Contact: Hilary Lyons 646-653-2871

Judicial Inquiry into Eric Garner’s Death Could Begin on July 19

Following a discovery conference yesterday in Carr v. de Blasio, the Court scheduled July 19 as the potential date to begin a judicial inquiry into Eric Garner’s death.

As part of the judicial inquiry, Mayor de Blasio, former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, and others could be called to take the stand and answer questions about City officials’ neglect and violations of duties related to the killing of Eric Garner and the lack of discipline of officers other than Daniel Pantaleo.

“It’s been nearly 7 years since my son Eric was murdered, and almost 2 years since we first filed a petition to get answers from Mayor de Blasio and the City,” said Gwen Carr (she/her), mother of Eric Garner. “Last week Mayor de Blasio tweeted about the horrific killing of Daunte Wright, saying ‘we need a full investigation into what happened’ and we absolutely do. But Mayor de Blasio is calling for investigations in other cities while delaying and blocking the investigation into my son’s killing that happened right here in Staten Island. My family and New Yorkers deserve answers. I’m glad it looks like the judicial inquiry is moving forward for July, and we're still calling on de Blasio to stop the delay tactics, drop his appeal, and fire Officer Justin D’Amico, Lt Christopher Bannon and others.”

“Mayor de Blasio’s legal tricks to delay and obstruct this historic judicial inquiry from going forward have been repeatedly struck down and now it looks like we'll be seeing the City in court in July," said Loyda Colon (they/them), spokesperson for CPR and Executive Director of the Justice Committee. "No matter how long de Blasio continues to baselessly delay and obstruct, New Yorkers will be here, showing up, to demand justice and accountability. Mayor de Blasio needs to drop the appeal, fire officers like Justin D’Amico, Lt. Christopher Bannon and other officers, and provide the answers that Eric Garner’s family has been fighting to get for nearly 7 years.”

“The Garner family and the public have been seeking answers for almost seven years,” said Alvin Bragg, New York Law School Professor and Co-Director of NYLS’s Racial Justice Project, and Gideon Oliver, civil rights attorney and past President of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “We are encouraged that the Court scheduled a date for the judicial inquiry. We look forward to having discussions with the City about getting the type of discovery that would start to address key issues raised by the petition and thereby facilitate having a meaningful public inquiry.” Professor Bragg and Mr. Oliver represent the petitioners along with Rachel Welt, Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow at NYLS.

Yesterday’s discovery conference was before Judge Erika M. Edwards. Judge Edwards previously directed the petitioners and the City to try to reach an agreement about discovery. However, the City failed to respond to the petitioners’ discovery requests. Yesterday, Judge Edwards directed the City to meaningfully consider the petitioners' discovery requests and said that she may direct discovery at the next hearing on June 9.

Last month, in a rare move, the New York State Appellate Division, First Department ruled that the judicial inquiry could proceed and denied the de Blasio administration’s request that it be stayed while the City appeals the lawsuit.

Next Steps

The next court date is June 9 at 10:00 a.m. At that time, the Court will evaluate any voluntary disclosures by the City and assess what, if any, additional discovery the Court will direct. In addition, the City’s appeal, which is ongoing, is expected to be heard by the Appellate Division, First Department during its June 2021 term.

Legal History

On August 27, 2019, the New York Law School Racial Justice Project and the Law Offices of Gideon Oliver filed a petition on behalf of Eric Garner’s mother, sister, and police accountability organizers against the Mayor of New York City, the NYPD Police Commissioner, and other New York City officials. The petition was brought under Section 1109 of the New York City Charter, a “sunlight” provision.

The City moved to dismiss the lawsuit. On September 24, 2020, Justice Joan A. Madden issued a decision allowing a judicial inquiry to move forward with respect to alleged violations and neglect of duty in connection with: (1) the stop, arrest, and use of force against Mr. Garner; (2) the filing of false official documents concerning Mr. Garner's arrest; (3) the leaking of Mr. Garner's alleged arrest history and medical condition in the autopsy report; and (4) the alleged lack of medical care provided to Mr. Garner by police officers.

The City filed a notice of appeal, and during conferences with the Court, argued that it was entitled to an “automatic stay” halting all proceedings in the matter during the course of its appeal. Following arguments on that question, on December 23, 2020, the Court ruled that the “automatic stay” was not triggered and ordered the parties to move forward with further proceedings. Following Justice Madden’s retirement from the bench, Justice Erika M. Edwards was assigned to preside over the case.

On February 12, 2021, the City filed a motion with the Appellate Division, First Department, the appeals court, seeking to stay the judicial inquiry. On March 23, 2021, the First Department denied this request. The First Department is expected to hear the appeal during its June 2021 term.

In addition to the petition brought under Section 1109, the petitioners submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board relating to Mr. Garner’s arrest and death.


About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end abusive and discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.

About the New York Law School Racial Justice Project

The Racial Justice Project is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of people who have been denied their rights on the basis of race, and to increasing public awareness of racism and racial injustice in the areas of education, employment, political participation, economic inequality, and criminal justice. The Project’s work includes impact litigation, appellate advocacy, legislative advocacy, training, and public education.

Topics: Eric Garner