Seattle Violated Constitutional Rights of WTO Protesters, Jury Says

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A Seattle jury found that the City violated the constitutional rights of peaceful demonstrators who were arrested during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) conference. The law firm of Brayton Purcell is a strong supporter of the Public Justice organization, a nationwide public interest law firm that brought the lawsuit challenging Seattle's action during the conference.

A Seattle jury found that the City violated the constitutional rights of more than 175 peaceful demonstrators who were arrested during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) conference (Kenneth Hankin et al. v. City of Seattle, No. C00-1672MJP, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington). The protesters were in a downtown "no protest zone" designated by city officials only after the conference began. Out of about 50,000 protesters, some were violent and observers say the police overreacted.

The class action lawsuit charged that the demonstrators were arrested because of their anti-WTO opinions. An earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman found that Seattle had violated the demonstrators' rights and that there was no probable cause for the arrests.

"I sincerely hope that what happened to us in Seattle does not happen to peaceful protesters again, whether in this city of anywhere else in our country," said Ken Hankin, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. He and other protesters had been arrested and jailed for almost four days before all charges were dropped.

Brayton Purcell Proudly Supports Public Interest Law

The WTO lawsuit was brought by Public Justice (formerly, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice), a public interest law firm whose mission is to "take on cases that make a difference and preserve access to justice through precedent-setting litigation nationwide." The group's lead trial counsel in the lawsuit was Michael Withey of Seattle, who was assisted on the case by an entire team of talented lawyers including Leslie Bailey, the Brayton-Baron Fellow at Public Justice.

The law firm of Brayton Purcell is proud to be a supporter of Public Justice. Alan Brayton, the founding and senior partner of Brayton Purcell, is the president of the Public Justice Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that supports access to justice and the activities of the Public Justice law firm.

Brayton Purcell also cosponsors the Brayton-Baron fellowship for promising attorneys who are recent law school graduates. The fellowship recipient makes a two-year commitment to work in the Oakland, California office of Public Justice, helping staff attorneys and networking with other public interest groups.

About Brayton Purcell

For over 20 years, Brayton Purcell has helped clients protect their legal rights in the face of devastating losses such as illness, injuries, harm to family members and attacks on our civil liberties. The law firm enjoys a national reputation for the high quality of its personal injury and product liability work, preserving civil liberties, and keeping the doors to the courthouse open for all citizens. For more information, call 415-898-1555 or visit the firm's web site at


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