Federal Court Allows Sibling Lawsuits Over Police Shootings

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The sisters and brothers of a man killed by Sacramento police won a pivotal federal court ruling that potentially expands who can win lawsuits in the aftermath of police shootings, the Sacramento Bee reports. Joseph Mann was shot 14 times in July 2016 by two Sacramento police officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya. Mann’s father had sued the city and settled for $719,000. Mann’s five siblings were unhappy with the outcome of their father’s suit because they wanted it to include public tracking of police reforms in Sacramento and information on whether the two officers who fired shots had been disciplined by the department.

So the siblings filed an unusual lawsuit, citing the First Amendment right of association, which usually is invoked for social or political groups. The Supreme Court has limited suits over police shootings to parents and children of the deceased. In the Mann case, Sacramento lawyer Mark Merin argued that the killing deprived Joseph Mann’s sisters and brothers of the right to associate with him. U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that nothing in the language of the Constitution or case law around the two amendments clearly excludes siblings from suing under the First Amendment, making it legal for the Mann siblings to make their claim. Merin said the ruling means that claims in police shooting cases “are not limited to the parents and the children of the persons who are killed but extend at least to the nuclear family because its recognized that the intimate relationships, the family relationships, are severed, and that damages the people in those categories.”

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