There have been rare professional charges filed against five lawyers for their role in crafting a secret settlement for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The lawyers were involved in a $8.4-million lawsuit settlement to conceal text messages that showed that the major and his top female aide had lied about their affair. The lawyers are chief assistant corporation counsel Valerie Colbert-Osamuede; her ex-boss, former city corporation counsel John E. Johnson; city-retained private lawyers Samuel McCargo and Wilson Copeland II, and Mike Stefani, who represented three cops in lawsuits against the city.
The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission has conducted a 14-month investigation into the allegations. The most interesting is Stefani, who is accused of agreeing to “conceal irrefutable evidence of Kilpatrick’s perjury in return for” the $8.4-million lawsuit settlement for his police clients. Usually, it is the lawyers accused of concealing perjury for their own client that are most at risk. Here, however, the bar is saying that even if you are the opposing lawyer, you are a party to the covered up if you accept a settlement on behalf of your clients. That may come as a bit of a surprise to many lawyers who would have viewed the interests of their client as favoring a settlement and remaining silent on such issues.
The lawyers appear to have reached the $8.4 million settlement deal in October 2007, almost immediately after city lawyers learned that Stefani had discovered incriminating text messages. Many attorneys would have viewed that time as perfect to seek a settlement for their client but the bar views Stefani has involved in the cover-up by agreeing to drop the case for money.
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