Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BREAKING: Judge Backs City Ban on Occupy Wall Street

In what could be a crippling blow to the OWS crowd, Justice Michael Stallman, has ruled against the protesters.

Hours after baton-wielding cops cleared Occupy Wall Street protesters and their tents from Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, a judge backed the clean sweep.

The ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman says that city can stop protesters from bringing tents, tarps and other camping equipment into the park.

The decision is likely to be appealed, so it was unclear if the city would immediately reopen the park to people without tents.

Some Occupy Wall Street protesters had already moved to another public space, owned by Trinity Church, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., where they used bolt cutters to open a fenced-in area.

Police swooped in and made numerous arrests. Daily News reporter Matt Lysiak was among several reporters covering the confrontation who were arrested.

Other demonstrators were massed around Zuccotti, where the overnight raid netted the arrest of 200 people, including Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez
An interesting note, the case was originally commenced by Order to Show Cause. An Order to Show Cause, in over-simplified terms, is a way to bring a motion before the court on an expedited basis. This requires a Justice's signature to shorten the notice period and to grant any temporary restraining orders that are requested. For this, the OWS lawyers turned to a friendly face:
When the cops raided Zuccotti Park, lawyers for Occupy Wall Street woke up a judge with a civil liberties background and asked for help.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings signed an early-morning order temporarily barring cops from keeping protesters and tents out of Zuccotti Park.

But within hours, she was off the case as court administrators chose a new judge — and excluded Billings’ name from the list of candidates.

Billings’ biography notes that before she became a judge in 1997, she spent three years as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and also worked work community legal services.

“I have devoted my career to public service, especially the disadvantaged in desperate circumstances,” she wrote in a 2007 pre-election statement.

Lawyers for Occupy Wall Street phoned Billings after cops moved into Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, evicted the protesters and got rid of their tents and other camp equipment.

Asked why they called her first, protest lawyer Daniel Alterman wouldn’t say, remarking that he’s not a “gossip guy.”

The lawyers also called an emergency hotline set up to assign judges to after-hours cases. A staffer told them that since Billings had already been contacted, she should handle the Zuccotti matter.
The OWS lawyers tried to forum shop, but the system worked. Don't get me wrong, I have first hand knowledge that Justice Billings is a fine Justice. And, waking up a friendly judge for an order to show cause is a well known practice, especially in criminal law for search warrants. I am also very familiar with Justice Stallman, another fine Justice. Either way, I am sure the First Department will have -- or probably already has -- a set of papers seeking an appeal of the decision. I would not be surprised if the change of Justices is raised as one of the appeal grounds.

No comments: