Huffington Post Reports on Legal Aid Lawsuit Challenging Unlawful Stops and Arrests in Public Housing Projects
FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2010

Reporting on The Legal Aid Society's "trespass" case against the City and the New York City Housing Authority, the Huffington Post points out that the federal class action complaint asserts that the practice of routinely subjecting NYCHA residents and their visitors to unlawful stops and arrests purportedly to enforce the trespass laws is unconstitutional but more significantly discriminates against African Americans and Latinos.

William Gibney, Director of the Criminal Practice's Special Litigation Unit, told the Huffington Post that Legal Aid initiated the action because there had been an influx of cases of "unjustified" arrests for trespass in public housing. Among the 16 plaintiffs in the class action are residents from all five boroughs in the city and their visitors who had been arrested for trespass.

"Both people's rights are being violated here - the person who is getting arrested, but also the person who is the resident of the apartment," said Gibney. "They should have the right to a normal life in public housing, and that is not the situation when visitors are getting arrested when they come to see you. Could you imagine police officers roaming the halls of apartment buildings on the Upper East Side questioning everybody who they see and arresting people when they can't prove they are legitimately in the building?" When officers conduct a "vertical patrol," they walk through and do a sweep of the hallways, stairwells, rooftops and landings, to ensure the building is safe and that no one is trespassing or engaging in criminal activity.

The Legal Aid Society filed the federal class action complaint January 29, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against New York City and the New York City Housing Authority challenging their unlawful policy of routinely subjecting NYCHA residents and their visitors to unlawful stops and arrests purportedly to enforce the trespass laws. The complaint asserts that police officers indiscriminately stop and arrest people living in or visiting NYCHA residences. As a result, people who have a legitimate and lawful reason for being on NYCHA property, including residents, are routinely detained and/or arrested for criminal trespass. Co-counsel in this case are the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

Read full article on Huffington Post.