Long after the RNC ends, the courts will still be dealing with the falloutby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
While the RNC ends Thursday night, the convention related court cases will wind their way through Minnesota's legal system for months, maybe even years to come.
The courts in New York still have cases pending from activities related to the Republican National Convention there four years ago. It's unclear whether those same kinds of suits would be an option here.
St. Paul, Minn. — National political conventions spawn criminal cases and lawsuits just because host cities suddenly have a great influx of people and law enforcement that often clash in heated situations. The question for the Twin Cities, is how long will Republican National Convention related cases appear in the state's legal system.
For criminal cases, the answer depends a lot on the seriousness of the crime charged, and whether the person's in custody or has made bail.
For example, some people arrested this week on charges, such as disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, have jury trials set as soon as next week, because they are still in custody. They have a right to a trial within 10 days, because they get priority over those who were able to post bail.
For more serious crimes, such as felonies, it can take longer, about 60 to 90 days. Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin says many times there are delays, because the defense or the government will ask for more time.
"Sometimes it's because a trial attorney is in another trial; sometimes it's because there's evidence that still needs to be analyzed; sometimes we won't have a judge who's not already in trial. I would say 60 to 90 days overall is faster than most states in the country," said Gearin.
Gearin says in general, average civil lawsuits like a personal injury lawsuit, usually take about a year. A lawsuit for something involving police brutality would likely take longer, but it should be resolved within a year and a half.
During the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, police arrested more than 1,800 people and held them in custody far longer than necessary. There were so many arrests in such a short amount of time that the legal system couldn't keep up. Hundreds of those held sued the city for violating their constitutional rights and those suits are still pending, even in 2008.
There's been no early contention that the jails here held people longer than allowed, but there is the claim that people were held in custody for 36 hours who should have never been held at all.
Mathew Ludt is a private attorneys who has volunteered to help the ACLU defend protesters arrested this week during the RNC. He says the recent numbers that the county attorney's office charged felonies to only 21 people out of a pool of 71 arrested on felony charges is troubling
"That we've got an issue of overcharging, it's very easy to suspect that they were simply put on 36 hour holds just to get them off the streets. That violates their rights to be out there demonstrating. And for the journalists that have been there denies them the right to continue their professions and to report on this," said Ludt.
The ACLU's staff attorney says the organization understands the police have a very difficult job, but their actions need to be balanced against free speech rights. She said the organization has asked the police to provide copies of their videotapes from the cameras outside the convention.
- All Things Considered, 09/04/2008, 5:19 p.m.