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ACLU of Utah Seeks to Intervene in "Gang Injunction" Case

09 September 2010 Published in Newsroom

ACLU OF UTAH SEEKS TO INTERVENE IN “GANG INJUNCTION” CASE, RAISES SERIOUS CONSTITUTIONAL CONCERNS WITHWEBER COUNTY’S PROPOSED INJUNCTION

The ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorneys David Reymann and Rita Cornish of the law firm Parr Brown Gee & Loveless filed motions today seeking to submit an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief or for limited intervention in the lawsuit recently filed by Weber County seeking an unprecedented “gang injunction.” The proposed injunction would prohibit the Ogden Trece organization, an alleged “street gang,” and any of its alleged members from associating or otherwise engaging in numerous lawful activities anywhere within the City of Ogden.

In its lawsuit, Weber County asks the Court to label Ogden Trece, and all of its alleged members, a “public nuisance,” and to issue a permanent injunction that would prohibit those alleged members from, among other things, associating with other alleged members of the group (including, presumably, family, friends, and co-workers), possessing legal firearms, drinking alcohol (on both public and private property), and engaging in numerous other kinds of constitutionally protected expressive speech and activities. These prohibitions would apply to anyone identified by law enforcement, in its own discretion and with no judicial oversight, to be a member of Ogden Trece. The injunction, which the County incorrectly describes as “narrowly drawn,” would cover the entire City of Ogden.

“Particularly troublesome is the fact that no guidance is given as to how alleged ‘gang members’ will be identified by law enforcement,” said ACLU of Utah Legal Director Darcy Goddard. “Any resident of Ogden could be labeled a ‘gang member.’ And, once that individual is so identified, he or she can be stripped of all sorts of fundamental liberties, ranging from the freedoms of association and speech to the right to possess a lawful firearm or even a felt tip marker. The proposed injunction is breathtaking in its scope and constitutional deficiencies.”

The ACLU of Utah’s motions also note that the temporary retraining order (TRO) issued by the Court on August 20—which contains provisions similar to the terms of the proposed injunction—was obtained in violation of due process and Utah State law. The ACLU of Utah requests that the TRO be vacated immediately.

“Law enforcement has long struggled to successfully counter organized crime, and the dangers of gang violence are very real,” stated Goddard. “But ‘gang injunctions’ have never been shown to be an effective way to reduce crime. To the contrary, the evidence shows that they only make the problem worse, interfere with effective anti-gang measures like intervention and outreach, and encourage racial profiling and arbitrary enforcement,” she added. “The fundamental freedoms of Ogden’s citizens should not be sacrificed in the name of law enforcement, particularly where there is no evidence that the heavy-handed tactics Weber County wants to employ will actually work.”

Read more about Weber v Ogden Trece >>

The full Amicus Brief may be downloaded (PDF) >>