In November 2005, D.C. police arrested Lindsay Huthnance for disorderly conduct after she wondered aloud how a group of police officers were fighting crime by being in a 7-Eleven at midnight. Our lawsuit sought expungement of her arrest record, damages from the arresting officers, and also damages from the District of Columbia on the ground that the District had a policy or custom of unlawfully arresting people for “contempt of cop” charges, which have been widely recognized as a form of police misconduct. After five years of contentious litigation, a jury trial was held in March 2011 and the jury awarded our client $97,500 in damages, finding that she had been unconstitutionally arrested and that the District of Columbia police did have the policy or custom we had alleged. The D.C. Circuit rejected the defendants’ appeal in July 2013. Soon thereafter the District paid the jury award and substantial attorneys’ fees.
In part because of the facts uncovered by discovery in this case, the D.C. Council enacted a comprehensive revision of the District’s disorderly conduct laws, which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in “contempt of cop” arrests.