By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has agreed to pay up to $75 million to resolve a civil rights lawsuit accusing its police of engaging in a widespread pattern of issuing criminal summonses to individuals without probable cause in order to meet minimum quotas.
The deal, detailed in court papers filed in federal court in Manhattan, would resolve a long-running class action lawsuit brought by several plaintiffs who claimed they were issued summonses without probable cause that were later dismissed.
"We have achieved a landmark settlement in a civil rights case that advances the cause of justice," said Elinor Sutton, a lawyer for the plaintiffs with the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquart & Sullivan.
The lawsuit alleged the summonses violated defendants' rights under the U.S. Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants be supported by probable cause.
Under the settlement, the New York City Police Department will issue guidance to reiterate that the department does not use quotas to mandate that officers make a particular number of arrests, summonses or stops, the city's Law Department said.
The city will set aside $56.5 million to pay a maximum of $150 per person covered by the deal per incident, according to court papers. Another $18.5 million would go toward paying attorneys' fees.
Under the settlement, which must be approved by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet, any amount not claimed will revert back to the city, meaning the total payout could be significantly less. The city also continues to deny the existence of a quota system.
The deal came on top of other reforms enacted under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who in June signed a law that would give the NYPD the ability to issue civil rather than criminal summonses for certain quality-of-life offenses.
"This settlement reflects the remarkable progress the NYPD has made to ensure that summonses are properly drafted and include sufficient details to document probable cause," New York City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said in a statement.
Filed in 2010, the lawsuit alleged that the NYPD officers engaged in a pattern and practice in which they stop, searched, arrested and issued summonses to individuals regardless of whether a crime or violation occurred.
According to court papers, of the more than 3.86 million summonses issued by the NYPD from May 2007 to December 2015, 899,719 were dismissed on the grounds of being facially insufficient.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Leslie Adler)