A top city attorney intentionally concealed crucial evidence in a civil trial over a fatal Chicago police shooting and then lied about his reasons for doing so, a federal judge ruled Monday in a scathing opinion.
In overturning the jury’s verdict and ordering a new trial, U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang imposed sanctions against the city and Senior Corporation Counsel Jordan Marsh, ordering that they pay attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs that likely will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars even before a retrial could take place.
“Attorneys who might be tempted to bury late-surfacing information need to know that, if discovered, any verdict they win will be forfeit and their clients will pay the price,” Chang wrote in his 72-page opinion. “They need to know it is not worth it.”
Chang faulted lax training and oversight at the city’s Law Department for hampering the production of records from the Chicago Police Department and other city agencies when officers are accused of misconduct.
Steve Greenberg, an attorney who represents the family of the man who was killed, said the ruling raises questions about the Law Department’s role in perpetuating a code-of-silence police culture in which officers believe they can act with impunity. If the city’s attorneys appear willing to cover up wrongdoing, the officers will feel empowered to behave in any manner they deem fit, he said.
“There’s just a total disregard for the truth, and it runs to the highest levels,” Greenberg said. “There is a culture to cover up and win at all costs.”