As lawyers, we are uniquely qualified to fight against institutional racism. Yet how many of us are standing with the protesters – maybe not in the actual protests, but advocating on their behalf. And on behalf of this cause.
Shortly after the George Floyd/BLM protests began, our office started a pro bono project: representing peaceful protesters who were the victims of excessive force.
In Seattle, the City has repeatedly used excessive force against protesters, legal observers, journalists, medical personnel, and in some cases young children. Often without any provocation. Even in the cases where some provocation has occurred, the City has employed an unacceptable amount of force.
Preparatory to suing the City, we filed notices of a dozen claims. During the press conference, our legal team lined up – Andrew Ackley, Lisa Benedetti, Melanie Nguyen, Fred Rabb and I. But also invited was James Bible. James started off handling criminal defense but has increasingly moved to the personal injury and civil rights fields.
Plaintiff attorneys are collegial but there is an underlying competition between us for cases. James had called to see if we would be interested in associating on case. In turn I asked if he would like to file his protest cases with us and join in our press conference.
All six of us told the stories of the 12 claimants. As I listened to the lawyers ranging from Fred – who was just sworn in a few months ago – to James who was meeting our group for the first time; it all just felt so right.
Protesters are making an impact because the collective might of the people is demanding to be heard. Their noise is great. Us lawyers should pay attention to that dynamic. Instead of watching this happen passively. Or filing lawsuits haphazardly. We should band together. Consolidate our cases. And further this righteous cause.
Photo: Credit to Steve Ringman The Seattle Times. Shown: Fred, Me, James