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Attorney Must Rework Pulse Civil Rights Lawsuit

United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Photo: Brendan Byrne
United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Photo: Brendan Byrne

A federal judge is asking an attorney to amend a lawsuit filed by 59 survivors and victims’ families of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The plaintiffs allege their civil rights were violated during the shooting by the City of Orlando and the Police Department. The complaint says officers didn’t respond fast enough and illegally detained some plaintiffs for questioning.

Only one officer is named in the lawsuit and there are 30 additional unknown officers identified as only "John Doe." In a pretrial conference, Federal Judge Paul Byron said using “John Does” like this is against court precedent and asked the plaintiffs to rework the complaint. Byron asked Michigan-based attorney Solomon Radner to narrow down the description of each.

“I know what happened at Pulse was a tragedy," said Byron, "but I want to make sure we follow the rules.”

Radner argued that the City of Orlando could possibly have police records that would link his clients to the officers and hoped to uncover their identities during discovery. City attorney David King said multiple jurisdictions were there that night, and the city had publicly release many documents related to the incident on its website.

The judge said Radner's request was a burden on the defense as it could not respond to the lawsuit without knowing specifically who was involved and what they were accused of doing.

The plaintiffs have two weeks to file the amended complaint. The defendants will then have 21 days to file a response. King said he plans to file a motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs are asking for monetary damages and a jury trial. If the lawsuit goes forward, it’s scheduled for February 2020.

Judge Paul Byron presided over the criminal case against the Pulse shooter's wife Noor Salman who was charged with aiding and abetting her husband in the attack. A jury acquitted her earlier this year.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."