Defending Pershing Park Cost D.C. Millions
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Metropolitan Police Department rounded up hundreds of citizens inside Pershing Park. They then arrested them and detained them. For those hours and hours in police custody, these citzens were hogtied. And as soon as the last person was released—the city dropped all charges against everyone in this case—everyone knew that the class-action cases were soon to follow.
The Pershing Park case was an embarrassment for the city which had once prided itself on hosting protests without resorting to heavy-handed tactics. Chief Charles Ramsey's reputation took a big hit. [Chief Cathy Lanier was also involved]. The cases could have been settled a long time ago. Except that....the city lost key evidence in the case and a then-Attorney General Peter Nickles decided to play stall ball. The case became endless. Here's a handy rundown.
Some of the cases have settled. The city has given out millions and millions. The settlement amounts related to Pershing Park and another protest case have been historic. One case is still pending.
But now comes the real punch in the face. WaPo's Del Quentin Wilber is reporting that the District has paid out more than $2 million in attorney's fees for the lawyers representing the police officials behind Pershing Park. That's quite a defense fund!
"The tally came in a filing late Thursday in the District's federal court by lawyers representing four bystanders who were among those swept up and arrested in Pershing Park during demonstrations against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 'The District continues to seek to drive up costs and prolong litigation in this case,' lawyers Daniel C. Schwartz and Jonathan Turley wrote in court papers, adding the city has 'spared no expense' in defending former Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham."
To give you a sense of the amazing gravy train this case has become, a recent court filing shows that ex-Chief Ramsey's lawyer, Mark H. Tuohey III, wants $80,628 in attorney fees for work done from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2010.
In the filing, the District's lawyers justified the fee's amount this way: "During the four-month period for which fees are requested by this Motion, counsel prepared and responded to pleadings, participated in various aspects of pretrial discovery and trial preparation, and, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, counsel participated in many telephone conferences."
Trial preparation? Really? Phone calls?
The District has approved the money. The District Court judge in the case just has to sign off the funds.
*file photo of Ramsey by Darrow Montgomery.