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Outlaws in the City Law Department

Don Rose 28 December 2017 No Comment

CHICAGO–Add to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s costly problems with his still unreformed police department and a school system now with its fourth CEO in  seven years, the Office of the Corporation Counsel–his law department–has been riddled with a series of unethical and boneheaded actions that make you wonder how some of its lawyers got out of school.  (If, that is, all their misdeeds were unintentional.)

    Recently they had to withdraw a cruel suit against the estate of a mentally disturbed teen killed by a policeman in a questionable shooting that also took the life of an innocent bystander. Emanuel called the suit “callous,” claiming neither he nor Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel even knew the suit was being filed.

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    Let’s suspend disbelief a moment and give him the benefit of the doubt–mainly because Siskel, his corporation counsel since early 2017, is a highly qualified, straight-shooter less likely to give Emanuel “plausible deniability” than some appointees.

   But his law department also has been sanctioned and fined by judges at least eight times in recent years for the unpardonable act of with-holding incriminating evidence in trials, mainly in cases where they were defending policemen. Need I point out that the fines were paid with taxpayer dollars?

   Here’s a quick recap of the revolting suit that had to be withdrawn minutes after public exposure.

    In December 2015, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who had a history of mental issues, phoned 911 three times seeking some kind of help but was hung up on because he sounded garbled. Meanwhile, neighbor Bettie Jones, 55, summoned the police because LeGrier was acting erratically.

    He was in a hallway wielding an aluminum bat when officer Robert Rialmo arrived. Stories vary as to whether Rialmo was standing inside or outside and whether LeGrier actually threatened him with the bat, but he shot the youth eight times–one bullet in the chest killing him, another going through his body and killing Jones who was standing somewhere behind him in the hallway.

    The Jones and LeGrier families filed wrongful death suits against the city.

    The state’s attorney did not find enough evidence to charge Rialmo, but the city’s new agency tasked with investigating police shootings has not issued a final report.  Ironically, Rialmo filed a suit against the estate of his victim, claiming LeGrier’s actions caused him extreme emotional distress. Chutzpah?

   Worse yet, an outside law firm, Hale Law LLC, came up with the remarkable theory that the city should also sue LeGrier’s estate to mitigate some of the expenses of Jones’s eventual settlement because LeGrier committed “negligent acts and/or omissions” that contributed to Jones’s death.

   The law department’s Number 3 person, Naomi Avendano, okayed the bizarre idea–allegedly without informing Siskel or Emanuel–and the Hale firm filed a “third party complaint” on the city’s behalf. Publicity about this painful suit against a mourning family caused Emanuel to withdraw it.

   You would think a law department continually sanctioned and fined year after year for with-holding evidence, might develop some good sense.

   Just remember when paying your property tax in January, those outlaw lawyers are picking your pockets.

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Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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