Now that a jury has cleared the city and police Chief Chris Magnus of racial discrimination and harassment charges—after five years of legal wrangling and three months of trial—it’s time to tally up the costs. And they are substantial. Richmond has spent about $4.5 million since 2006 to defend the city, Magnus and former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter against discrimination charges brought by seven high-ranking black police officers, according to Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight. Of that, $1.9 million was covered by insurance, while the rest came out of the city’s Human Resources Risk Management division.
The price tag will rise further if a second lawsuit goes to trial in November, as scheduled. Four of the seven plaintiffs have filed suit in federal court, and that case is unaffected by the verdict in Contra Costa Superior Court this week. Stephen Jaffe, the lawyer for several plaintiffs in both lawsuits, said his clients were not deterred by the verdict Tuesday.
“We have lost a major battle, but the war is not yet over,” Jaffe said.
The $4.5 million covered costs related to both lawsuits, including lawyers’ fees, depositions, expert testimony, trial preparation and settlement conferences, Knight said, but it does not include time spent on the case by city staff. Knight said she believes that attorneys’ time made up most of the cost. The firm Meyers Nave represents the city in both suits, with the defense led by attorneys Geoffrey Spellberg and Arthur Hartinger.
The plaintiffs had sought more than $18 million from the city. Jaffe had asked for $3 million in general and punitive damages for each of his six clients: Sgt. James Jenkins, Lieutenants Shawn Pickett, Arnold Threets, Johan Simon, and Michael Booker, and Captain Eugene McBride. Four of the officers also sought economic damages, claiming they had lost promotional opportunities as a result of discrimination. Brown asked for an additional, unknown amount. In clearing the city, the jury awarded the plaintiffs nothing.
It remains unclear how much the plaintiffs spent to bring the lawsuit. Christopher Dolan, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs earlier in the case, testified during the trial that he had incurred $420,000 in costs during the time he represented them. Jaffe declined to disclose his fee or costs, but said they didn’t match that amount.