Philadelphia Common Pleas Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by the city police officers’ union against District Attorney Larry Krasner, claiming that a list of allegedly tainted cops maintained by Krasner to keep them from testifying in court violated their constitutional rights.
The suit, filed in November against Krasner, Mayor Jim Kenney, and then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross, alleged that officers had been placed on the list without due process. It claimed that the officers on the list had not been allowed to defend themselves before a fair and impartial tribunal, and that their reputations had been harmed as a result.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby said in a statement late Friday afternoon that the union would appeal the ruling. “The FOP is extremely disappointed in [the] dismissal,” McNesby said.
Earlier Friday, Krasner declared the decision to be a victory for the U.S. Constitution.
“I am pleased that the court has thrown out this frivolous, politically motivated lawsuit meant to distract from the urgent need to increase transparency and accountability within the Philadelphia Police Department to ensure a truly fair, ethical, and efficient system of criminal justice,” Krasner said in a statement.
Krasner said his office maintains what he calls the Police Misconduct Disclosure Database, which documents officers with “histories of arrests, convictions, disciplinary violations or documented behaviors that warrant disclosure to defendants.”
Under the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors must turn over to the defense any evidence that might exonerate a defendant. Criminal cases can be dismissed by judges if evidence raising doubts about the integrity of an officer is revealed after the officer has testified in court.
“To ensure just outcomes, we must have assurances that defendants’ constitutional rights are respected and upheld. The Police Misconduct Disclosure Database seeks to ensure there is integrity in the criminal justice system,” Krasner said.
Krasner accused the “FOP leadership” of having misplaced priorities that “protect and often promote officers who do wrong at the expenses of officers who do right.”
McNesby countered: “Our officers understand that prosecutors must comply with state and federal law regarding disclosures under Brady v. Maryland. However, DA Krasner has once again pushed his anti-law=enforcement agenda to malign and denigrate hardworking and dedicated police officers.”
Both sides said separately that they are otherwise working to protect the citizens of Philadelphia.
Earlier last year, Krasner released a list of 29 current and former officers whom prosecutors had sought to keep off the witness stand after a review determined they had a history of lying, racial bias, or brutality. The compilation is referred to by some as a “do not call list.”
A list was first put together in 2017 under former District Attorney Seth Williams and the names were released the following year by Krasner under court order. Krasner has added more officers as part of his updated database.
The lawsuit filed by the FOP, which represents nearly 6,500 city police, sought a court order to stop Krasner from placing more officers’ names on any list, and to stop the mayor and police commissioner from helping Krasner unless an acceptable due-process system was established by the District Attorney’s Office.
McNesby’s statement on the court ruling said it was issued Friday. Krasner’s statement said it was issued this week. A spokesperson for Krasner said it might have been Wednesday but she didn’t know for certain. The online system for reviewing civil court records in Philadelphia was not accessible Friday.