ACLU and Mazzoni Center Join City in Filing Brief Against SEPTA

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mazzoni Center joined the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in filing a brief last Thursday to the State’s Supreme Court, asking to overturn the Commonwealth Court’s August 7 ruling in favor of SEPTA. That ruling indicated that SEPTA was not subject to Philadelphia’s city ordinance which bans discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity. Read more »

Philadelphia Police Reform: The Path Forward

Clockwise from left: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER; JoAnne Epps, dean of Temple Law; Mary Catherine Roper of ACLU; and Tanya Brown-Dickerson with attorney Brian Mildenberg.

Clockwise from left: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER; JoAnne Epps, dean of Temple Law; Mary Catherine Roper of ACLU; and Tanya Brown-Dickerson with attorney Brian Mildenberg.

We’ve heard what the experts think needs to change about the Philadelphia Police Department. And we’ve heard what the feds think, too. But what about the community?

After two reports — one from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the other from a Department of Justice Review of Philadelphia policing practices — the Philadelphia Police Department is embarking on a widespread reform effort that is expected to take 18 months to complete.   Read more »

ACLU: Philly Police Still Stopping and Frisking

crime main

Updated with response from police.

Philadelphia Police continue to single out “racial minorities” for unfair and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk searches, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released today. The ACLU said it was considering seeking “court intervention” in the matter.

“On the issue of whether stops and frisks are supported by reasonable suspicion, the data shows very high levels of impermissible stops,” the ACLU said in a court filing.

“And, on the issue of whether impermissible racial factors are causing high numbers of racial minorities to be stopped and frisked, consideration of the ‘benchmarks’ for assessing possible racial bias demonstrates that non-racial factors do not explain the racial disparities,” the filing said. “There is an urgent need for substantial improvements on both issues, and if that is not accomplished in the near future, we will seek court intervention.”

“The Department is aware of the recent filing by the ACLU and the law department will respond accordingly via the courts,” Philly Police said in a written statement released this afternoon. “The Department will not release any rebuttal prior to taking the appropriate legal action through the courts.”
Read more »

ACLU Challenges Anti-Mumia Law


The ACLU has filed suit on behalf of a group of Pennsylvania journalists and academics, challenging the new law passed in the wake of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech to a Vermont college last year.

The law lets crime victims collect damages from prison inmates whose conduct “causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” in their original crime victim. “The ACLU challenged it in federal court Thursday, saying it stifles advocacy and debate on prison issues,” AP reports.
Read more »

100 Percent of High Schoolers Attend Football Game Sober

Ah, high school football. The tradition, the camaraderie, the breathalyzer tests you have to pass to get in. At a Phoenixville Area High School football game over the weekend, students attending the game without their parents had to pass a breath test in order to be admitted.

This is not a new policy for school events: Routinely in many districts, students are tested for alcohol in order to attend dances or other extracurricular activities. This is the first time tests were done at a Phoenixville football game, but in a statement officials say the district has done it for other events. Fox got details on the reasoning for the tests: “Administrators declined to talk on camera, but tell FOX 29 they heard some students were going to the game drunk, so they took action.”

Read more »

ACLU Sues Police for Using Force to Stop Photos of Arrest

Two photos showing the encounter between Amanda Geraci and Philly police officers.

Two photos showing the encounter between Amanda Geraci and Philly police officers.

It’s been almost three years now since Commissioner Charles Ramsey issued a directive to Philly Police, letting them know that it’s entirely legal for the public to record officers doing their work and making arrests — as long as the photographer doesn’t interfere with that police work.

It seems his officers still haven’t gotten the message. The ACLU today announced another lawsuit — the fifth in a series — against the department on behalf of a woman who was physically restrained from recording officers arresting a protestor.
Read more »

Newspapers Ask Court for Pennsylvania Lethal-Injection Drug Info


Four newspapers, two in Philadelphia, have sued Pennsylvania in order to get information on the supplier of Pennsylvania’s lethal injection drugs. The motion was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Guardian US.

The lawsuit (below) asks a federal judge to unseal court documents that reveal the drugs Pennsylvania uses for executions, including the scheduled lethal injection of Humbert Michael Jr., set for September 22nd. Michael Jr. kidnapped and killed 16-year-old Trista Eng in 1993. It would be Pennsylvania’s first execution in since Gary Heidnik was executed in 1999.

Read more »

High School Editors Will Be Honored by ACLU reports that the student editors at Neshaminy High School will be honored by the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Members of Neshaminy’s editorial board voted last October to stop using Redskin, the name of the school mascot, in all stories and advertisements in the paper because they felt it was racially insensitive. A lengthy dispute with district administrators ensued. Ultimately, the school board voted in June to allow students to remove Redskin from news stories but not editorials or opinion columns.

They’ll be honored at a dinner Oct.8  at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

« Older Posts