[CORRECTION BELOW] So who is Judge Lucy Billings, the night-owl judge who issued a restraining order against the city and the NYPD early this morning, prohibiting cops from keeping protesters and tents out of Zuccotti Park? Well, it probably won't shock you to learn that before becoming a judge in 1997, Billings
spent a quarter of a century as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union was an ACLU lawyer for 3 or 4 years, from 1986 to 1989. So when the National Lawyers Guild rang her up in the middle of the night, it probably didn't take much arm twisting to get her to go to bat for the protesters' civil liberties. The Daily News reports:
Lawyers for Occupy Wall Street phoned Billings after cops moved into Zuccotti Park early Tuesday, evicted the protesters and got rid of their tents and other camp equipment. Asked why they called her first, protest lawyer Daniel Alterman wouldn’t say, remarking that he’s not a “gossip guy.”
The lawyers also called an emergency hotline set up to assign judges to after-hours cases. A staffer told them that since Billings had already been contacted, she should handle the Zuccotti matter. He said Billings came to the lawyers and at 6:30 a.m. signed an order declaring cops cannot evict protesters who aren’t breaking the law or stop protesters from entering with tents.
Lawyers for the protesters charge that the NYPD and the Bloomberg Administration are in contempt of court for not allowing the protesters back in. There is a hearing today on the matter, but Billings won't be involved. A new judge has been chosen at random via court computer, and the Times is reporting that Justice Michael Stallman has been assigned the case. (He's sided with Bloomberg in the past.) We'll update with more later.