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DOJ files civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson

[JURIST] US Attorney General Loretta Lynch [official website] on Wednesday announced [press release] that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, for alleged unjust policing. According to Lynch's statement, the lawsuit alleges "a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws." The filing comes one day after a decision by the Ferguson City Council to change a proposed consent decree to reform its police and municipal courts due to the implementation cost. The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy unlawful conduct where reform negotiations failed. Lynch further stated that the DOJ will "continue to vigorously enforce the law" to ensure that such reforms take place. Included in the lawsuit are allegations that the police department and municipal court interfere with citizens' First Amendment right to free expression, prosecute and resolve municipal charges in a manner which violates due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and engage in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of both the Fourteenth Amendment and federal law.

Ferguson gained international attention after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown [JURIST report] by a police officer. The official response to the shooting set off massive protests and social unrest that cost millions of dollars. Earlier Wednesday the DOJ said that it would explore legal action [JURIST report] to keep the Ferguson City Council from making changes to an agreement to reform its police department and municipal operations. A Ferguson reform panel in September released [JURIST report] a report calling for the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts. The DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) [official website] has found [JURIST report] that the response by the Ferguson police department escalated riots after Michael Brown's death. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] on human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October 2014.

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