Chicago’s law department to pay $1.6 million for Dan Webb review

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Dan K. Webb. | Sun-Times files

The city of Chicago’s Law Department will pay $1.6 million to a team led by former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb for its review of the department’s federal civil rights division, which handles lawsuits involving alleged police misconduct.

Webb, nine other attorneys and a paralegal spent a total of more than 5,463 hours on their review and subsequent report, according to an invoice submitted to the Law Department on Monday from Webb’s firm, Winston & Strawn. The work would have cost more than $3.5 million at the firm’s normal billing rate, but Webb and Law Department officials had agreed to a discount.

The review and report were commissioned by the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in January. The move followed the resignation of city attorney Jordan Marsh, who had been sanctioned by a federal court for concealing evidence in a lawsuit over a fatal shooting by police.

The Webb team reviewed 74 cases and interviewed nearly 100 officials and attorneys, including about 50 who represent plaintiffs suing the city. The report, released in July, recommended dozens of changes in training, supervision, oversight, witnesses interviews and other policies at the Law Department’s Federal Civil Rights Litigation division. All the proposed reforms have been adopted by the department, said spokesman Bill McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said the value of the Webb team’s report went beyond its price tag.

“First, it provided assurance to the public, the courts, plantiffs’ attorneys and others that there was no pattern of intentional or other misconduct in Law’s FCRL division,” he said. “Second, the review and the report made a series of recommendations that the Law Department immediately implemented that improved FCRL’s policies and procedures and its performance going forward.”

“It turned out to be quite an extensive project, but at the end of the day we feel the city got substantial value from it and learned a lot,” said Bob Michels, a partner at Winston who led the review with Webb.

Webb’s team determined that the case that resulted in sanctions against Marsh was one of six cases since 2012 in which courts sanctioned city attorneys for not sharing records or not producing them quickly enough during litigation.

However, Webb’s report said he and his team “did not find evidence establishing a culture, practice, or approach in the Division of intentionally concealing evidence or engaging in intentional misconduct” in the litigation process.

Still, in October, the city was sanctioned again. A federal judge fined the city for not producing records in a lawsuit brought by a woman who said she miscarried after being shot with a Taser by a police officer.

The money to pay Webb’s team will come from the Law Department’s budget for outside counsel, settlements and judgments, and legal experts, McCaffrey said. These expenses have a $45.6 million budget this year.

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