Landmark Settlement Reached With Maryland State Police In "Driving While Black" Case

April 2, 2008 12:00 am

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BALTIMORE – After more than a decade of fighting for justice on behalf of individuals who were racially profiled on Interstate 95 in Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Maryland, and the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, LLP are pleased to announce that a landmark settlement has been reached today with the Maryland State Police (MSP) to end the "Driving While Black" lawsuit. The agreement provides substantial damages to the individual plaintiffs, a requirement that the MSP retain an independent consultant to assess its progress towards eliminating the practice of racial profiling, and a joint statement by all parties involved in the lawsuit condemning racial profiling and highlighting the importance of taking preventative action against this practice in the future.

"More than twelve years after being wrongfully pulled over, harassed, and humiliated on I-95 in Maryland, I can finally tell my son that justice is possible when your rights have been violated in America," said Gary Rodwell, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and vice president of the ACLU of Maryland. "This long chapter in our lives is over, but if this settlement prevents someone else from being targeted based on race, it was worth it."

The agreement settles an ACLU federal lawsuit filed in 1998 on behalf of the Maryland NAACP and several individual plaintiffs charging that MSP's troopers were continuing to engage in racial profiling based on accumulated evidence showing a pattern and practice of discrimination.

The settlement, which totals more than $400,000, includes a $300,000 payment by the state of Maryland for damages and legal costs. It also includes a commitment by the MSP to pay up to $100,000 to retain an independent police practices consultant to perform an assessment of how the MSP has implemented policy and practices changes to address concerns about racial profiling, related to a far-reaching legal agreement (Consent Decree) reached in 2003 to resolve major portions of the case. The consultant will make recommendations to the superintendent of the MSP that cannot be rejected without reasonable cause.

The agreement also includes a strong joint statement from the individual plaintiffs, the defendant troopers, and the MSP condemning racial profiling and commending the plaintiffs on their fight for justice. In addition, a mediated forum will be conducted between the plaintiffs, MSP officials, and officials from the Maryland Attorney General's office for discussion of the events leading to the litigation and racial profiling, generally. For two years there will be semiannual meetings between MSP and representatives for the plaintiffs. Finally, the agreement provides that MSP will produce to the plaintiffs all policies, training materials, and general orders issued by MSP pursuant to the 2003 Consent Decree and, subject to court approval, all racial profiling complaints filed with the agency since then.

"The ACLU commends the individual plaintiffs and the Maryland State Police on reaching this outstanding settlement," said Deborah A. Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "We hope this marks the end of the plaintiffs' journey down the long road to justice, as well as the beginning of a new period of vigilance against racial profiling here in Maryland."

"The significance of this settlement extends well beyond the boundaries of the state of Maryland," said Reginald Shuford, a senior staff attorney with the national ACLU's Racial Justice Program. "This agreement allows Maryland once again to be a national model for addressing and eliminating a practice that has no place in our democracy. The residents of Maryland deserve no less, and they, in addition to the parties in this litigation, should be commended."

"We are incredibly satisfied with the settlement announced today," said Martin Price, a partner at Hogan & Hartson. "Our clients have maintained their faith in our judicial process for nearly a decade, and through their perseverance and the contributions of a team of extraordinarily dedicated lawyers, we have reached a settlement that ensures safeguards are now in place so that drivers throughout Maryland, especially the busy Interstate 95 corridor, will no longer be victims of racial profiling."

The settlement, which was approved by the Maryland State Board of Public Works today, will be filed with U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp within the next seven days, making it effective. Together with the 2003 Consent Decree, this settlement now closes the case.

The settlement does not resolve the separate lawsuit filed by the ACLU, on behalf of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, seeking documents under the Maryland Public Information Act related to MSP's compliance with the 2003 Consent Decree. A trial is currently set in that case for June 27, 2008.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Verna Bailey, William Berry, Kenneth Jeffries, John Means, Gary Rodwell, and Johnston Williams; the defendants were several MSP troopers and officials.

The lawsuit was filed originally in 1998 by William Mertens, Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland, and Shuford of the national ACLU's Racial Justice Program, on behalf of individual plaintiffs and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches. In 2005, the ACLU began working with pro bono attorneys from the law firm Hogan & Hartson LLP's Washington and Baltimore offices, who took the lead in the litigation on behalf of the individual plaintiffs. The Hogan team, which donated thousands of hours in handling the case, was led by Washington D.C partner Martin Price. Partner Therese Goldsmith and associates Peter Lallas and Allison Stanton also worked extensively on this matter; altogether more than 40 lawyers from the firm contributed.

Today's settlement is available at:

More information about the ACLU's "Driving While Black" lawsuit, including plaintiff profiles and a joint statement from plaintiffs, the defendant troopers, and the MSP condemning racial profiling, is available at:

More information on the ACLU Racial Justice Program's work on racial profiling is available at:

More information about Hogan & Hartson's pro bono legal services work can be found at:

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