On August 11 and 12, 2017, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville for a violent rally that resulted in one death and countless injuries to the residents of Charlottesville, Virginia. Attorney Roberta A. Kaplan was engaged by the activist organization Integrity First for America to file a civil suit against the white supremacist groups responsible for the violence. Ms. Kaplan successfully argued for Edie Windsor in United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013), the Supreme Court case that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Pace Law School was honored to have Ms. Kaplan as its 2017 commencement speaker.
The first amended complaint details the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs, names the defendants, including individuals and organizations, and provides details of the planning activities, including those on social media, leading up to the Charlottesville violence. The plaintiffs hope
to ensure that nothing like this will happen again at the hands of Defendants—not on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and not anywhere else in the United States of America.
The white supremacist organizations and individuals are charged with civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(3) & 1986 and various provisions of the Virginia Code; with negligence per se; with violation of Va. Code § 8.01-42.1 (civil action for racial, religious, or ethnic harassment); with assault and battery; and with intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, and the plaintiffs have filed a memorandum in opposition to defendants’ motion to dismiss.
The case is Sines v. Kessler, No. 3:17-cv-00072 (W.D. Va. Oct 11, 2017). Information about the individuals who provide funding to neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations may be uncovered during the discovery phase.
Ms. Kaplan modeled this lawsuit on one filed against anti-abortion activists who posted the names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions on their website. The plaintiffs successfully used civil conspiracy law to prove that this resulted in the murder of some of those doctors, and won a significant judgment for damages.
- Integrity First for America includes documents filed for the plaintiffs.
- Alan Feuer, Planners of Deadly Charlottesville Rally Are Tested in Court, N.Y. Times, Feb. 12, 2018.
- Richard C. Schragger, When White Supremacists Invade a City, 104 Va. L. Rev. Online 58 (2018).
- Jonathan Capeheart, Roberta Kaplan Takes on the Neo-Nazis and Other Bigots Who Terrorized Charlottesville, Wash. Post, Oct. 17, 2017.
- Charlottesville Violence Planned Over Discord Servers: Unicorn Riot Reports, Sept. 5, 2017.
- Joe Helm, Recounting a Day of Rage, Hate, Violence and Death, Wash. Post, Aug. 14, 2017.