Donato Dalrymple, et. al. v. United States of America
Judicial Watch represented the family of Lazaro Gonzalez and the family’s neighbors and supporters in a series of civil rights and related lawsuits arising from the April 22, 2000 predawn raid that removed six-year old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from the custody of his Miami relatives.The raid began as the Gonzalez family was finalizing an agreement with then-Attorney General Janet Reno that would have peacefully transferred custody of Elian Gonzalez to his father. Despite the family’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution of their dispute with the government, more than 150 heavily armed federal “shock” troops, adhering to an arbitrary schedule imposed by President Clinton and Reno, descended on the Gonzalez family’s neighborhood. Six federal agents broke down the Gonzalez’s front door and held the family, its lawyers, and negotiators at gunpoint while they searched for and removed the terrified boy from the home. Neighbors and peacefully assembled supporters were gassed, kicked, beaten, cursed, and held at gunpoint by federal agents. The lawsuits were brought in federal district court in Miami, Florida. Several sets of claims were found to be barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity, and, as a result, those claims did not proceed to trial. A bench trial was held on another set of claims.While Judicial Watch ultimately did not succeed in obtaining an award of damages for its clients, the cases highlight Judicial Watch’s commitment to advocate for ordinary citizens who are subjected to abuses of government power. The efforts of Judicial Watch forced both high-level federal officials and individual agents to answer for their actions.
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