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Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Religious Society of Friends v. Tate

July 18, 1975

PHILADELPHIA YEARLY MEETING OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS; F. MILES DAY; PHILADELPHIA RESISTANCE; ROBERT J. BRAND; JUDITH CHOMSKY; DONNA WOLF; ANTHONY AVIRGAN; AND BARBARA ROTHENBERG, APPELLANTS,
v.
JAMES H. J. TATE, MAYOR, CITY OF PHILA.; FRED T. CORLETTO, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CITY OF PHILA.; FRANK L. RIZZO., GEORGE FENCL, LIEUTENANT, PHILA. POLICE DEPT.; AND JOSEPH O'NEILL, COMMISSIONER OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (Civil Action No. 71-849, E.D. of Pa.)

Author: Seitz

Before SEITZ, Chief Judge, ALDISERT and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Chief Judge.

Plaintiffs,*fn1 two organizations and six individuals, appeal an order of the district court dismissing their complaint for failure to state a claim. Defendants are the former Mayor of Philadelphia, the Managing Director and certain police officers of the City of Philadelphia. Because the district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, we must view the allegations in the complaint generously, in plaintiffs' favor. We turn to a narration of the essential allegations with that approach in mind.

1. Plaintiffs allege that at many public assemblies or demonstrations attended by citizen groups whose general political or social views conflict with those of government officials and/or the Philadelphia Police Department, members of the Philadelphia Police Department, under the command of some of the defendants, are present, photograph many of those in attendance, and make a record of the event, regardless of whether or not such demonstrations are peaceful or lawful.

2. Plaintiffs further allege that the Philadelphia Police Department, through its Political Disobedience Unit, has compiled intelligence files on numerous individuals and groups. These files, about 18,000 in number, are separate from police interrogation and investigation records. They contain basic information plus information concerning the individual subject's political views, associations and personal life and habits. The files are allegedly kept indefinitely and sometimes without the knowledge of the subjects of the files.

3. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that no safeguards exist as to the disposition of or access to the political and personal information contained in the files; that such information is available to other law enforcement agencies and, on information and belief, to private employers, to governmental agencies for purposes of considering employment, promotion, granting of licenses, passports, etc., to private political organizations which seek to suppress "subversive" or dissident political activity or views, and to the press.

4. It is also charged that Philadelphia Police Department has improperly and unlawfully publicized its political intelligence gathering system by the unauthorized public disclosure of information concerning certain named individuals and groups who are the subject of police intelligence files. On June 2, 1970, in a network television broadcast the above named defendants and their agents publicly discussed their system and disclosed the names of certain groups and individuals on whom such files were kept, without the approval of such groups and individuals, including plaintiff organizations and four individual plaintiffs.

After the foregoing factual allegations the plaintiffs allege that such facts resulted in violations of their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments because:

(a) the police practices described above are not relevant to any legitimate police purpose and deprive plaintiffs of their right to anonymity in the conduct of their political activity and in their associations;

(b) the police practices chill and deter plaintiffs in the free exercise of their rights of speech and assembly;

(c) the police practices unconstitutionally interfere with the ability of plaintiffs to join with others in lawful political association in support of unpopular views.

Plaintiffs sought declaratory, injunctive and other relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. This appeal followed the dismissal of the complaint for failure to ...


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