Attorneys defending Detroit in police brutality lawsuits withdraw from cases in another setback for city

Jul 28, 2021 at 2:29 pm
click to enlarge Detroit cop fires at protesters. - Lester Graham /
Lester Graham /
Detroit cop fires at protesters.

The law firm defending the city of Detroit against three federal lawsuits that allege police used excessive force to break up protests last summer has withdrawn from the cases, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

Attorneys with Detroit-based Clark Hill were forced to drop out of the cases after Detroit City Council earlier this month rejected a request from Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration to spend more tax dollars on outside attorneys to defend the city. Without outside attorneys, the city will have to defend the lawsuit using in-house attorneys.

The city has already spent several hundred thousand dollars on the cases with little to show for it. In September 2020, U.S. District Judge Laurie J. Michelson denied the city’s request to lift a temporary restraining order that restricted police forming batons, shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, and other tactics against peaceful protesters.

On March 20, Michelson also dismissed the city’s controversial countersuit against protesters, saying the city failed to show that demonstrators conspired to commit acts of violence and vandalism in the summer of 2020.

The first lawsuit was failed against the city in August 2020, when Detroit Will Breathe, a group of protesters, alleged in a federal lawsuit that cops used unnecessary, excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations against police brutality.

Five legal observers filed suit in April 2021, saying police violated their civil rights by attacking and arresting them while they were documenting the demonstrations.

In the same month, Kevin Kwart, a 35-year-old Oakland County man, filed a federal lawsuit against the city and five cops, saying he was brutalized by Detroit police while trying to provide refuge for peaceful protesters.

The defendants in the cases include the city of Detroit, Duggan, former Chief James Craig, and police officers Stephen Anouti, Timothy Barr, David Hornshaw, Mariah Erard, Stephen Anouti, and Timothy Vernon.

Craig, in his bid to become a Republican candidate for governor, has boasted about the police department’s handling of last year’s protests, claiming cops’ refusal to retreat stopped the city from “burning,” an unfounded claim since there was no evidence of attempted arsons.

But Craig has been accused of encouraging officers to use heavy-handed tactics to quell peaceful protests. According to the lawsuits and videos of the protests, police resorted to tear gas, beatings, pepper spray, and rubber bullets to break up peaceful demonstrations that were blocking streets.

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