We read today that New York City Comptroller John Liu is urging Corporation Counsel — the lawyers for the City — to negotiate a settlement in the Central Park Five case. For those of you perhaps too young to remember, that was a case in which 5 teenagers were accused and convicted of the brutal rape and assault of a Central Park jogger. 12 years later their convictions were vacated when DNA evidence emerged pointing to another person and that the “confessions” that the five made were coerced.
Lawyers brought a civil rights claim on their behalf, claiming, among other things, that the City and police maliciously prosecuted them, causing them to be incarcerated unlawfully for 12 years. The City lawyers have been fighting this case tooth and nail, and refusing to negotiate a settlement, according to sources. So today, Comptroller John Liu stepped up, criticizing City lawyers for not negotiating a settlement. Comptroller Liu did the right thing in this instance, but we were struck by something he said about lawsuits against the City generally:
“As the financial steward of the City, my goal is to ensure that we strike a delicate balance between making those with meritorious claims whole while minimizing taxpayer costs.”
Really, Mr. Comptroller? Because it seems to us, a police misconduct law firm which fights for compensation for our client’s every day, that very little consideration is given to ensuring that Civil Rights plaintiffs with meritorious claims are made whole. Instead, we are constantly told by federal magistrates and judges who try to get the parties to settle cases that the Comptroller’s office under John Liu is standing in the way of settling. As the stop and frisk numbers, as well as the number of unconstitutional stops and frisks have sky rocketed, John Liu’s office has become increasingly parsimonious about settlements, forcing Corporation Counsel to litigate as if our clients were just a bunch of money grubbing personal injury fakers in a neck brace. In doing so, he tacitly endorses unconstitutional actions by police officers, and gives the victims of police misconduct another reason to be disappointed in the system.
If Comptroller Liu is truly interested in reducing stop and frisk (which he has said publicly), he should practice what he preaches.