Plaintiffs in Occupy Cal lawsuit push for jury trial

David Herschorn/File

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Update 8/5/15: This article has been updated to reflect new information about the number of plaintiffs in the case.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit stemming from the response to the 2011 Occupy Cal protests by UC Berkeley administrators and police are opposing a motion by the defense to reach a resolution without a jury trial.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by BAMN on behalf of 24 demonstrators and alleges that UC Berkeley administrators, including former chancellor Robert Birgeneau, were partially responsible for alleged excessive police force, false arrests and police officials’ violations of First Amendment rights.

BAMN, a national civil rights organization that supports students’ rights and affirmative action, filed a brief July 27 opposing and responding to three motions by the defense for summary judgment — a procedural tool for when both parties agree that no factual disputes remain and a jury trial is not required to resolve the case. The brief argues that there are “material differences of fact” that could influence a jury’s decision on each claim in the lawsuit, which now represents 21 of the original plaintiffs.

The defendants filed for summary judgment because they believe that the plaintiffs’ claims “have no legal merit” and that the plaintiffs have failed to produce evidence to support them, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Specifically, Gilmore said, the defendants’ motions say that the plaintiffs have been unable to show that police actions violated the legal rights of demonstrators or that most of the defendants were sufficiently involved in police actions to remain as defendants in the case.

According to Yvette Felarca, a national organizer for BAMN and a lead plaintiff in the case, the brief shows that there remain factual disputes that would be best resolved by a jury as opposed to the opinion of a single judge.

Both Gilmore and Felarca said the case was taking a long time to resolve, but each cited different reasons for the slow pace of proceedings.

According to Gilmore, the defense attorneys attributed part of the excessive length to the plaintiffs’ multiple requests for time extensions on court-established deadlines.

“The administration is trying to throw as many obstacles as they can into getting the truth out,” Felarca said. “They want to continue to cover up the policies and not be accountable for the policy that they ordered to brutalize students.”

Gilmore said defendants would file reply briefs later this month that respond to the plaintiff’s latest filing.

Contact Ethan Walker at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ethannwalker.