March 31, 2011- Saint Paul, Minn- Federal District Court Judge Tunheim issued a ruling today in the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota's literature seizure case Demuth v Fletcher. In his ruling Judge Tunheim denied cross motions for summary judgment, but agreed to dismiss some of the plaintiff's claims. The core constitutional issues of the case still remain, and will be decided at trial later this year.
In September, 2008, the ACLU-MN sued Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher and others under his direction for conducting the unlawful seizure of vast amounts of constitutionally protected literature while executing several search warrants in the days leading up to the 2008 Republican National Convention. Police seized multiple copies of hundreds of different First Amendment protected publications, including books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, stickers and buttons, despite the fact that they were intended to be distributed peacefully. The lawsuit argues that the seizure of First Amendment materials their clients' free speech and due process rights guaranteed under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
In his order Judge Tunheim noted:
Plaintiffs highlight a number of documents and things seized that are well beyond
the scope of the warrant, including boxes of children's books and school papers from
Demuth's residence, business cards from Lundberg's residence, and documents at the
Convergence Center relating to first aid and sexual assault prevention. The most cursory
review of the materials would have revealed the inappropriateness of seizing them. A
reasonable fact-finder could conclude that when executing the warrants, defendants went
beyond their scope and seized materials that had not been enumerated, which a
reasonable officer would not have seized.
"We are pleased that this decision will give us the opportunity to ensure that the Constitutional Rights of protestors are protected by proving the seizures were unlawful and securing the return of the materials they seized," said Albert Goins, volunteer attorney for the ACLU -MN.
Attorneys in the case include ACLU-MN volunteer attorney Albert Goins, Goins Law office and National Lawyers Guild volunteer attorney Geneva Finn, University of Minnesota and ACLU-MN Legal Counsel Teresa Nelson.