By Mike Scarcella
A federal appeals court today unanimously ruled in favor of a group of D.C. residents who are challenging vehicle checkpoints used by the Metropolitan Police Department.
The four plaintiffs, represented by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, sued the city, claiming the police "neighborhood safety zone" program is unconstitutional. The temporary vehicle checkpoints were initiated last year and set up in response to violence in the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast Washington.
Police barred 48 motorists—including the four plaintiffs—from entry into the neighborhood in June 2008 when the motorists failed to provide sufficient information about where the motorist was going. A district court judge in D.C. rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction against the city.
A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today ruled that case should be heard in the trial court with additional proceedings.
Chief Judge David Sentelle, who wrote the opinion for the appeals court, was joined by Judges Douglas Ginsburg and Judith Rogers. The court found the plaintiffs meet the requisites for the granting of a preliminary injunction. "It is apparent that appellants' constitutional rights are violated," Sentelle wrote.
“We believe this is a major victory. The program itself is unprecedented by its extreme character,” Verheyden-Hilliard said. “We’ve asserted from the beginning that this program was blatantly unconstitutional.”