The City of Hialeah, Florida, just doesn’t seem to get it.  Is it something in the water down there?

In 1993, Justice Kennedy wrote “Our review confirms that the laws in question were enacted by [City of Hialeah] officials who did not understand, failed to perceive, or chose to ignore the fact that their official actions violated the Nation’s essential commitment to religious freedom.”  Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 524 (1993).  The decision was 9-0.  The Court basically told the City that it did not matter if they liked a particular religion or not, they could not pass a series of ordinances designed to run it out of town and to criminalize the church’s practices.

In 1994, the Eleventh Circuit found that a City officer, Detective Guillermo Mugarra, used excessive force against a black arrestee.  Brown v. City of Hialeah, 30 F.3d 1433 (11th Cir. 1994).  Murarra, during the arrest, yelled “Did you get that, nigger?”, after which Mugarra can be heard shouting, “Kill him, kill him, kill him, get him, get him, kill him” and then, “Kill that son-of-a-bitch.”  Id. at 1434.  The jury at the district court was not allowed to hear the tape recording of this, yet still found that Mugarra used excessive force.  The case was remanded for retrial, presumably to allow a higher damage award.

In 1976, two City detectives, Fermin Rodriguez and Philip Rydzewski, applied for a search warrant to try and recover jewelry taken in burglaries and allegedly sold to a Hispanic-owned jewelry store.  The warrant, in its description of the property to be seized, listed items like “gold necklace”, “gold earrings”, and similar descriptions.  Really?  That gives you enough information to identify stolen earrings from legitimate earrings?  The officers seized 800 items valued at $75,000 based on those descriptions.  As a coincidence (yeah, right), the media was present at the raid, and the persons arrested were identified as running the largest stolen-jewelry fencing ring in southern Florida.  The trial court took one look at the warrant, the descriptions, and the evidence, and immediately suppressed all of it.  Marrero v. Hialeah, 625 F.2d 499 (5th Cir. 1980); Marrero v. Hialeah, 581 F. Supp. 1207 (S.D. Fla. 1984).

In an employment discrimination case, the City won on a technicality.  In City of Hialeah v. Rojas, 311 F.3d 1096 (11th Cir. 2002), the Eleventh Circuit found for the City because the plaintiffs had not filed the proper paperwork with Equal Employment office within the proper time.  The facts of the case, as recited by the court, show that the problem was real.  Basically what the City did was discriminate against Hispanics in employment.  They would hire a Hispanic worker as a temporary employee, allow them to work for nine months, then terminate him and immediately rehire him for another nine months.  This avoided the Hispanic employee being able to earn retirement credit, longevity pay, and vacation benefits.  The court was clear that the City discriminated, it just could not be sued due to the statute of limitations.

Other cases include Velazquez v. City of Hialeah, 484 F.3d 1340 (11th Cir. 2007) (use of excessive force, beating a handcuffed prisoner); Ashley v. City of Hialeah, No. 11-20490-CIV-HUCK/BANDSTRA, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83009 (S.D. Fla. 2011) (use of excessive force, false arrest); Heath v. Hialeah, 560 F. Supp. 840 (S.D. Fla. 1983) (wrongful death, police cover-up); and Sanchez v. Hialeah Police Dep’t, 357 Fed. Appx. 229 (11th Cir. 2009) (use of excessive force, beating a handcuffed prisoner).

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