Getting the media involved: settling the lawsuit in ’89 jogger rape case

The New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser, whom I believe is a lawyer, wrote an excellent piece about this notorious case and its promised accelerated settlement. City Accused of Dragging Its Feet on Settling Suit in ’89 Jogger Rape Case – NYTimes.com.

First, it clearly shows the sea change in attitude toward civil rights cases from the Bloomberg administration to de Blasio’s. The few sentences Weiser uses to describe this difference delineate the rich from the middle class. Bloomberg, who was not a bad mayor in certain ways, was a very rich man who decided that since he knew how to create and run a wildly successful company he could do better than a civil servant in running a city.

I’m always uncomfortable with that point of view. Not only do I think this is a fallacious conceit — running a business has nothing whatsoever to do with running a huge diverse city — there’s an unpleasant arrogance there, an arrogance that casts a smog over a civic community.

The Bloomberg administration’s lawyers balked at a timely response to the claims of these wrongfully imprisoned men. De Blasio has declared himself responsive and ready. The air has been cleared.

And although Jonathan Moore, the terrific lawyer who is representing the men, has gone public (see Sidebar category “Getting the media involved”) with his impatience at the delay, Moore couches his prodding strategically. He’s not socking the Law Department; he’s nudging them. In his statements there is no suggestion that he fears the Law Department will not settle this case. He’s just saying, “Come on, let’s sit down and do it already.”

This is really responsible lawyering.

The most powerful statement Moore made is at the end of this article:

Mr. Moore declined to reveal how much money the plaintiffs were seeking in their settlement request. He said the plaintiffs “made a collective demand based upon the unique circumstances of each person’s case and relying on an analysis of settlements in other cases going back many years.”

“Whatever that ultimate number is,” he added, “it’s worth significant money, and it’s unfortunate, you know, because it really shouldn’t be about the money. But you can’t give these kids their life back.” [My emphasis]

UPDATE 4/16/2014. I am pleased to announce that I was right in my above comments regarding Jonathan Moore’s nudging: More Talks Expected in ‘Central Park Five’ Lawsuit – NYTimes.com.

Lawyers for New York City said in a court filing on Tuesday that they expected to be able to resume settlement talks shortly in the protracted lawsuit by five men convicted in the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park, and would work to resolve the case by the end of May.

The city’s statement came several days after one of the lawyers for the men said in an interview that the city’s lawyers were “dragging their feet” on settlement talks, and had not responded to a settlement demand made by the plaintiffs in early March.

As I said, good lawyering in using the media.

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