Denver Justice and Peace Committee v. City of Golden

Criminal Justice | Freedom of Expression & Religion | Privacy & Technology
Case No. 02-Z-0473, United States District Court, District of Colorado; 03-1470, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
ACLU Case No. 2001-13


The Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC) is an interfaith grass-roots peace and justice organization that has worked for nonviolent social change since the early 1980s. In December 2000, it sponsored a demonstration outside Kohl's Department Store in Golden and handed out leaflets criticizing the sweatshop-like conditions in the Nicaraguan factories where some of Kohl's clothing is produced. While the leafleting was in progress, four persons dressed in Santa Claus costumes arrived, entered the store, and vandalized some of the Nicaraguan-produced clothing. The DJPC condemns such tactics.

Nevertheless, Golden police obtained a warrant purporting to authorize seizure of the DJPC mailing list and any "pamphlets, papers, and fliers that are protest related." Police searched the office and seized the 60-page mailing list, as well as mailing lists of other advocacy organizations, additional lists of names and addresses, newsletters, fundraising letters, and advocacy materials on a variety of issues.

DJPC sued, alleging that that this search and seizure violated its rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. The suit further alleged that a patdown frisk of DJPC staff member Luis Espinosa was conducted without justification, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The district court ruled that the officers’ warrant to search the premises did not authorize them to conduct a suspicionless patdown frisk of Mr. Espinosa. The Tenth Circuit affirmed that ruling in a published decision. The district court also ruled that the search of DJPC’s offices violated the Fourth Amendment and that the detective who supervised the search was not entitled to any governmental immunity. The court further ordered the District Attorney’s Office to remove from its files all copies of DJPC’s mailing list and other illegally-seized documents.


Lino Lipinsky
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director

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