Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


December 30, 1985


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Getzendanner, District Judge:


This civil rights action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, presents the question of whether the first amendment permits local police authorities to infiltrate, observe, record, and disseminate information gathered on the lawful speech activities of private individuals and private organizations when the police have no reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. This question is now before the court on cross motions for summary judgment.

The moving plaintiffs are the only remaining named plaintiffs in this historic civil rights litigation. The class claims were resolved through a consent decree entered in 1981 and the claims of all other named plaintiffs have been resolved through settlements. The court's decision on the cross motions for summary judgment will end this litigation because the parties have agreed to settlement of any successful claim and all parties have agreed not to appeal this decision.

I. Background and Factual Summary

The parties have stipulated to the following material facts as to which there is no genuine dispute: Plaintiff Alliance to End Repression ("Alliance") is a civil liberties organization that seeks what it deems to be reforms in the criminal justice system of Chicago. Plaintiff Chicago Peace Council ("CPC") is a peace organization which advocates positions on peace issues and organizes demonstrations regarding United States foreign policy. Plaintiff William Hogan, a Roman Catholic priest, plaintiff Lucy Montgomery, a retired social worker, and plaintiff A.A. (Sammy) Rayner, Jr., a former Chicago alderman, are all United States citizens who in the past have actively exercised their first amendment rights. There is no evidence in the record that any of the plaintiffs conducted, or ever planned on conducting any violent or otherwise unlawful activity. Plaintiffs indicate that if the case were brought to trial, they would testify that their activities were always lawful. The only defendant in this case is the City of Chicago ("City"); claims against individual members of the Chicago Police Department have been settled and dismissed. The actions complained of in this case are deemed to have been done under color of state law and represent the official policy of the City of Chicago.

Plaintiffs, it is agreed, were the subjects of investigations carried out by a unit of the Chicago Police Department, the explicit purpose of which was to gather intelligence on non-criminal activity. The unit has been variously known as the Subversive Activities Section, the Subversive Activities Unit, and the Security Section. This unit investigated, without any reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, the admittedly lawful activities of plaintiffs relating to their political speech and associations. The investigations were conducted by a variety of means. Among the more striking examples was the use of certain organization infiltrators. Specifically, some of the information accumulated on CPC was obtained by means of an informer who became CPC's treasurer and participated in the CPC decision-making process. Information was obtained on Alliance by means of an informer and an undercover agent, both of whom became Alliance board members and who participated in the Alliance decision-making process. More generally, a sizeable amount of information on the two organizations was obtained from newspaper clippings and clippings from other public sources of information. Intelligence was also gathered from various other informers whose level of infiltration or association with the plaintiffs is not specified. Finally, photographing, filming, videotaping and recording of plaintiffs' activities were also techniques employed in acquiring information. One such instance occurred when CPC, along with other groups, rented the grounds of a summer camp one weekend for a conference on nonviolent ways to "end war, racism, and repression." The police set up equipment opposite the camp and took photographs of all who were present at the conference.

Similarly, information gathered on the three individual plaintiffs was also obtained through the techniques of informer interviews, newspaper clippings and photographs. There does not, however, appear to be any evidence that the informers were (or were not) specifically recruited by the police to duplicitously befriend the individuals and obtain their confidence. Finally, there is no evidence that any of the five plaintiffs were electronically surveilled, wiretapped, or photographed in their homes or other private enclaves.

The various forms of information thus obtained were filed and recorded in police dossiers on each of the plaintiffs. These dossiers are extensive. There are 13 volumes of reports on Alliance, 1,760 reports on CPC, 499 reports on Hogan, 220 on Montgomery, and 513 on Rayner. The contents of these reports include the identities of many members of the CPC and Alliance, what was discussed at meetings, and who made particular comments during the discussions. The reports on the individual plaintiffs contain the identities of their political associates and numerous other details of their public and personal lives.

The parties agree that the police department maintained a policy, directed against Alliance, which sought to "neutralize" and "nullify" its political influence, financial organization and support, and operational activities. The parties also have stipulated that as a result of the surveillance of CPC at the summer camp, a reporter who "accompanied" the police to the camp published a newspaper story in the Chicago Tribune which stated that "radicals" and "Communists" had used the property for a "secret revolutionary planning session." There is evidence, the parties agree, that a Security Section police officer, an undercover officer, and an informer testified inaccurately before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee that Alliance was a "Communist Party front group." Alliance and CPC have indicated that, if the case were tried, they would testify that these statements were false and have injured their reputations. All five plaintiffs have indicated that they would testify that the entire surveillance operation has chilled their exercise of first amendment rights.

One year after this lawsuit was filed, the subversive unit of the Chicago Police Department was abolished. In 1981, the defendant City of Chicago agreed to a permanent injunction. Alliance to End Repression v. Chicago, 561 F. Supp. 537 (N.D.Ill. 1982), rev'd on other grounds, 742 F.2d 1007 (7th Cir. 1984). Consent decrees were also signed with the federal defendants. Alliance to End Repression v. Chicago, 91 F.R.D. 182 (N.D.Ill. 1982). The only remaining issue in this case is the constitutional validity of the police department's tactics with respect to the five remaining plaintiffs.

II. Justiciability

Before the merits of the plaintiffs' claim can be decided the court must first address the defendant's argument that, under the authority of Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 92 S.Ct. 2318, 33 L.Ed.2d 154 (1972), the plaintiffs have no standing to bring this claim because it is nonjusticiable. Only if the plaintiffs can establish that their injury is justiciable can this court then undertake to determine whether the injury was inflicted in a manner inconsistent with the first amendment.

A. The Relevant Case Law

In Laird v. Tatum, the plaintiffs had alleged that the mere existence of an Army surveillance system which investigated lawful and peaceful civilian activity chilled the exercise of their first amendment rights. The Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision, that "in the absence of a showing of objective harm or a specific threatened future harm," any claimed chill is merely "subjective" and therefore not justiciable.

Although the surveillance system under attack in Tatum and the one in this case are similar in that much of the intelligence was garnered from news publications, none of the information in Tatum was obtained through the clandestine infiltration some of the plaintiffs experienced here. In Tatum, when news publications were insufficient to satisfy Army intelligence needs, the Army, which apparently was not claiming to have had any suspicion of criminal conduct, properly kept its surveillance limited to the public domain. The Court emphasized the public scope of the investigation as follows:

  The information itself was collected by a variety of
  means, but it is significant that the principal
  sources of information were the news media and
  publications in general circulation. Some of the
  information came from Army Intelligence agents who
  attended meetings that were open to the public and
  who wrote field reports describing the meetings,
  giving such data as the name of the sponsoring
  organization, the identity of speakers, the
  approximate number of persons in attendance, and an
  indication of whether any disorder occurred. And
  still other information was provided to the Army by
  civilian law enforcement agencies.

408 U.S. at 6, 92 S.Ct. at 2322.

It was in this context that the plaintiffs in Tatum claimed that the compilation and storage of the acquired information chilled their exercise of first amendment rights. The Court felt that the intrusions the plaintiffs were objecting to were unlike and much less significant than those the Court had previously condemned on first amendment grounds, so any "chill" the plaintiffs claimed to be suffering was purely "subjective." The types of intrusions which the Court felt would cause an objective chill occurred in cases like Baird v. State Bar of Arizona, 401 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 702, 27 L.Ed.2d 639 (1971) (state may not compel a person to disclose that person's associations in order to be admitted to state bar); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967) (state may not discharge employees because of their political associations); Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301, 85 S.Ct. 1493, 14 L.Ed.2d 398 (1965), and Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 84 S.Ct. 1316, 12 L.Ed.2d 377 (1964). In those cases, "the challenged exercise of governmental power was regulatory, proscriptive, or compulsory in nature, and the complainant was either presently or prospectively subject to the regulations, proscriptions, or compulsions that he was challenging." 408 U.S. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.