(CN) – A magistrate judge in Manhattan refused to block a law professor’s testimony in the case of a transgender lesbian who was arrested at the Republican National Convention and claims New York City’s law enforcement officers “subject transgender individuals to invasive, overly intrusive searches in order to ascertain their genital status.”
Kaitlyn Tikkun sued the city, the New York Police Department and the New York City Department of Correction, claiming she experienced this treatment first-hand after she was arrested with about 1,800 other demonstrators at the 2004 convention.
She said the city implemented a policy of strip-searching detainees for minor offenses, even if they weren’t suspected of concealing weapons or contraband.
This treatment was even worse for transgender detainees, she claimed, due to the officers’ “inappropriate touching or squeezing of their chest and genital areas, as well as partial and full strip searches” to determine their gender.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV on Wednesday denied the city’s motion to preclude the testimony of Tikkun’s expert witness, Dean Spade.
Spade is an assistant law professor at Seattle University School of Law and a former lecturer at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools.
He’s also the founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), a civil rights organization in Manhattan that focuses on equality for gender nonconforming persons, the ruling states. Dean served as a staff attorney there from 2002-2006.
The law professor, who describes himself as an expert “in the field of administrative policy concerning the treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals in sex segregated facilities,” will provide testimony that the “absence of clear policies for the treatment of transgender individuals contributes to ‘widespread’ violation of their rights,” the judge wrote.
Dean said he used information from complaints filed with his law project to help determine the frequency in which NYPD and correction officers violate the rights of transgender individuals.
The city’s attorneys wanted to view the data that helped shape his opinions, but “the information at issue is plainly protected by the attorney-client privilege,” Judge Francis wrote. “It consists of communications between SRLP attorneys and the clients who were seeking advice from them. While not impenetrable, this privilege, unless waived, is carefully guarded by the courts.”
The defendants then filed their unsuccessful motion to preclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness.
“There can be no presumption that the studies were undertaken with a bias based on interest in this case,” the judge wrote. “Professor Spade made his observation independent of this litigation. Similarly, the reports he relies on were created by organizations that have no role in this action.
“The defendants have had a fair opportunity to explore the underpinnings of this more impressionistic testimony, even without access to the files of Professor Spade’s former clients,” he added.
The rest of Tikkun’s compliant mirrored that of other lawsuits filed by arrested and detained protestors.
She accused the city of implementing a “mass arrest policy” to keep demonstrators off the streets during the GOP convention. Her lawsuit said the NYPD arrested scores of people for minor violations such as disorderly conduct or parading without a permit, then fingerprinted all of those arrested to cause excessive delays and to enter their fingerprints into government databases.