It seems some things haven’t changed much since the time of Stonewall

Students in the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, working with the Urban Justice Center and the New York Civil Liberties Union, are seeking to compel the New York City Police Department to release records of prostitution arrests and a series of dungeon raids.  This follows the department’s refusal to release records in response to a Freedom of Information Law request. The students have filed a demand for the records, known as an Article 78 proceeding, in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.  Their brief in support of the petition is here.

“It is outrageous that the NYPD has refused to turn over these documents because the Freedom of Information Law was designed to provide New Yorkers with exactly this kind of publicly available information,” said Kinara Flagg, ’11, a Clinic student working on this case.

According to multiple reports, between April and September of 2008, the NYPD conducted a series of raids targeting establishments that offer sex services including bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (BDSM). During the raids, the police made multiple prostitution arrests. Afterwards, numerous BDSM businesses in New York closed.

More recently, the Clinic has encountered repeated reports of police officers confiscating condoms and using them as evidence that the condom carrier was committing a prostitution-related crime. The filing seeks information regarding these arrests as well.  “Carrying condoms and participating in BDSM experiences are not crimes,” said Larra Morris, ’11. “New Yorkers have a right to know how prostitution laws are applied and whether their legal conduct might result in arrest.”

The Urban Justice Center filed the original information request, which is the basis for this appeal, in September 2008, seeking documents to clarify how the NYPD interprets and applies prostitution laws when making arrests. But the NYPD has repeatedly refused to comply with these requests.  “We hope and expect that the court will compel the NYPD to finally provide us with these documents,” said Erin Meyer, ’11.  The NYPD is required to file a response within 30 days.

Since January, Flagg, Meyer, and Morris have worked in conjunction with the Urban Justice Center and the New York Civil Liberties Union to clarify the application of prostitution and prostitution-related laws and advocate against the use of condoms as evidence in these crimes. The students spent the semester gathering facts and preparing for this proceeding.  See previous post on this issue


  1. Gender & Sexuality Law Blog » Blog Archive » Clinic Students Seek … http://bit.ly/abQSCN

  2. US: Clinic Students Seek to Compel NYPD to Release Records Related to Prostitution Arrests and Dungeon Raids http://shar.es/m73cc

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