Who Pays for Police Misconduct in Bankrupt Cities?
40 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2016 Last revised: 31 Jan 2017
Date Written: September 20, 2016
When a financially distressed city files for bankruptcy, recovery for civil rights violations is at risk. This article examines the impact of bankruptcy on civil rights claims, with an emphasis on allegations of police misconduct resulting in lawsuits under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We walk through how a bankruptcy filing affects civil rights plaintiffs, starting with the immediate injunction against litigation and debt collection activity, and ending with the legal release of debt and a restructuring plan. Using primary source materials, we offer three brief case studies: Detroit, Vallejo, and San Bernardino. We conclude with suggestions on future steps in research and advocacy.
The September 20, 2016 revision of this working paper incorporates the Ninth Circuit decision in Deocampo v. Potts. That decision has important implications for a plaintiff's ability to enforce a judgment against a police officer of a formerly-bankrupt city as well as the officer's ability to seek indemnification from that city.
Keywords: Municipal Bankruptcy, Civil Rights, Police Misconduct, Police Brutality, 1983, Chapter 9, Detroit, San Bernardino, Vallejo, Indemnity, Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore
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