NAACP Legal Defense Fund : Defend, Educate, Empower

Skip to Navigation
"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Court Upholds Claims of Unlawful Trespass Stops and Arrests in Public Housing

Featured Video

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email updates from LDF.

3/29/13

New York, NY (March 29, 2013) – U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin declared yesterday that Davis v. City of New York, the lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s stops and arrests of public housing residents and their guests for trespassing in public housing residences can proceed to trial. Judge Scheindlin declared that the plaintiffs provided "abundant evidence that adequate training, supervision, and discipline of officers who engage in vertical patrols in NYCHA buildings could have prevented the constitutional harms allegedly suffered by plaintiffs, but that the City chose not to" do so, and ruled that plaintiffs may proceed to trial on the issue of whether the policy and practice of unlawful stops, detentions and arrests in and around NYCHA residences violates the rights of tenants and their guests.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and The Legal Aid Society (LAS) represent the plaintiffs as well as the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

In announcing its decision, the Court recognized the "overlap and similarities" between this case and the Floyd v. City of New York stop-and-frisk case which is currently being tried before Judge Scheindlin. Specifically, she noted that the NYPD’s practice of routinely subjecting law-abiding public housing residents and their visitors to illegal stops, frisks, and arrests for criminal trespass in and around their homes takes place in the context of the "NYPD’s long history of biased stop, question, and frisk activity."

While the Floyd case challenges the NYPD’s "stop-and-frisk" street encounters, the Court noted that Davis "illustrates the tensions between liberty and security in particularly stark form, because it deals with police practices in and around the home, where the interests in both liberty and security are especially strong."

"Today’s ruling makes plain that people in public housing merit the same respect as all New Yorkers," said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. "The Court properly recognized that NYCHA residents and visitors cannot be treated like criminals simply for being in their own homes."

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, said "The trespass enforcement policies of the NYPD and NYCHA have led to thousands of false arrests of law-abiding people who did nothing more than walk to or from a NYCHA apartment or stand in a NYCHA lobby. New Yorkers who live in public housing want their homes to be safe. Instead, police harass them for "trespassing" in their own homes without suspicion of a crime. Public housing tenants should not have to sacrifice their constitutional rights because they live in public housing."