Johnson v. Board of Police Com'Rs, 4:04 CV 01266 ERW.

Decision Date14 October 2004
Docket NumberNo. 4:04 CV 01266 ERW.,4:04 CV 01266 ERW.
Citation351 F.Supp.2d 929
PartiesChad JOHNSON, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS: Jo Ann Freeman, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Ann Lever, Legal Services Of Eastern Missouri, St. Louis, MO, was our lead attorney.


WEBBER, District Judge.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The contrasts of life as perceived by people in different stations of society are as vivid today as when Charles Dickens penned these words nearly one hundred fifty years ago. Order, we believe, is better than chaos — predictability is more comfortable than the unknown. In a society that prizes beauty, youth, vigor, and success that is measured by accumulation of precious things; the disheveled, the aged, the weary; those whose accumulated wealth is carried in a tattered blanket, present themselves in some quarters as a distraction to a desired representation of how the "best of times" should appear. They are extremely bright; they suffer from mental illnesses. They are capable of causing serious physical injury or death; their gentleness permits them to share their meager substance with birds that find a safe harbor at their feet. In making their claim to the American Dream, they participate in publically sponsored, government-supported celebrations from distant bridges, rather than penthouses, knowing that their rights that Thomas Jefferson proclaimed inviolate, being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are no less guaranteed to them than to those not so vulnerable because they carry evidence of their station in life in their wallets rather than in a bag or worn blanket. The homeless present many diverse faces. Gaining a better understanding of the daily life issues they face is necessary to judge whether relief is indicated in this case, considering at the same time the requirements law enforcement officials face in performing their lawful duties. It is beyond the scope of this Opinion to address causes as to why individuals live on the streets, or solutions that would permit exercise of their independence in making their choices while presenting themselves as less of a perceived threat to some. The facts presented to the Court reveal much about the daily struggles of the homeless. It is important to gain an understanding of the issues to be resolved after the hearing at the Temporary Restraining Order stage of this proceeding wherein Plaintiffs seek both injunctive relief and monetary damages in a separate count. The Court considers the facts adduced at that hearing, realizing that motions for such temporary relief frequently do not permit the party against whom relief is sought to fully present its case. The conclusions herein stated relate only to Plaintiffs' requests for preliminary injunctive relief contained in Counts I(b), II(b), and III(b) of their Complaint.

The current matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [doc. # 2]. With regard to this Motion, the Court is also in receipt of Defendants' Post-Hearing Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [doc. # 22] and Plaintiffs' Post-Hearing Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [doc. # 24]. Also before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Supplement the Record with Additional Affidavits or in the Alternative for a Supplemental Hearing [doc. # 25] and Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Supplement [doc. # 27].


In recent years, many in the City of St. Louis have been actively engaged in efforts to revitalize the commercial and residential character of Downtown St. Louis. On October 30, 2003, several individuals, most of whom are homeless or use services designed to meet the needs of homeless individuals, sent a letter through counsel to the mayor of the City of St. Louis, the city counselor, and the chief of police, informing them of mistreatment of the homeless by police in Downtown St. Louis. In subsequent meetings, Plaintiffs' counsel discussed the concerns outlined in this letter with various individuals, including representatives from the city counselor's office and the police department. Unsatisfied with the outcome of these discussions, on September 17, 2004, Chad Johnson, Kenneth Tate, John Brinkman, John Edwards, Harold Jackson, Ronnie Trawick, John Coleman, Loyde Henley, Joseph Kitchen, Glenn White, Everett Harris, Sandra Holbrook, and Stacy Smith ("Plaintiffs") filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and damages against the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, Captain Mary J. Warnecke, and the City of St. Louis ("Defendants"). Plaintiffs also filed the instant Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have acted to "clean up" Downtown St. Louis by intimidating Plaintiffs and other homeless or homeless-appearing individuals and discouraging them from lawfully being in public areas, in violation of their constitutional rights.

On September 17 and September 20, 2004, the Court heard testimony on the Motion. During the hearing, the Court heard testimony from Chad Johnson, Sandra Holbrook, Everett Harris, Harold Jackson, Ronnie Trawic, Stacy Smith, Kenneth Tate, Timothy Swift, John Brinkman, Cynthia Wolken, Laura Campbell, Gene Stubblefield, and Mary J. Warnecke. On Plaintiffs' side of the case, those who present themselves as Plaintiffs' witnesses appear to be very bright, articulate and believable. They are at all times respectful of the Court, counsel and court personnel. Their testimony is helpful in this early stage proceeding which addresses whether preliminary injunctive relief is indicated. The Court notes that Defendants offer limited testimony at this early stage of the proceedings, generally denying that Plaintiffs can succeed on the merits of their claims, claiming that Plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law, asserting that no police sweeps were authorized or executed, denying that officers arrest without probable cause, and denying that the homeless are targeted as alleged. Charges are pending against many of the Plaintiffs in municipal court for ordinance violations such as Begging and Drinking in Public. Yet to be resolved is whether, in arresting several homeless people, police action in these cases was based on probable cause.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65, which details the procedure for preliminary injunctive relief, does not confer jurisdiction. A request for injunctive relief must have an independent basis for federal court jurisdiction. See 13 Moore's Federal Practice § 65.05 (3d ed.2001). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal jurisdiction exists if the request for relief involves a question of federal constitutional or statutory law.

Plaintiffs' Complaint is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Motion, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants have committed and are continuing to commit violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, in connection with the City, have a persistent custom of removing and discouraging homeless people from remaining in the Downtown area, causing Plaintiffs to suffer numerous constitutional violations. These include violations of (1) the Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable seizures of persons and property; (2) the Right to Travel, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment's Substantive Due Process Clause; (3) the right to be free from punishment without due process of law, as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (4) the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against involuntary servitude.

Preliminary injunctive relief is available to "redress alleged civil rights violations in actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and in other civil rights actions." 13 Moore's Federal Practice § 65.22[4] (citing Gannon v. Action, 303 F.Supp. 1240, 1247 (E.D.Mo.1969), aff'd in part 450 F.2d 1227 (8th Cir.1971), and Central Presbyterian Church v. Black Liberation Front, 303 F.Supp. 894, 901 (E.D.Mo.1969)). Defendants, however, assert that the Younger doctrine mandates that this Court abstain from exercising jurisdiction over this action. According to Defendants, Plaintiffs are attempting to try their city ordinance violation cases in federal court, thus circumventing the city charges. Moreover, Defendants complain that Plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law with regard to their arrests and that a complete legal remedy lies in the municipal court. In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), the Supreme Court held that, ordinarily, principles of federalism require that a federal court abstain from enjoining an ongoing state criminal prosecution. However, this doctrine is subject to important qualifications. For instance, abstention is not proper when some circumstance in the case indicates that federal equitable relief is warranted due to a bad faith prosecution or harassment. See id. at 54, 91 S.Ct. 746. Further, abstention is required only when the state proceeding affords the federal plaintiffs the opportunity to raise their constitutional claims in state court, see Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Association, 457 U.S. 423, 435-36, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982), and it is not required if the plaintiff can demonstrate he will be irreparably harmed and that the threat to his federally-protected right is one incapable of being eliminated by a defense against the state criminal prosecution. Younger, 401 U.S. at 46, 91 S.Ct. 746.

Here, there are pending municipal ordinance violation proceedings; however, Plaintiffs are not asking the Court to enjoin those proceedings, nor...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 cases
  • MKB Mgmt. Corp. v. Burdick
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of North Dakota
    • July 22, 2013
    ...1116 (D.Minn.2000)). “The ‘mere possibility’ that harm may occur before a trial on the merits is not enough.” Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 F.Supp.2d 929, 945 (E.D.Mo.2004). The party that seeks injunctive relief must show that a significant risk of harm exists. Doe, 514 F.Supp.2d a......
  • Doe v. Ladue, Civil No. 07-2190 (DSD/SRN).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Minnesota
    • September 4, 2007
    ...(D.Minn.1998). Rather, the party seeking the injunctive relief must show a significant risk of harm exists. Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 F.Supp.2d 929, 945 (E.D.Mo.2004). The absence of such a showing alone is sufficient to deny a preliminary injunction. See Gelco, 811 F.2d at The ......
  • Gould v. United Bhd. of Carpenters
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • April 28, 2022
    ... ... Bond and three other executive board members from ... the STLKCCRC building in ... See Johnson v ... Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 ... ...
  • Hicklin v. Anne Precynthe, Ian Wallace, Cindy Griffith, Stan Payne, Scott O'Kelly, Deloise Williams, Corizon Health, Inc., Case No. 4:16-cv-01357-NCC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • February 9, 2018
    ...relief. Therefore, the Court will grant injunctive relief without requiring bond or other security. See Johnson v. Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 351 F. Supp. 2d 929, 952 (E.D. Mo. 2004)("[A] district court has discretion to grant injunctive relief without requiring bond or other security, especial......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Johnson v. Board of Police Com'rs.
    • United States
    • Corrections Caselaw Quarterly No. 34, May 2005
    • May 1, 2005
    ...District Court FALSE ARREST FALSE IMPRISONMENT Johnson v. Board of Police Com'rs, 351 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Mo. 2004). Homeless persons sued a city board of police commissioners and a police captain, claiming harassment with the intent to remove them from a downtown area in violation of their ......
  • Johnson v. Board of Police Com'rs.
    • United States
    • Corrections Caselaw Quarterly No. 34, May 2005
    • May 1, 2005
    ...District Court FALSE IMPRISONMENT FALSE ARREST Johnson v. Board of Police Com'rs, 351 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Mo. 2004). Homeless persons sued a city board of police commissioners and a police captain, claiming harassment with the intent to remove them from a downtown area in violation of their ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT