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Class-Action Status Ruled Out in Rampart Lawsuit

June 05, 2002|DAVID ROSENZWEIG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal judge has declined to grant class-action status to a former gang member's malicious-prosecution lawsuit against Rampart police officers.

In a 22-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess wrote that Raul Rodriguez's case was not sufficiently representative of the proposed class of victims.

The former 18th Street gang member sought to represent anyone whose civil rights had allegedly been violated by officers in the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division since 1990.

He contended that the division had a practice and policy of violating suspects' rights by making unfounded arrests, using excessive force, fabricating evidence and lying in court.

But Feess said that because Rodriguez was not himself a victim of excessive force, he did not have standing to seek relief for those who were.

In his original lawsuit in 1999, Rodriguez alleged that Rampart officers tried to frame him for a murder he did not commit. He was acquitted at trial.

Even if Rodriguez were representative of the broad class of Rampart victims, Feess suggested, a class-action lawsuit would be unwieldy.

The judge said the court would be forced to conduct hearings for each member of the class to determine whether his or her maltreatment resulted from the police division's alleged policy and practice of abusing crime suspects.

Although Feess said he had no idea how many new plaintiffs might be brought into the litigation through class-action certification, he pointed out that more than 150 individual lawsuits have been filed in federal court.

Many of them have been settled for substantial sums, he said, suggesting that it might be better for prospective class members to file their own lawsuits.

Mitchell Kamin, one of Rodriguez's lawyers, said that he was disappointed by the decision but expressed hope that Feess would rule favorably on another class-action request that is pending.

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