City of Albuquerque officials should be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with the provisions of the city's settlement agreement with the federal government in the police department's reform effort, a lawyer who represents mentally disabled people in the case said Tuesday.
The attorney, Peter Cubra, filed a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack on Tuesday in which he urged Brack to impose sanctions against the city and APD. Read Cubra's letter here.
“In our view, the Defendants’ failure to fulfill the provisions of the CASA which they asked this Court to adopt as a court order constitutes civil contempt of court,” Cubra's letter said. “Accordingly, we believe it is now appropriate for the United States to initiate civil contempt proceedings in this case and for the Court to coerce Defendants into complying with the CASA.”
Cubra's letter also said that members of the group he represents, “and may other people in Albuquerque, are being subjected to intentional violations of the federal court orders, to which the City stipulated, and those violations are causing harm.”
It was the first time that any lawyer involved in the reform case has asked for sanctions against the city for what the independent monitor in the case has called APD's deliberate noncompliance with the settlement agreement.
Cubra represents the McClendon class of amici, or “friends of the court,” in the settlement agreement. The class is composed of mentally disabled people who have been arrested over the years by APD officers and jailed at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
In his letter to Brack, who is overseeing the settlement agreement, Cubra cited the sixth report of the independent monitor, James Ginger, as a reason to hold city officials in contempt. That report, which was filed last week in federal court, found that “a culture of accountability is markedly absent at APD” even three years into the reform effort.
“The Defendants did not comply with the Court’s June 5, 2017 order requiring them to file an Action Plan addressing the concerns stated by the amici last Spring,” Cubra's letter said. “The document filed byDefendants [Doc. 290] is not a 'plan.' It is, primarily, a brief description of certain actions that had occurred in the past, with a few vague statements regarding future actions that the City said that it intends to take. Because the City issued a genuine action plan at the beginning of this reform process, it clearly knows what an action plan is. Accordingly, the City’s decision not to develop a real action plan appears to be a deliberate choice to violate the Court’s order.”
The letter added: “The City’s repeated failure, or refusal, to create authentic “action plans” is a much larger problem; not simply a violation of the June 2017 order. TheCity’s long-standing failure to develop real action plans also applies to the entirety of the CASA, as well; jeopardizing this entire lawsuit.”
Brack is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Ginger's sixth report on Nov. 16.