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On August 18, 2015, Legal Aid employee Nohora Rivero and a law clerk visited Lewis Orchards in Dickerson, MD, to speak with migrant workers about their rights, connect them with social services, and listen to their concerns. After work hours, Ms. Rivero spoke with workers, who had H-2A visas, at their residences on the farm. Midway through the Legal Aid visit, farm owners Robert and Linda Lewis confronted Rivero and the law clerk, threatening them with arrest if they did not leave immediately.  When Rivero said the workers had a right to visit with legal counsel in their homes, the farm owners called Montgomery County police.  Police issued the Legal Aid employees an order barring them from returning to the farm to visit workers for a year, on threat of arrest.  When Rivero showed Kettering an Attorney General's opinion proclaiming that Legal Aid had a constitutional right to be there, the officer brushed it aside, saying he did not have time to read it, and ordered the two to leave.  As a result, Legal Aid was unable to assist workers with their employment concerns last year, and has not been able to return to Lewis Orchards since August.

Date filed

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Court

United States District Court for the District of Maryland
Attorney(s):
The ACLU of Maryland, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

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Date

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 5:45pm

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland filed a lawsuit challenging the practice as an unconstitutional violation of free speech and illegal under Maryland's public transparency through "gag orders" that silence victims of police abuse as a condition of resolving their cases.

In 2012, Ashley Overbey, then a 25-year-old Black woman, called the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) for help, reporting a burglary at her apartment. Three sets of police officers were dispatched to her apartment at various times. The crime lab unit radioed for police officers to return and one of them, Officer Fred Hannah, forcefully entered and began searching her apartment without her permission. When Ms. Overbey asked him to explain he became violent and aggressive. Another officer, Martin Richardson, came soon after and together they beat, tackled, choked, Tased and handcuffed Ms. Overbey, who was transported to the hospital, then jailed for 24 hours, and charged with six counts of assault and one count of resisting arrest.

All charges against Ms. Overbey were dropped and she successfully sued the Baltimore Police Department for wrongful arrest and unwarranted physical abuse. But as a condition of settling the case, the city and police department required Ms. Overbey to agree to a gag order that silenced her from talking publicly about her experience. Ms. Overbey was victimized again by the police misconduct when half of her settlement was taken away just because she defended herself in comments on a blog where members of the public disparaged her personal character for suing the police and accepting a settlement, without any understanding of the level of excessive and illegal force used by the police. The Baltimore Police Department is punishing her by withholding half of her settlement amount for exercising her right to free speech. 

Date filed

Friday, June 30, 2017

Court

United States District Court for the District of Maryland

Judge

The Honorable Marvin J. Garbis, Senior U.S. District Judge

Case number

Case 1:17-cv-01793-JFM
Attorney(s):
ACLU of Maryland, Crowell and Moring LLP

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Friday, June 30, 2017 - 5:45pm

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Ashley Overbey is challenging Baltimore’s gag order policy, represented by ACLU of Maryland.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland filed a lawsuit challenging the practice as an unconstitutional violation of free speech and illegal under Maryland's public transparency through "gag orders" that silence victims of police abuse as a condition of resolving their cases.

A 2014 case in which four Salisbury University students sued the city of Salisbury and one officer with the Salisbury Police Department (SPD), alleging police brutality, excessive force, illegal seizure, detention and arrest. The lawsuit also alleged that SPD personnel confiscated surveillance footage and creative fictional narratives to cover up what happened. In 2015, the court concluded that the plaintiffs sufficiently proved illegal patterns and practices by the SPD to allow the case to move forward. In 2016, the case was settled, but all details of the settlement, including the amount of the award, were withheld from the press and public.  When the ACLU of Maryland and the Real News Network filed a Maryland Public Information Act request seeking documents about the settlement, the City rebuffed the request, claiming that neither it nor the SPD had any documentation regarding the settlement. This lack of transparency has caused at least one of the student plaintiffs to question whether SPD was holding its officers accountable for their actions, though he is silenced by the gag order that governs the settlement and risks losing his award if he speaks out.

Date filed

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Court

Circuit Court for Baltimore City
Attorney(s):
Crowell and Moring LLP, the ACLU of Maryland

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Date

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 5:30pm

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