Creating Space For Community Representation in Police Reform Litigation

Published date01 February 2021
Date01 February 2021
Creating Space for Community Representation in
Police Reform Litigation
AYESHA BELL HARDAWAY*
Input from affected communities is an essential component of the
reform process aimed at remedying unconstitutional police practices.
Yet, no court has ever granted a community organization’s motion to
intervene as a matter of right in police reform, consent decree cases initi-
ated by the Department of Justice. Judicial opinions in those cases have
truncated the Federal Civil Rule 24 analysis when evaluating the inter-
ests of impacted communities. Thus, the most success achieved by a few
community organizations has been permissive intervention or amici sta-
tus. The models used by the Department of Justice to elicit the community
perspective have been frustrating and have failed to incorporate commu-
nity voice with equal weight and authority in the process. This Article
identif‌ies a uniform standard for courts to utilize in public law cases
when community organizations seek intervention and proposes an alter-
native approach to the composition and structure of organizations so
that the voices and input of those affected by police brutality are included
in a meaningful way. The solution proposed by this Article involves
applying an adequate representation analysis more suitable for the
dynamic relationship between the federal government and marginalized
communities. The right to intervene can be attained by those impacted by
police violence while alleviating practical and representative concerns
articulated by the judiciary in prior reform cases.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525
I. DOJ-INITIATED POLICE REFORM LITIGATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 531
A. PASSAGE OF THE VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL AND LAW
ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 1994 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 532
B. THE EVOLUTION OF COMMUNITY INPUT IN DOJ INVESTIGATIONS
AND REFORM EFFORTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 534
* Assistant Professor of Law, Social Justice Law Center Director, Case Western Reserve University
School of Law. © 2021, Ayesha Bell Hardaway. My sincere gratitude to Sunita Patel, Bill Quigley,
Alexis Karteron, Jonathan Adler, Andrew Pollis, Avidan Cover, Jessie Hill, and participants of the Lutie
Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop and Writing Retreat for their insightful feedback. Special
thanks to Sarajean Petite and Shannon Doughty for their research assistance. I also extend an abundance
of gratitude to The Georgetown Law Journal members for their superb editorial assistance.
523
1. First Wave—Cursory Community Engagement . . . . . . . 535
2. Second Wave—More Detailed Community Engagement 537
3. Third Wave—Community Police Commissions . . . . . . . 539
II. FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE RULE 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 540
A. HISTORY OF FEDERAL RULE 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 541
B. FEDERAL RULE 24 AND STANDING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 544
C. FEDERAL RULE 24 AND ADEQUACY OF REPRESENTATION. . . . . . . . . . 544
D. RULE 24 IN EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION AND
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CASES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 546
III. EFFORTS BY COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS TO ENGAGE IN POLICE
REFORM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 548
A. INDIVIDUAL PLAINTIFFS AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
REBUFFED BY FEDERAL COURTS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 548
B. COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS’ EFFORTS TO GAIN PARTY STATUS
AFTER THE PASSAGE OF THE VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL AND LAW
ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 1994 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 551
1. Los Angeles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 552
2. Detroit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 553
3. New Orleans. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 555
4. Portland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 559
5. Albuquerque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 560
6. Seattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 563
7. Baltimore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 565
IV. HOW COURTS HAVE MISSED THE MARK AND A PATH FORWARD . . . . . . . 567
A. CONTROLLING CASE LAW SUPPORTS INTERVENTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . 567
B. WHY THE PRESUMPTION SHOULD BE REBUTTED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 569
1. Shared General Interest in Consent Decree Is Not
Enough—Adequate Representation of Impacted
Community Interests Should Require More. . . . . . . . . . 569
2. The Federal Government Is Unlikely to Make the
Arguments of Impacted Communities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 571
524 THE GEORGETOWN LAW JOURNAL [Vol. 109:523
3. History Demonstrates the Federal Government’s Neglect
of Impacted Communities and Their Experiences . . . . . . 573
C. THE FRAMEWORK FOR A PATH FORWARD. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 574
1. Signif‌icant Interest Demonstrated by Community
Engagement and Efforts to Reform Questionable Police
Practices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 576
2. Specious Intervention Attempts by Anti-reformists Do
Not Meet the Intervention Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 577
3. Collaboration and Joint Legal Representation of
Community Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 578
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 578
INTRODUCTION
Courts overseeing police reform consent decrees have presumed that the
federal government adequately represents the interest of communities
impacted by police violence. This presumption is derived from judicial
interpretations of Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which
governs when a third party can successfully intervene in existing litigation.
1
Those interpretations, however, are not rooted in the origins or purpose of
that Rule. Courts managing Department of Justice (DOJ)-initiated consent
decrees have failed to acknowledge the unique relationship between the
federal government and communities impacted by police violence. They
have, instead, relied heavily on the traditional legal theory that the govern-
ment speaks for its citizens. This misapplication not only frustrates the pur-
pose of Rule 24 but also undermines the legitimacy of police reforms.
1. (a) INTERVENTION OF RIGHT. On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who:
(1) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or
(2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is
so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the
movant’s ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.
(b) PERMISSIVE INTERVENTION.
(1) In General. On timely motion, the court may permit anyone to intervene who:
(A) is given a conditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or
(B) has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.
(2) By a Government Off‌icer or Agency. On timely motion, the court may permit a federal
or state governmental off‌icer or agency to intervene if a party’s claim or defense is
based on:
(A) a statute or executive order administered by the off‌icer or agency; or
(B) any regulation, order, requirement, or agreement issued or made under the statute or
executive order.
(3) Delay or Prejudice. In exercising its discretion, the court must consider whether the interven-
tion will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties’ rights.
FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a)–(b).
2021] CREATING SPACE FOR COMMUNITY REPRESENTATION 525

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