Posted Jan 04, 2016 03:45 pm CST
Updated: A federal judge rebuked the City of Chicago and its lawyers for failing to turn over evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man shot to death by city police officers in 2011.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang of Chicago reversed a March jury verdict finding police officers Gildardo Sierra and Raoul Mosqueda not liable for the wrongful death of Darius Pinex.
In his opinion, Chang ordered a new trial after finding that city attorneys had engaged in misconduct by intentionally withholding a recording of a police transmission that took place before the shooting. The officers had claimed that the transmission in question had alerted them that a car matching the one Pinex was driving had been involved in a shooting earlier that night. According to the Tribune, lawyers for Pinex had requested the recording prior to trial, only to be told that the city couldn’t find it. During the fourth day of trial, however, the city revealed the recording of the transmission, which talked about a different car that was not tied to a shooting. The presence of the recording forced Pinex’s attorneys to scramble for a new theory to present to the jury during the middle of the trial.
In his opinion, Chang found that city attorney Jordan Marsh had known about the recording before trial started and had kept the recording a secret from even his co-counsel. “After hiding the information, despite there being numerous times when the circumstances dictated he say something about it, Marsh said nothing, and even made misleading statements to the court when the issue arose,” Chang wrote. “…That an experienced lawyer like Marsh did not even consider the possibility that this evidence might not go his way is unlikely to the extreme.”
Marsh resigned hours after Monday’s ruling, the Tribune reported. The Sun-Times reported Thursday that the law department is currently looking into 40 open cases Marsh had been handling.
Leinenweber, an attorney who represents Marsh, declined to comment to the Tribune on Monday.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Thursday that city of Chicago will be bringing in a third party to review its Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division. He said that the city’s corporation counsel Stephen Patton “in quick order is going to have a third-party, an independent entity, look at that division, make sure everybody is clear about what the professional standards are and then the training to go with it. That’s what will happen because it’s essential for people’s confidence.”
Patton told the Tribune on Monday night that the city would “double down” its efforts to get its lawyers to produce requested records. He also denied that there was systemic abuse in the law department. “There’s nothing in the ruling to support it,” he said.
Marsh’s co-counsel, Thomas Aumann, got off a little lighter than Marsh, as Chang criticized Aumann for failing “to make a reasonable inquiry, as required by the discovery rules, to search for the recording.” Chang awarded attorney fees and costs to Pinex’s lawyers, finding the city and Marsh jointly responsible.
“Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price,” Chang wrote in his opinion. “They need to know it is not worth it.”
Last updated Jan. 7 to note the mayor’s decision to have a third party review its Federal Civil Rights Litigation Division and add comment from Stephen Patton.