Handschu v. Bureau of Special Services – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1981-1982

Center attorneys have intervened on behalf of a number of political organizations and individuals to oppose the settlement in a suit known as New York’s “Red Squad” case. The case was begun in the early 70’s in an attempt to put an end to political spying by the New York City Police Department. The plaintiffs include a number of political activists and the matter was certified as a class action consisting of all people who might be subject to political surveillance by the New York City Police.

Although the N.Y.C. Police have kept extensive files on thousands of New Yorkers, there was unfortunately no discovery in the case to determine the precise nature of the files and the extent of the spying. Instead, the case languished for years until it was called for trial. At that point, the attoreys for plaintiffs entered into what the Center’s clients believe is a bad settlement.

The proposed settlement authorizes political spying on First Amendment groups without any real showing that such groups might be involved in criminal conduct. More over, it permits undercover agents to infiltrate First Amendment groups and manipulate these groups through the use of practice reminiscent of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Unless the settlement is defeated, it will bind millions of New Yorkers for generations to come.

The Center along with Marshall Perlin of FOIA, Inc. took the initial lead in opposing this settlement.The issue is presently being considered by Judge Haight in the District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Michael Ratner with Marshall Perlin, Victor Rabinowitz, Michael Krinsky , John Abt, Elizabeth Fink , Martin Popper, Steve Paganuzzi, Samuel Gruber, and David Scribner