assume were true during the early stages of the case—no “reasonable” officer could have thought Patterson’s profane language rose to the level of disorderly conduct.
According to documents filed Thursday in the federal trial court in Washington, the government agreed to pay $10,000 to settle the case. The government did not admit liability.
Representatives of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which was defending against Patterson’s lawsuit, and Main Justice, which was handling Scott’s case, could not immediately be reached for comment.