Pottinger Volunteer Page

Welcome ...
Thank you for your interest in helping to protect basic constitutional rights of homeless people within the City of Miami. These rights are protected by the Pottinger consent decree.

The Pottinger consent decree was approved by the federal district court in Miami in 1998, and modified somewhat in 2014. It resulted from a lawsuit brought in 1988 by the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU.

The Pottinger consent decree puts limits on police power to arrest homeless individuals for certain minor offenses, and protects homeless people’s property from being arbitrarily seized. It has been hailed as “the gold standard” in civil rights litigation to protect the constitutional rights of homeless persons. (More background here.)

With the assistance of the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, Professor Schnably is seeking volunteers to assist a team of ACLU cooperating attorneys in monitoring the City of Miami’s compliance with the Pottinger rules.

How can I get involved?
  • Externship with the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, Spring 2016:

    Please contact the CDO for details. The position description is as follows: “The MCH intern will develop legal skills, including client interviewing, drafting legal memos and documents, and compliance-related fact-finding, through work on a major federal civil rights case, Pottinger v. City of Miami. The Pottinger consent decree protects the constitutional rights of homeless persons in Miami. Focusing on monitoring the City’s compliance with the decree, the intern will work primarily under the supervision of an MCH attorney, and also assist a team of ACLU attorneys, including Professor Schnably. The intern will interview homeless persons about their interactions with City police; monitor mass police sweeps when possible; write up affidavits and complaints of violations of the consent decree; draft public records requests; and assist with other litigation-related matters. As capacity allows, the intern will assist the Policy & Program Director on other homelessness and housing advocacy.”

  • Pottinger Compliance Database:

    • If you have limited time, you can still make a big difference! You can help us input a month’s worth of police reports into our compliance database.

      To help make sure the protections of the Pottinger consent decree are actually enforced, police officers are required to document every encounter they have with a homeless person. These “Field Information Cards” provide basic information about the name of the individual, whether he or she was arrested, and if so, what for.

      These records are vital to enforcement of the decree, but unless they are in a database they are of limited usefulness. Entering them into the database is simple -- if you volunteer, you will be assigned a month’s worth of FICs and be given a spreadsheet along with a clear, step-by-step Manual that explains how to do it.

      • If you want to take a look at the Manual, click here. You will need to put the following password in to see it: ficvolunteer

    • Why do it?

      • It’s important!
      • It’s a very useful opportunity to see police records in detail and get a concrete sense of what it means to enforce a consent decree.
      • You can do it from anywhere. The FICs will be provided to you in .pdf form, and the spreadsheet in Excel form.
        • Note: you do not have to be an expert at spreadsheets to enter the data. No formulas are involved!
      • It’s not a huge ongoing commitment of your time, but you can still make a difference. How many FICs there are in a month varies, but it should typically something like 5-7 hours to complete it. You can take on one month or as many as you would like; feel free to start out with one month, and then decide whether you would like to do another.
      • You can do it now or over the winter break.

    • To get involved in the compliance database project: Please email Professor Schnably (schnably@law.miami.edu) to indicate your interest, with a copy to his assistant, Andrea Garcia (agarcia1@law.miami.edu)

  • Legal Research and/or Client Interviewing:

    • We may have additional volunteer opportunities in the spring involving legal research or interviewing homeless persons. These will be announced as they arise. We’ll give preference to those who’ve helped out with database.