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'Web of Deceit' Implicates Lawyers

Hat tip to Martha Neil at the ABA Journal for her story alerting us to the spreading scandal in Detroit that could eventually implicate at least a dozen lawyers. We first learned details in January, when The Detroit Free Press published text messages suggesting a romantic relationship between Detroit's married mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, who is a lawyer, and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty (who has, since the scandal broke, started law school). But documents ordered released last week by the Michigan Supreme Court shed new light on the scandal and raise questions about the roles of several other lawyers.

As the Associated Press recounts, the documents show that the city quietly settled a lawsuit it once vowed to fight, perhaps not for the best of reasons. After a jury in September awarded $6.5 million to two police officers who said the mayor forced them out of their jobs, the city initially said it would appeal. But then it changed course and privately settled the case for $8.4 million, within hours of learning that the officers' lawyer, Michael Stefani, had copies of the text messages and planned to make them public. The settlement included a side deal, not filed with the court, in which Stefani agreed to turn over the text messages to Kilpatrick's lawyer.

That revelation has drawn scrutiny to nearly a dozen Detroit-area lawyers on charges raging from perjury and obstruction of justice to violations of legal ethics rules, as Crain's Detroit Business details in an article yesterday. They include several lawyers employed by the city, outside lawyers who worked for the city and the mayor, and even the lawyer who represented the two police officers. The judge who presided over the officers' trial described the situation as "a web of deceit," adding: "The advice about 'Follow the money' just becomes 'Follow the lawyers.'"

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 4, 2008 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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