Handschu v. Bureau of Special Services – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1986-1987

CCR attorneys intervened on behalf of political organizations and  individuals who opposed the terms of settlement in New York’s “Red Squad” case.

The Red Squad case was brought in the early 1970s in an attempt to end political spying by the New York City Police Department. The original plaintiffs were political activists and the case was certified as a class action covering all people who might be subjects of political surveillance by the police depar tment .

Although the police kept extensive files on thousands of New Yorkers for many years, no investigation was ever carried out by the plaintiffs to determine the precise nature of the files or the extent of the spying. After the case was called for trial, the plaintiffs entered into what CCR’s clients believe to be a bad settlement.

The settlement authorizes political spy­ing on groups whose activities are pro­tected by the First Amendment. The police, moreover, are not required to show that such groups are involved in criminal activ­ity. The settlement even permits the infiltration of such groups by undercover agents and allows police to manipulate the groups through the disruptive practices reminiscent of the notorious FBI COINTELPRO program.

The CCR, along with others, took the initiative in opposing the settlement. In May 1985, however, the court upheld it. On Appeal the Second Circuit held that the settlement agreement was properly approved by the district court.

Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner, David Scribner, with Marshall Perlin, Victor Rabinowitz, Michael Krinsky, John Abt, CCR cooperating attorney Elizabeth M. Fink, Martin Popper, and O. Stephen Paganuzzi