Saturday, April 02, 2005

They Have A Library Here!

I'm only allowed one book at a time so right now I'm reading a pretty good crime novel (natch) called "Angel's Flight" by Michael Connelly. I think I knew this Connelly guy when he was a crime beat writer for the L.A. Times.

Anyway, the story is about the murder of Howard Elias, an L.A. lawyer whose lawsuits charging the LAPD with racism and bruatlity made him a celebrity. Check out this passage, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

"Few who revered Elias understood that his entire practice was built around one simple piece of the law. He filed lawsuits only in federal court and under provisions of the U.S. civil rights codes that allowed him to bill the city of Los Angeles for his fees in any case in which he was victorious in court.

"The Rodney King beating, the Christopher Commission report excoriating the department in the wake of the King trial and subsequent civil unrest, and the racially divisive O.J. Simpson case created a shadow that stretched over every case Elias filed. And so it was not paticularly difficult for the lawyer to win cases against the department, convincing juries to award at least token dames to plaintiffs. Those juries never realized that such verdicts opened the door for Elias to bill the city and its taxpayers, themselves included, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.

"In the dog bite lawsuit, which became Elias's signature case, the jury found that the rights of the plaintiff had been violated. But since that plaintiff was a burglar with a long track record of prior arrests and convictions, the jury awarded him only one dollar in damages. Their intent was clear, to send a message to the police department rather than to make a criminal wealthy. But that didn't matter to Elias. A win was a win. Under the federal guidelines he then submitted a bill to the city for $340,000 in legal fees .... In effect, the jury -- and the many more before and since -- believed they were delivering a rebuke to the LAPD, but they were also paying for Elias's half-hour late-night infomercials on Channel 9, his Porsche and his Italian courtroom suits, his opulent home up in Baldwin Hills."

Hmmmmmmm.

I think I'm going to like this book a lot. Elias sounds like my kind of brother.

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