The lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County Sheriff over law enforcement’s attacks on journalists will move toward trial, under a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday afternoon.
The city and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office had filed motions asking for a summary judgment to end the case. But U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright rejected all the city’s arguments and most of those presented by former Sheriff Hutchinson. The summary judgment stage is the last big step before trial.
“The record in this case provides substantial evidence that MPD officers deliberately and systematically targeted journalists, including Plaintiffs, who were identifiable as members of the press and not committing any crimes,” Judge Wright wrote.
“Plaintiffs have provided evidence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by MPD, deliberate indifference by City Defendants, and evidence of a causal link between MPD’s custom and Plaintiffs’ injuries,” the judge wrote.
The ruling also cited evidence of failures in police training, failure to intervene in cases of excessive force, and police taking actions deliberately intended to injure journalists. The judge pointed to statements such as “F[***] these media,” officers saying they “enjoyed” shooting civilians, and directives to harm individuals.
The Goyette lawsuit was filed in June 2020, after police attacked journalists covering the George Floyd protests. The ACLU-MN and pro bono attorneys from Fredrikson & Byron, the Law Office of Kevin Riach, and Apollo Law LLC, sued on behalf of journalist Jared Goyette, the Communications Workers of America, and other journalists attacked by police. Reed Smith LLP has joined the pro bono team.
“Journalists must be free to report on government conduct, as Judge Wright observed,” said pro bono attorney Kevin Riach. “But during the George Floyd and Daunte Wright protests, law enforcement attacked journalists, fired rubber bullets and pepper spray, arrested journalists, and ordered them to disperse, all to intimidate them and disrupt their coverage of the protests. We’re grateful Judge Wright recognized this assault on constitutional rights, and we look forward to trial.”
In February of 2022, the plaintiffs partially settled the Goyette case by reaching an $825,000 agreement with the Minnesota State Patrol that included numerous reforms to protect reporters.
The Goyette lawsuit continues against Minneapolis and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.