City Hall’s outside lawyers’ conduct questioned by judges
BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 30, 2012 12:10AM
Attorney Andrew M. Hale, of Andrew M. Hale & Associates.
POLICE MISCONDUCT’S LEGAL TAB
Since 2003, Chicago taxpayers have paid law firms more than $82.5 million to defend the city in hundreds of misconduct lawsuits filed against the Chicago Police Department. About a quarter of that money has been spent on cases involving allegations of wrongful arrests and torture of suspects under former Area 2 police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Here are the 10 lawyers or law firms that have been paid the most for handling police misconduct cases for City Hall:
Lawyer/firm Payments since 2003
1. Andrew M. Hale* $20.6 million
(Now of Andrew M. Hale & Associates,
formerly of Rock Fusco)
2. Dykema Gossett PLLC $13.7 million
3. Shefsky & Froelich $8.9 million
4. James G. Sotos** $8.6 million
(Now of The Sotos Law Firm,
formerly of Hervas Condon)
5. Freeborn & Peters $6.8 million
6. Pugh, Jones & Johnson $6.3 million
7. Greene and Letts $4.4 million
8. Querrey & Harrow $2.9 million
9. Johnson & Bell $2.6 million
10. Jones Day $2.4 million
THE BURGE BILL
Cases involving Jon Burge have cost Chicago and Cook County taxpayers $53.6 million since 1988. A summary:
City legal fees: $15.4 million
City settlements paid in
13 Burge-related cases: $29.6 million
County legal fees $7.5 million
County settlements paid in three
Burge-related wrongful-conviction cases: $1.1 million
TOTAL: $53.6 million
*Payments are for cases in which Hale was lead counsel. He worked at Rock Fusco before opening his own firm.
** Payments are for cases in which Sotos was lead counsel. He worked at Hervas Condon before opening his own firm.
Source: People’s Law Office analysis of City of Chicago, Cook County records
Updated: August 31, 2012 6:04AM
They worked together for just over a year in the mid-1990s as attorneys at the Chicago law firm headed by Philip Rock, the former Illinois Senate president.
But Mara S. Georges didn’t forget her former colleague Andrew M. Hale after leaving in 1997 to become the No. 2 attorney at City Hall.
Promoted two years later to corporation counsel by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, Georges began sending legal work Hale’s way in 2004 — work defending the city against dozens of police brutality and wrongful-conviction lawsuits. Since then, City Hall has paid $20.5 million to Hale and other lawyers at the two firms he’s worked at in that time, according to records compiled by the People’s Law Office, which often represents plaintiffs in those cases.
Hale and his firm’s conduct, while representing the city, has been called into question by judges in eight federal cases since 2008, a court filing in April alleged.
In one of those cases, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly ruled July 11 that Hale and his co-counsel, Avi Kamionski, made a “racially motivated” attempt to keep a black woman from being seated as a juror in a lawsuit filed by Thaddeus Jimenez, who was awarded $25 million in January after spending 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
In the case that drew the sharpest criticism, U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found earlier this year that Hale and Kamionski had engaged in “improper” and “unethical” behavior during a February 2011 trial involving Oscar Walden Jr., an 80-year-old man who’d sued the city, saying the police had tortured him into confessing to raping a woman in 1951. He was convicted the following year.
Imprisoned until 1965, Walden received a pardon from then-Gov. George Ryan in 2002.
Last year, Walden lost his lawsuit against the city. But he won a new trial in March when Castillo concluded that Hale had “tainted” the jury by presenting evidence the judge had ruled inadmissable.
“The improper conduct tainted the trial from opening statements through closing arguments,” Castillo wrote. “There must be a bright line between aggressive advocacy and ‘win at all costs’ unethical conduct. This bright line has been crossed by defense counsels’ repeated ill-advised actions in this case.”
After that ruling, Walden’s attorney, G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office, asked the judge to order the city to pay Walden’s legal fees, accusing Hale and his colleagues of having engaged in similar conduct in the seven other cases.
Responding to Taylor’s motion, lawyers representing Hale told Castillo: “This court obviously is not acting as a disciplinary panel to determine whether Hale and Kamionski violated the professional responsibility rules in other cases. They did not.”
Hale and Kamionski, they also said, never “purposefully sought to sneak” banned information before jurors.
After Taylor asked the judge to make the city reimburse Walden’s legal fees, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s corporation counsel, Steve Patton, “ordered a review to determine if Hale & Associates made any ethical breaches that would warrant immediate removal from the cases currently assigned to them,” according to City Hall law department spokesman Roderick Drew.
That review — which took about 100 hours — concluded “there were errors and lapses in judgment in certain instances, but we did not find evidence of ethical violations that would warrant removal,” Drew says. “Moving forward, we are going to more closely supervise and manage their cases internally and with co-counsel to make sure there is no repeat of the concerns that led to the judicial complaints.”
The issue of fees in the Walden case became moot last month when the city agreed to settle. How much Walden will get won’t be made public until the City Council Committee on Finance votes on the settlement. That’s expected in September. Walden had been seeking $15 million.
In a written response to questions, Hale says he began working for City Hall in 2004 when Georges asked him to defend several retired police officers in a high-profile misconduct case filed by a man named Michael Evans. Hale and Georges had worked together at the Rock Fusco law firm for over a year.
“From our time working together, Ms. Georges had confidence in my legal skills and abilities as a trial attorney,” Hale says. “This was a very difficult case that many people thought could not be won. The plaintiff requested $60 million at trial. I wound up winning the case.”
Georges stands behind her former colleague and the decision to keep hiring him as outside counsel for the city.
“Based on his skills as an attorney that I observed while we worked together, the city retained him to represent the defendant officers in the Evans case,” says Georges, who left City Hall with Daley last year, joining him at the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. “As a result of his success in the Evans and other cases, officers continued to request him . . .”
Georges even wrote a testimonial for Hale that appears on his firm’s website. “Andy Hale is a proactive lawyer who leaves no stone unturned in defending a police misconduct case,” she wrote. “When a case is sent to Andy, a municipality and its officers can rest assured that the case is being handled well and the finest representation is being provided.”
Georges says Hale requested her testimonial after she left City Hall last year and that she didn’t get paid for it. “I have been asked and have given recommendations for many attorneys over the years,” she says.
About a quarter of the $20.5 million taxpayers have spent retaining Hale has been to defend the city in lawsuits involving claims of police torture and wrongful convictions tied to former Area 2 police Cmdr. Jon Burge, who’s now in federal prison after being convicted of lying about torture committed by officers under his command.
Last week, the City Council Committee on Finance approved paying $7.17 million to settle two Burge cases Hale’s law firm handled.
His firm — Andrew M. Hale & Associates — continues to represent City Hall in 19 other cases.
Contributing: Tim Novak