Hearing in FOIA lawsuit against police department set Monday

A hearing is set Monday in a lawsuit filed by one of the attorneys for the family representing the late Monroe Isadore who says Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act when he did not provide information in a timely manner to the attorney.

Little Rock attorney Lawrence Walker had asked for all documents “that mention or discuss Pine Bluff police officers shooting people in the last five years,” documents that “mention or discuss Pine Bluff police officers discharging firearms in the last five years” and all documents discussing friendly-fire incidents in the last five years.

Walker also wanted any documents or memorandums that mention Isadore, who was killed when he exchanged gunfire with police after a standoff at a Pine Bluff house on Sept. 7, 2013.

The original lawsuit named only Hubanks and the police department as defendants but Walker added the city to the suit when he amended the complaint March 31 after City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott moved to dismiss, saying that the lawsuit was not served on the city’s chief executive, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, as required by law.

In her court filing, Hadden-Scott said the police department could not be sued because it is “merely an appendage of the City of Pine Bluff that does not operate independently of the city government.

“In the City of Pine Bluff, the police department was created by the city council in 1839 to serve at the pleasure of the mayor (i.e., the City can exist without the police department but the police department cannot exist without the City),” Hadden-Scott said.

Walker contends that because Hubanks is the custodian of records for the police department, he can be sued for violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Walker cited a previous court ruling in a case against the North Little Rock Police Department.

Two special prosecutors who reviewed the evidence after Isadore’s death ruled that no criminal charges were warranted against the officer who fired the fatal shot.

At a public meeting held by Walker and Florida attorney Benjamin Crump on April 2, a potential lawsuit against the police department was mentioned but to date, no lawsuit has been filed.

Crump represented the family of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in a wrongful death lawsuit that resulted in a settlement estimated at more than $1 million.

Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis will hear the complaint beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Fifth Division of Circuit Court at the Jefferson County Courthouse.