This afternoon, Judge Richard Jones issued an order calling for an evidentiary hearing to resolve the accusation by the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County that the Seattle Police Department violated the judge’s preliminary injunction and is thus in contempt.
Jones agreed with a point the city made in its filing yesterday that a contempt charge requires a trial, and the city is entitled to time to prepare for that trial — especially since it claims to have 1,394 videos from police officers’ body-worn cameras to process as part of its investigation. So Jones is ordering an evidentiary hearing so that both sides can present their evidence and he can weigh it all. However, the federal courthouse in Seattle is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so a traditional in-person hearing is not feasible at the moment.
Earlier this week, Jones scheduled a hearing Friday morning for oral arguments in the contempt change. Now Jones is re-purposing that hearing in order to discuss the logistics of holding an evidentiary hearing, including:
- the date, length, and format of the hearing;
- what technology should be used to host the hearing;
- SPD’s plan for the body-worn camera videos, which will be key evidence and must be made available to the plaintiffs in advance as part of the discovery process;
- whether there are alternatives to an evidentiary hearing that the parties would consider.
In its briefing yesterday, the City asked for 60 days to process the videos, officers’ incident reports, and other evidence in its possession. If the judge grants it that much time, that pushes the hearing out into October at the earliest.
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