Congratulations to Jason Cherkis and Barry Student for their well-written and nicely illustrated story, “Boss Hogtie” (1/17), about D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey’s draconian physical restraints upon the protesters and innocent bystanders in Pershing Park on Sept. 27, 2002.

The real story is why Chief Ramsey and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (who himself is a lawyer and a graduate of Harvard Law School) could have thought at the time, and continue to think, that the actions by the police were legal and proper. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision that summer (Hope vs. Pelzer, June 27, 2002), upheld the determination that restraining a prisoner by a “hitching post” (which has the same effect as hogtying) was an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Even though the event occurred in 1995, the Supreme Court held that the prison guards should have known way back then that tying up a prisoner would be unconstitutional.

Where does this leave Ramsey and Williams? Surely their attorneys at the Office of the Corporation Counsel should have kept them informed of this development in the law of governmental liability for tying up people. Even if the Corporation Counsel was out to lunch on this issue (which is likely—federal judges have repeatedly criticized them for failing to comply with court orders), the Supreme Court’s decision was itself front-page news in the daily newspapers. There is no excuse for the failure of Ramsey, Williams, and the Corporation Counsel to recognize that this Supreme Court decision forecloses any defense or immunity that they might assert in a lawsuit.

The only question I have is,

What is the status of the pending lawsuit(s) against the District of Columbia? Which court and which judge? Any rulings?

Woodley Park

More from WCP