The ACLU of Rhode Island and the Right to Administrative Due Process

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The ACLU of Rhode Island and the Right to Administrative Due Process

While the right to due process is most often associated with criminal defendants, it also ensures that government agencies and municipalities proceed fairly when dealing with citizens in their day-to-day dealings with the bureaucracy. Below are some ACLU of Rhode Island cases that have addressed the right to administrative due process over the years:

2017: Breault v. Goucher

Category: Active Case  Due Process  Police Practices  

 

About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit against the Town of Bristol over the police department’s refusal to return to its owners a firearm that the agency seized more than a year ago. The suit is on behalf of two parents who are Bristol residents and inherited their son’s firearm collection after he tragically took his own life.  The suit argues that the Bristol Police Department violated the parents’ rights to due process and their Second Amendment rights by refusing to return the firearm to them.

Current Status:
Suit filed in August 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Thomas W. Lyons, Rhiannon S. Huffman

Learn more about this case >

2017: Hunter v. City of Cranston

Category: Active Case  Due Process  Free Speech  


About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit against the City of Cranston, challenging its selective enforcement of an ordinance that bars the placement of commercial advertisements on city property. The suit was filed on behalf of Stephen Hunter, an attorney who was threatened with fines if he did not take down signs advertising his business that he had posted at various intersections throughout the city – even though there were dozens of other advertising signs posted at the same locations which were left untouched and not cited.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in May 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Richard A. Sinapi

Learn more about this case >

2016: Gemmell v. Affigne

Category: Active Case  Discrimination  Rights of the Poor  Due Process  


About This Case:
This is a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of RI and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) over the state’s ongoing, critical, and widespread failure to timely provide food stamp benefits to needy families due in large part to its transition to a new, and very troubled, computer system. The lawsuit argues that the “systematically inadequate and faulty statewide implementation of a new integrated computer system” designed to determine food stamp eligibility “continues to cause thousands of households to suffer the imminent risk of hunger as a result of being denied desperately needed assistance to help them feed their families.”

Current Status:
A settlement agreement has been reached with the state which, among other things:

  • Establishes deadlines for the state to meet the goal of processing applications in a timely manner.
  • Codifies an existing informal process allowing plaintiffs’ counsel to refer individual cases of non-compliance to the state.
  • Requires the state to notify every person who has applied for SNAP benefits since August 2016 of the opportunity to seek retroactive benefits if DHS lost or did not timely process their prior application for benefits.
  • Requires the state to submit detailed reports to plaintiffs’ counsel documenting that it is meeting the goals set for increased compliance with the federal reporting requirements.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

Learn more about this case >

2016: Federal Hill Capital v. City of Providence

Category: Active Case  Discrimination  Due Process  Students' Rights  


About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the City of Providence challenging a city ordinance that prohibits more than three “college students” from living together in certain areas of the city.  The lawsuit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, is on behalf of the owner and tenants of a house in the Elmhurst section of Providence. The suit argues that the ordinance violates the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

Current Status:
In March 2017, we filed a motion for summary judgment and memorandum of law explaining why the court should declare the ordinance unconstitutional.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Jeffrey L. Levy, Charles D. Blackman

Learn more about this case >

2015: Caniglia v. City of Cranston

Category: Active Case  Due Process  


About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit over a Cranston Police Department policy of refusing to return firearms seized without a warrant from residents who were neither charged with a crime nor found to pose a danger to themselves or others. The suit, on behalf of resident Edward Caniglia, argues the Cranston Police Department violated his right to due process and his right to keep and bear arms by retaining his firearms without just cause after seizing them without a warrant.

In 2015, we filed a similar lawsuit against the Town of North Smithfield.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in December 2015.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Thomas W. Lyons, Rhiannon S. Huffman

Learn more about this case >

2015: J.A. v. Town of Tiverton

Category: Due Process  Privacy  Students' Rights  


About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit against Tiverton police and school officials over an incident in which an 8-year-old girl was removed from a school bus, had her belongings searched, was taken alone to the police station without her parents’ knowledge, and then held and questioned at the police station for several hours before being released. The seizure, detention, and interrogation of the young child were based solely on unsubstantiated claims from another child that the girl was carrying “chemicals” in her backpack, and occurred even after the police found nothing suspicious in the backpack.

Current Status:
Lawsuit successfully settled in June 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Amato A. DeLuca, Miriam Weizenbaum

Learn more about this case >

2015: Freitas, et. al. v Kilmartin

Category: Active Case  Due Process  Rights of Ex-Offenders  


About This Case:
This is a class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court which challenges the constitutionality of a law that makes it a crime for certain sex offenders to reside within 1,000 feet of a school.  The suit argues that the residency prohibition that the law places on all Level 3 sex offenders is unconstitutionally vague, violates due process, retroactively punishes those who have already completed their sentences, and interferes with “liberty and privacy interests while bearing no rational relationship to a legitimate purpose.”

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in October 2015.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

Learn more about this case >

2015: Richer v. Parmelee

Category: Active Case  Due Process  


About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a North Smithfield resident, seeking the return of lawfully possessed weapons that were seized from him over six years ago by the local police department and which the department still refuses to return to him. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jason Richer, argues that the North Smithfield Police Department violated his right to due process and his right to keep and bear arms by retaining his property without just cause.

In 2015, we filed a similar lawsuit against the City of Cranston.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in April 2015.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Thomas W. Lyons

Learn more about this case >

2015: Davis v. Division of Motor Vehicles

Category: Due Process  Privacy  

2/6/2015 Update: In response to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, the Division of Motor Vehicles agreed to the entry of a court order Friday that will require the agency to first adopt regulations through a public process before using a new database designed to identify and possibly take action against uninsured drivers.

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This lawsuit, filed by ACLU volunteer attorney Albin Moser, asks the court to stop the implementation of the Uninsured Motorists Identification Database until the Division of Motor Vehicles adopts appropriate regulations with public input. The DMV is establishing the database, designed to identify uninsured motorists, without first establishing any regulations to prevent the improper disclosure of drivers’ personal information, avoid mistaken registration revocations, or to otherwise ensure that the program is properly administered by the private out-of-state company contracted to run the program. The failure to establish these regulations is a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and the state law that established the database.

The ACLU’s concerns about implementing the program without any public standards are not without justification, as it has sued the DMV a number of times in the past over regulatory lapses that have adversely affected motorists. In 2012, for example, the ACLU successfully sued the DMV after it refused to reinstate a person’s driver’s license based on a “policy” that appeared nowhere in the agency’s rules and regulations. In 2010, the ACLU successfully settled another case after the DMV advised thousands of motorists that their license and registration would be suspended due to alleged unpaid fines that were the result of incidents occurring on “00/00/0000.”

Learn more about this case >

2014: Defenders of Animals v. Sunderland

Category: Due Process  

This lawsuit, filed in in Superior Court on behalf of Defenders of Animals and a North Kingstown family, challenges a North Kingstown ordinance that bars any “vicious” dog from being housed within a mile of a school or day-care facility. The ACLU first challenged this ordinance when the Town seized the "vicous" dogs of the resident even though she had complied with all requirements imposed by state hearing panel in order to keep the dogs. The ACLU contends that the town’s residency restriction conflicts with the state hearing panel decision and with state law that establishes detailed procedures and penalties regarding “vicious” dogs. The ACLU also argues the owners’ due process rights were violated when the Town seized the dogs under that ordinance after the owners had complied with the state decision.

April 24, 2015 Update: The two pitbulls were returned home while the ACLU court case challenging the seizure of the dogs moves forward. A Washington County Superior Court judge in April found that the ACLU had a likelihood of success its claim that the state law establishing detailed procedures for dealing with "vicious dogs" preempts a local ordinance barring any “vicious” dog from being housed within a mile of a school or day-care facility. The judge therefore ordered the return of the dogs, Balou and Ozzy, to Kristy Miserendino and her family.

Learn more about this case >

2012: Morales v. Chadbourne

Category: Active Case  Discrimination  Racial/Ethnic Discrimination  Due Process  Immigration  


About This Case:
This is a lawsuit on behalf of Ada Morales, a North Providence resident who has twice been detained as a deportable “alien” even though she is a U.S. citizen. The lawsuit alleges that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and Rhode Island officials often bypass Constitutional requirements and safeguards when they detain individuals on immigration grounds.

Current Status:
In August 2017, the ACLU of RI settled this lawsuit on behalf of Ada Morales.

ACLU Attorneys:
Mark Freel, Erika Lindberg, Omar Jadwat, Kate Desormeau

Learn more about this case >

2012: Dowd v. Town of Narragansett

Category: Due Process  Students' Rights  

A lawsuit against the Town of Narragansett on behalf of three URI pharmacy graduate students who have received tickets for parking their cars overnight on their street even though they have a permit to do so.  The town agreed to reinstate the permits, reimburse fines that had been imposed against them, and pay attorneys’ fees.

Cooperating Attorney: H. Jefferson Melish

Learn more about this case >

2012: Machado v. City of Cranston

Category: Due Process  

A lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of a Cranston resident seeking the return of a variety of lawfully possessed weapons that were seized by police. The lawsuit argues that the Cranston Police Department has violated his right to due process and his right to keep and bear arms by retaining his property without just cause.

Cooperating Attorney: Thomas W. Lyons

Learn more about this case >

2012: Thomas v. Flanders

Category: Due Process  Open Government  Right to Petition & Protest  

This lawsuit charged that the Central Falls Receiver, Robert Flanders, Jr., unlawfully delegated to an appointed hearing officer powers that are afforded only to him under the state law authorizing his appointment. The lawsuit also argued that the receiver’s actions were a violation of the open meetings law, the Financial Stability Act, and residents’ rights to due to process and to petition their government. The suit was voluntarily dismissed after the City came out of receivership. 

Cooperating Attorney: Jennifer Azevedo

Learn more about this case >

2011: Lavik v. DMV

Category: Due Process  Open Government  

A lawsuit challenging the Division of Motor Vehicle’s actions in refusing to reinstate a person’s driver’s license based on a “policy” that appears nowhere in the agency’s rules and regulations. The lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court on behalf of Warwick resident Marc Lavik, argues that the DMV’s actions are in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), an important state law that requires agencies to provide advance notice and a public comment period before adopting policies that affect members of the public.

Cooperating Attorneys: Albin Moser and Melissa Braatz

Learn more about this case >

2010: Carbone v. State of Rhode Island

Category: Due Process  

A federal lawsuit against the RI Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) contesting a "notice of action" sent to plaintiff Gerald Carbone informing him that his licence would be suspended, but giving no information about the nature of the alleged offense leading to the suspension, about the penalty for the offense, or even the date that the offense purportedly took place. The suit argues that this notice and the fact that the DMV will only grant a hearing after the licence is suspended violate Carbone's due process rights.

Cooperating Attorney: James E. Kelleher.

Learn more about this case >

2010: Boyer v. Jeremiah

Category: Due Process  Fair Administration of Justice  Students' Rights  Youth Rights  

A class-action lawsuit charging that the state’s truancy court system is devoid of due process protections in violation of state and federal law. Filed in the Rhode Island Superior Court against a number of state family court judges and officials of six school districts including Providence, the lawsuit charges that the truancy courts are frequently punitive in nature, and that truancy court magistrates threaten vulnerable children and their parents with baseless fines and imprisonment, remove children from the custody of their parents without legal justification and fail to keep adequate records of court hearings. The lawsuit also charges that the court system disproportionately impacts children who have difficulty attending school or doing their schoolwork because of special education or medical needs.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction requiring an initial investigation of truancy charges before petitions are filed; the transcribing or reporting of all truancy court proceedings; and that the court be barred from issuing orders against students and parents over whom it has no jurisdiction. The lawsuit also seeks final declaratory and injunctive relief requiring that court and school officials abide by federal state and constitutional and state statutory law.

Cooperating Attorneys: Amy R. Tabor and Thomas W. Lyons (with Robin L. Dahlberg and Yelena Konanova of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, and Deborah N. Archer of New York Law School)

Misc. Court Documents:

Learn more about this case >

2009: Spruill v. Alexander

Category: Discrimination  Rights of the Poor  Due Process  

Federal lawsuit, filed with a national welfare rights group, challenging the state’s failure to process food stamp applications in a timely manner. A detailed settlement agreement was entered and monitored, and attorneys’ fees were awarded.

Cooperating Attorney: Lynette Labinger

Learn more about this case >

2009: Montiero v. City of East Providence

Category: Due Process  Rights of Candidates  

Federal lawsuit challenging City Charter provisions that impose increased signature-gathering burdens, above and beyond what state law requires, on candidates who wish to run for local office. The provisions were repealed, and attorneys’ fees were awarded.

Cooperating Attorney: Angel Taveras

Learn more about this case >

2009: Block v. Mollis

Category: Due Process  Rights of Candidates  Voting Rights  

Federal lawsuit challenging a state statute that requires a group seeking recognition as a new political party to collect signatures representing 5% of the voter turnout for the previous Gubernatorial election, and bars collections of those signatures in an off- election year. The court ruled the latter provision unconstitutional, and awarded attorneys’ fees.

Cooperating Attorney: Mark W. Freel

Learn more about this case >

2008: Becker v. State of Rhode Island

Category: Due Process  Privacy  

Lawsuit challenging a Division of Motor Vehicles policy requiring people to present their Social Security card in order to renew their drivers’ license. The Division agreed to rescind the policy and pay court costs.

Cooperating Attorney: James Kelleher

Learn more about this case >

2008: R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence v. Carcieri

Category: Due Process  Immigration  Open Government  

Lawsuit challenging a Gubernatorial executive order requiring all vendors and contractors doing business with the state to register with the federal government’s E-Verify work authorization program. A temporary restraining order was denied, but the executive order was subsequently rescinded and the suit was voluntarily dismissed as moot.

Cooperating Attorney: Randy Olen

Learn more about this case >

2008: URI Student Senate v. Town of Narragansett

Category: Due Process  Students' Rights  

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance which allows police to charge tenants and landlords with allowing, and to place orange stickers on houses that have allegedly been the site of, “unruly gatherings.”

Cooperating Attorney: H. Jefferson Melish

Learn more about this case >

2007: Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association of RI v. Tavares

Category: Criminal Justice  Due Process  Rights of Ex-Offenders  

Lawsuit challenging the legality of state regulations that authorize the denial or reduction of compensation to violent crime victims based solely on their having an unrelated drug-related criminal history or DUI conviction in their past. Settlement negotiations ensued, and the new General Treasurer agreed to repeal the challenged regulations.

Cooperating Attorney: Frederic Marzilli.

Learn more about this case >

2005: R.I. ACLU v. Najarian

Category: Due Process  Immigration  

Lawsuit challenging the Division of Motor Vehicles’ failure to formally adopt any rules and regulations governing the issuance of drivers’ licenses, such as the eligibility of immigrants to obtain licenses, the documentation required to obtain a license, and the procedures for appealing denials of licenses. In response to the suit, the agency proposed formal rules and held a public hearing on them. The suit was thereupon voluntarily dismissed.

Cooperating Attorney: Thomas W. Lyons

2003: Young v. City of Providence

Category: Due Process  Free Speech  

“Friend of the court” brief challenging, on free speech and due process grounds, the imposition of sanctions on plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Cornel Young, Jr. civil rights case for allegedly misstating the judge’s position in court papers. The district court denied the ACLU permission to file the brief in 2003; the brief was filed in the appellate court in 2004, which overturned the sanctions in 2005.

Cooperating Attorney: Amy R. Tabor

2001: Doeg v. Ferguson

Category: Discrimination  Rights of the Poor  Due Process  

Class-action suit challenging the Department of Human Services’ procedures in conducting food stamp fraud hearings.

2000: State v. Rivera

Category: Due Process  

Obtained the return of $860 seized by the state from the defendant, who had been falsely charged with drug dealing. The state had initially argued that, notwithstanding the false arrest, the money had been lawfully forfeited.

1999: Fernandes v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Category: Discrimination  Racial/Ethnic Discrimination  Due Process  

Successful federal “habeas corpus” petition challenging, on due process grounds, the indefinite detention of this lawful permanent resident awaiting deportation.

1999: Hermanowski v. Farquharson

Category: Due Process  Immigration  

This was the first of a number of successful cases handled by the Affiliate challenging, on due process grounds, the indefinite detention by the INS of lawful permanent residents awaiting deportation.

1997: Malave v. Ferguson

Category: Discrimination  Rights of the Poor  Due Process  

Successful class-action lawsuit challenging the adequacy of notices sent out by the state to certain welfare recipients subject to a newly-imposed monthly reduction in benefits.

1996: Fullen v. Ferguson

Category: Due Process  

Federal lawsuit against Department of Human Services which, in an attempt to recoup child support money more quickly, falsely threatened to take legal action against parents who were in compliance with court-ordered payments toward child support arrearages.

1995: Deery v. Fandetti

Category: Due Process  

Favorably settled lawsuit challenging DCYF’s failure to schedule timely administrative appeals of people charged with child abuse or neglect.

1990: City of Pawtucket v. Gugel

Category: Due Process  

Successful lawsuit challenging a Municipal Court practice of requiring defendants to pay the overtime costs of the police officer who testified in the case.

1987: Donahue and Lawson v. Dept. of MHRH

Category: Due Process  

Favorably settled federal court challenge to procedures used by state in authorizing the emergency commitment of alcoholics.

1986: LaTour v. Amaral

Category: Due Process  

Lawsuit challenging a state commission’s procedures for valuating motor vehicles for tax purposes; favorably settled.

1983: Malagrino v. Miceli

Category: Due Process  

Successful federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a member of Westerly Planning Board who was summarily removed by the Town Council without a hearing.

1982: City of Providence v. Beckman

Category: Due Process  

Successful challenge in Municipal Court to ordinance allowing for tripling of unpaid parking fines prior to a hearing at which the fines could be contested.