UC settles lawsuit with photojournalist

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The UC Board of Regents announced Monday that it settled with an independent journalist after he had filed a lawsuit against the university for what he claimed was an unlawful arrest during a 2009 protest on the UC Berkeley campus.

The university will pay $162,500 to David Morse, an independent photojournalist who volunteers for San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center — a non-commercial independent media center that provides information that does not show up in the corporate media to the Bay Area — after he filed a lawsuit against the university for being arrested while reporting on a protest that took place outside Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s campus residence.

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement that allows all parties to avoid the expense of trial,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “The University admits no liability in the settlement, and continues to believe the police acted responsibly and effectively to protect University House.”

According to court documents, the $162,500 settlement from the university includes compensation for attorney fees, initial bail during Morse’s arrest and other out-of-pocket expenses. The settlement also states that there will be changes to UCPD police policies and procedures regarding journalist protection during protests on campus.

The day he was arrested, Morse was reporting on an indoor hall concert on Dec. 11, 2009 in Wheeler Hall, according to David Greene, attorney at the San Francisco office of Bryan Cave LLP. After the concert, he followed a march that led him to the campus University House, where students were protesting budget cuts and increases in tuition, according to Greene.

UCPD then arrived within minutes after protesters began to vandalize the residence, Morse said.

According to Morse, when UCPD officers saw Morse taking a picture of their police car, they said, “We believe your camera has evidence of crime,” and proceeded to arrest him, confiscating his camera and other journalistic materials.

UCPD officers then took Morse to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, after which he was released on $132,000 bail the next day, Morse said.

UCPD then filed a search warrant in 2009 in order to obtain Morse’s reporting material that he had used during the protest, which included his backpack and camera. Morse then filed an action against UCPD in 2010 to nullify the warrant and received all his personal belongings back within six months of making his original motion.

“They had filed a warrant that had false and misleading information,” Morse said.

According to Greene, Morse’s arrest also violated the Privacy Protection Act, which states that a police officer would have to retain a subpoena against an individual to obtain materials rather than a search warrant in this type of case.

Morse said he filed the lawsuit against the university, not only to get his bail money back but to get the UCPD to reform its policies and seek better training for situations involving protests.

“(It’s) not only stick up for myself, but to draw a line in the sand for other independent journalists (in the same situation),” Morse said.

The July 5 article “Regents settle with journalist after lawsuit” incorrectly identified David Greene as the executive director of the First Amendment Project. In fact, Greene is currently attorney at the San Francisco office of Bryan Cave LLP.

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  • NPPAlawyer

    The real problem is despite paying $162,000 “the University admits no liability in the settlement, and continues to believe the police acted responsibly and effectively.” Really!? With that attitude it’s no wonder the police acted the way that they did. Maybe someone from Cal’s law school needs to explain constitutional law to the administration.

    • Current student

      NPPA = anti-American communists and domestic terror enablers

  • Guest

    Looking forward to another fee increase to pay for this ***hole’s settlement.

    Thank you, occutards, for continuing to inflict pain on the people you (falsely) claim to represent.

    • Guest

      If the university acted lawfully, they wouldn’t be in a situation of having to pay $162,500 for a messy police intervention.

    • I_h8_disqus

      We can blame the occutards for the cost of any damage to the University House, and for the cost of the police needed because vandals are doing illegal things, but the police have got to be smarter and not waste time and effort because they get upset about someone taking pictures. Ignore the cameras. If you are being a professional and doing your job, then the cameras shouldn’t have any affect on you.

    • David Wilson

      Let me check the calendar – OOOPS This incident took place BEFORE Occupy Anything happened, in fact nearly two years prior. What part of false blaming do we have here???

  • univ of fail

    UCPD plays dumb, as though its officers have trouble understanding basic, day-to-day, law enforcement, you know, 1st amendment free press stuff that’s been settled law for decades.

    UC Admin = UCPD = Abusive Authoritarian Clowns.

    Attn Parents of Prospective Students: don’t send your kids to UC unless you’re comfortable with brazen, unapologetic, abuse of power.

  • Guest

    “According to court documents, the $162,500 settlement from the university includes compensation for attorney fees, initial bail during Morse’s arrest and other out-of-pocket expenses”
    Ridiculous. It’s not like it was an all-cash bail. The arrest was stupid enough, but the UC’s inability to handle the case efficiently and limit the damages is just as bad.

  • I_h8_disqus

    Thank you, UCPD for wasting our money. How are UC police not trained well enough to avoid these obvious blunders? This sounds like something I would watch on TV where the stupid cops do stupid things so someone like Kyra Sedgwick can look brilliant.

    • Guest

      How is it an obvious blunder?

      Should every domestic terrorist who pulls out a camera be able to claim he is a “journalist” ?

      • Guest

        Well, the fact that they materially conceded and gave away $162,500 with nothing in return makes it a bit obvious

      • I_h8_disqus

        They see the guy taking pictures at the scene, and tell him to hand over his camera because the pictures might have evidence. Then they arrest him. The police knew he wasn’t a domestic terrorist, but they acted stupidly, and it cost us a lot of money. Your logic would allow the police to arrest everyone, because any person standing on the street could be a terrorist in disguise. I guess we are just lucky you aren’t UCPD, or you would have tased some elderly lady or little kid thinking they were terrorists in disguise.