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.