The Policing Project at NYU School of Law, the global law firm Jones Day, the law firm Lawrence & Bundy, and Canfield Law LLC have filed an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit against Clayton County police. A range of ideologically diverse groups and individuals have filed amicus briefs in support of the appeal.
ATLANTA – The Policing Project at NYU School of Law, the global law firm Jones Day, the law firm Lawrence & Bundy, and Canfield Law LLC have filed an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Eric André and Clayton English, internationally celebrated comedians and actors, in their lawsuit alleging a program of racial discrimination and unconstitutional jet bridge stops by the Clayton County Police Department (“CCPD”) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
A wide range of groups and individuals – including several high-ranking current and former law enforcement officials; a group of prominent Black actors and directors including Tyler Perry, Jamie Foxx, Taraji P. Henson, Sterling K. Brown, and Jean Elie; several empirical scholars; the Cato Institute; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the Institute for Justice; and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia – have filed amicus briefs in support of Mr. André and Mr. English. Among other topics, the amicus briefs discuss the history of interference with Black people’s freedom of movement; the dignitary harm that Black people suffer when racially profiled by police; the ineffectiveness of jet bridge stops in accomplishing any law enforcement goal; and the detrimental effect that racially discriminatory police stops have on public safety.
Through their counsel, Mr. André and Mr. English filed their lawsuit in October 2022, after both men were profiled and unlawfully stopped in nearly identical incidents several months apart. The officers singled out Mr. André and Mr. English—who were not suspected of any criminal conduct—on the jet bridge as they were attempting to board their flights, blocked them from continuing down the jet bridge, interrogated them about their travels, and peppered them with questions about whether they were carrying illegal drugs.
The experiences of Mr. André and Mr. English are not isolated incidents. Mr. André and Mr. English’s counsel obtained data, which revealed that CCPD’s specialized “Airport Interdiction Unit” stopped 402 individuals on jet bridges during the eight-month period in which Mr. André and Mr. English were stopped. Although officers claim that they stop passengers at random, 56 percent of passengers stopped whose race was recorded are Black, even though just 8 percent of the airport’s domestic passengers are Black. The odds of that racial breakdown occurring randomly is less than one in one hundred trillion.
Since the case was first filed, several other Black professionals in the entertainment industry have spoken publicly about similar experiences of harassment and intimidation by law enforcement at the Atlanta airport. In October of 2023, as part of an investigation into racial profiling and civil asset forfeiture at that airport, Atlanta News First spoke with Mr. English and film director Tabari Sturdivant about their experiences being stopped at the Atlanta airport, and included footage from actor Jean Elie documenting his experience with a jet bridge stop.
Despite the allegations in Mr. André and Mr. English’s complaint, which support claims of Fourth Amendment and Equal Protection Clause violations, the district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the case in September 2023, relying in part on the doctrine of qualified immunity. Mr. André and Mr. English’s appeal challenges that dismissal and asks the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the case and allow it to proceed to discovery, to learn the full facts regarding CCPD’s unconstitutional interdiction program.
Mr. André and Mr. English have requested oral argument before the Eleventh Circuit. A decision in the case is expected later this year.
The Policing Project at NYU School of Law promotes public safety through transparency, equity, and democratic engagement. Learn about the Policing Project at www.policingproject.org.