Trials & Litigation

Lawyers in 'Ethical Minefield' in $8.4M Detroit Settlement Scandal

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An exploding scandal in Detroit over an $8.4 million settlement apparently intended to cover up misconduct by city officials now involves claimed false testimony, concealment of information from the city council and possible destruction of evidence.

All create an “ethical minefield” for the lawyers involved, according to legal experts interviewed by the Detroit Free Press.

“There’s so much wrongdoing, it’s hard to know where to start,” says professor John Brennan of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. “The city attorneys are not acting like lawyers, they’re acting like (Mayor Kwame) Kilpatrick’s legal bodyguards. They’ve forgotten who their clients are.”

Other legal experts were similarly scathing in their analysis of the situation. For one thing, they point out, a number of lawyers seemingly must have known that text messages sent between the mayor and a top aide with whom he was reportedly having an affair contradicted their testimony at a police whistle-blower trial last year. Yet no one stepped forward to attempt to rectify this apparent false testimony.

On the contrary, attorneys representing the city reportedly concealed the existence of the text messages from the city council when they recommended an $8.4 million post-trial settlement to resolve both the whistle-blower case and another claim.

Details of the whistle-blower case are discussed in an earlier post.

None of the city’s lawyers could be reached for comment, the newspaper says. However, Mike Stefani, who represented the two police officer plaintiffs in the whistle-blower case, says he did nothing wrong when he quoted from the text messages, post-trial, in what the Free Press describes as a planned motion for attorney fees. It apparently was provided to a lawyer for the mayor before it was filed.

“No, no. I was very careful about that,” the former FBI agent tells the newspaper. “I’m very familiar with extortion laws.”

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