Good News In O’Malleystan
The Maryland Board of Public Works, which includes Governor Martin O’Malley as one of its three members, announced today that it will grant a $385,000 settlement with nine individuals who were illegally arrested and jailed by Maryland State Police.The pro-life advocates, including college-aged girls, who were shackled and strip searched after peacefully protesting abortion in Maryland in 2008, have settled the lawsuit they filed against the state.
Motions to dismiss the entire lawsuit filed by the Town of Bel Air, Bel Air police officers, the Maryland State Police Superintendent and state police troopers were denied last May, after which some of the defendants filed an immediate appeal, arguing that police acted in good faith and were therefore immune from suit.The appeals court dismissed that on the grounds that material questions of fact were presented as to whether the police defendants acted in good faith. Indeed, plaintiffs already adduced compelling evidence of bad faith, including legally baseless arrests followed by failure to prosecute belated criminal charges, needless strip searches of fully peaceable, nonviolent demonstrators, and 911 tapes and police recordings. The recordings showed how police enforced a “heckler’s veto” (acting on phone calls objecting to the content of protest signs) in making the arrests, and showing deep police bias — with officers commenting “…they can sit in a cell for an hour … or three or four and rot.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the Maryland State Police cannot restrict speech, including speech employing images of aborted human babies, based on reactions of viewers or motorists to that speech. Also, the Maryland State Police must agree to implement a training program within 120 days of settlement that will train its officials and employees on First and Fourth Amendment rights in a manner that is consistent with the District Court’s opinion. The program must be reviewed by plaintiff’s counsel before implementation.