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Federal judge denies NAACP-LDF motion to intervene in Baltimore consent decree case

A federal judge has denied a request by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to intervene in the consent decree case between Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice, expressing confidence that the federal government will honor the police reform deal he approved and entered as an order of the court on Friday.

The NAACP-LDF, a leading national civil rights legal organization, had filed a motion to intervene on behalf of local activist Ralph E. Moore Jr. and Community Churches for Community Development, a local advocacy organization, arguing they had a stake in the case as individuals who had suffered unconstitutional policing in the city.

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The group had expressed concern that the Justice Department, which initially brought the complaint against the city to force reforms, would not follow through because of a change in position — namely, toward skepticism of such federally-backed law enforcement reform efforts — under the Trump administration.

The NAACP-LDF sought to intervene to ensure the deal was approved, and ensure it was enforced.

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In denying the motion, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar wrote that the organization's request to intervene in order to ensure the decree was approved was "moot," given that he had approved it.

Bredar wrote that the organization's request to intervene in order to seek enforcement was "not ripe," because there were no indications at the moment that it will not be enforced.

Bredar wrote that, despite the Justice Department's requests for delay in the case last week, "there is no evidence before the Court that the Government would decline to comply with the decree once entered."

"Even when the Government expressly opposes the entry of Court orders (something that never happened in this case) the Government invariably complies with such orders once entered," Bredar wrote. "Such is the case in a nation of laws. Nothing in this record remotely suggests that the Government will not diligently enforce the decree now that it has been entered."

Bredar wrote that neither the city nor the Justice Department needed to weigh in on the motion, and there would not be a hearing.

Bredar denied the NAACP-LDF motion to intervene to seek enforcement of the deal without prejudice, meaning the group could consider another, similar motion at a later date if they felt the deal was not being enforced.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP-LDF, said her group will be watching closely.

"We made our request to intervene in the face of the Justice Department's open hostility towards the consent decree in this case, and its efforts to stall the long-awaited approval of this decree," Ifill said in a statement. "This ruling leaves open the opportunity to renew our request, and we stand ready to file again should the DOJ not meet its obligations in overseeing the consent decree. We are unwavering in our commitment to ensuring the people of Baltimore can live free from unconstitutional policing practices."

Before Bredar approved the deal Friday, the Justice Department had unsuccessfully sought to delay the case. After he approved the deal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he supports reform but has "grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city."

That stance has caused concern among some reform advocates that Sessions' Justice Department would try to back away from the deal.

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