The law firm that won a $3 million settlement in a class action suit against the scandal-ridden Metro Gang Strike Force got a slap-down by a federal judge this month.
In January, Judge Joan Ericksen turned down a request from the lawyers of the Strike Force victims for an additional $440,000 to be paid to the firm. The victims’ attorneys had already received $825,000 as part of the settlement.
While rejecting the request for $440,000, the judge did grant the firm an additional $100,000, which was written into the settlement agreement if more than 101 victims of the Strike Force came forward.
Zimmerman Reed wasn’t satisfied. On Feb. 5, it wrote Ericksen a letter, asking if it could submit a motion further detailing why it wanted more money.
On Feb. 6, Ericksen said no, that’s all you get.
Joseph Daly, emeritus professor of law at Hamline University, said that the law firm was paid well with the original award and said its request for more was out line. “If I was giving advice to Zimmerman Reed, I would have told them, you were well paid, you did a good thing by representing these people, now stop,” said Daly, who followed the case but was not involved in it. “It’s what makes people so upset about lawyers.”
Zimmerman Reed attorney J. Gordon Rudd said he disagreed with Daly’s characterization. “We have devoted substantial resources to litigate this case to a successful conclusion over a number of years to ensure that victims of the Metro Gang Strike Force receive fair compensation and in fact the attorney’s fee and administration award represents a substantial reduction in the attorney’s fees incurred.”
The Strike Force, a multi-jurisdiction law enforcement unit for various cities and counties in the Twin Cities, was disbanded in July 2009 after a series of revelations about misconduct by the unit. Investigators discovered that during many of its raids, the Force seized cash and property, often without anyone getting charged.
Zimmerman Reed sued less than two weeks after the Strike Force was shut down, and a year later, settled the case, getting a payment for lawyers of $775,000 and separately, $3 million for the victims. The money came from the Strike Force’s insurance.
As part of the $3 million settlement, any money not paid to the victims would go into a fund to train law enforcement officers to avoid such behavior in the future. The case was turned over to a special master and about $900,000 was awarded to more than 100 Strike Force victims.
One of the provisions of the settlement allowed for Zimmerman Reed to get another $50,000, depending how much work was involved, and the judge granted that earlier, bringing the lawyers’ take-home to $825,000.
Then last fall, Zimmerman Reed came back and asked the judge for another $433,518, saying it had performed lengthy administrative work and incurred another $7,940.38 in expenses. The money would have come out of the $3 million settlement.
The lawyers for the Strike Force urged Ericksen to turn down the request, saying there was no provision for it and the remaining funds should go for law enforcement training.
Ericksen said in her memo, rejecting the $440,000 request, that “for the most part” it covered services that the law firm had agreed to provide when it got its original $775,000 payout.