Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence. Massachusetts has announced that the city will no longer pay legal bills for police officers, including the bills for officers currently in court in nine brutality cases pending in U.S. District Court.
City Councilor Daniel Rivera, chairman of the budget committee, complained that the city was paying “Cadillac prices” for such lawyers. Instead, they seem to be going from Cadillac to Yugo prices.
Lantigua is citing the police union contract that states that the city only has to pay the $5,000 retainer for a patrolman and $7,500 for a superior officer. Otherwise, Lantigua insists that its officers can either pay the rest for private counsel or use one of the three city attorneys or have their unions pay for the defense.
Ironically, Lantigua has hired his own outside counsel to defend the city against a complaint filed by the patrolmen’s union over the decision to cut their legal payments.
The firm hit the hardest is Dwyer and Duddy, which received $471,374 in fees. The city recently settled one police brutality case for $400,000. There are six civil trials set to go to verdict in the next six months. That seems like an awful lot of lawsuits over the conduct of a small police force. The entire city has only 70,662 inhabitants.
The decision however raises a number of troubling questions. First, there is the question of whether the three lawyers in this small town actually handle such a heavy litigation load. Second, there is the conflict of interest that can arise in lawyers representing individual officers when they are also representing the city. Assuming officers agree to accept city lawyers in representation, how will the city handle cases where the city and individual officers are being sued? This could easily result in a conflict for the attorneys in representing both the city and officers. Given the bar on such conflicts, what will the city do to comply ethical obligations when these officers demand representation?
Source: EagleTribune found on Reddit.