Tags: de Blasio | NYPD | New York | lawsuits

De Blasio to Fight NYPD Lawsuits in Court, Hire More Lawyers

Image: De Blasio to Fight NYPD Lawsuits in Court, Hire More Lawyers
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Friday, 30 Jan 2015 04:12 PM

New York will hire more lawyers to fight the hundreds of lawsuits accusing police of abuse and civil-rights violations, which last year cost the city a record $212 million in settlements and judgments, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The mayor didn't specify how many lawyers will be added or how much it will cost, saying he plans to address the subject in his preliminary budget due in early February.

"We're going to go to court. We're not going to settle," de Blasio said Friday at a press briefing in Brooklyn. "In a case where our officers did everything right and they were menaced, where they were threatened with violence, we're going to go to court."

The decades-long tendency to settle was a "practical response to a very cynical reality of lawyers trying to scam the system," de Blasio said. The policy shift, which the mayor said was overdue, comes following the city's $5,000 settlement with a man who wielded a machete during a 2010 confrontation with police officers.

The relationship between de Blasio, 53, and police unions has been tense since the mayor, following a grand jury's decision last month not to indict an officer for the death of an unarmed black man during an arrest, said he's counseled his own son to be wary of law enforcement. De Blasio is white and married to a black woman.

Hundreds of officers turned their backs on the mayor when he spoke at funerals for two officers shot to death late last year, and summonses and arrests for minor crimes and traffic violations plummeted in an apparent police protest, for which union leaders denied responsibility.

De Blasio, a Democrat, said his announcement Friday is a strategic effort to decrease the number of "frivolous lawsuits." With an annual budget of $168 million, the Law Department has about 700 lawyers and 850 support paralegals and other support professionals.

"We can take on anybody who wants to sue us, and we believe we will win," the mayor said.

The new approach may end up costing taxpayers more than settlements, said Norman Siegel, a civil-liberties lawyer at Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP in New York.

"This is just another example of the mayor trying to placate the police unions by trying to appear not to be anti-cop," he said in a telephone interview.

Siegel took offense to the mayor's characterization of the lawsuits as frivolous, arguing that one case, such as the machete incident, shouldn't lead to a broad policy.

Last year, the city paid out a record $732 million in judgments and settlements, including Police Department lawsuits, malpractice in hospitals, accidents involving the Department of Transportation, injuries on municipal property and contract disputes.


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New York will hire more lawyers to fight the hundreds of lawsuits accusing police of abuse and civil-rights violations, which last year cost the city a record $212 million in settlements and judgments, said Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor didn't specify how many lawyers...
de Blasio, NYPD, New York, lawsuits
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2015-12-30
Friday, 30 Jan 2015 04:12 PM
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