Judge throws out jury verdict against off-duty Chicago cop, cites lawyer's conduct
U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis blasted attorney Dana Kurtz, saying she engaged in a "pervasive" pattern of misconduct at trial — making repeated misrepresentations to the court, asking questions to deliberately elicit barred testimony and improperly coaching witnesses. The judge also concluded Kurtz had given documents to the Chicago Tribune during the trial in an effort to improperly influence the jury.
"While it is possible that each individual incident, standing alone, should rightly be given the benefit of the doubt and would not merit a severe sanction, the continuous, repetitive nature of the misconduct, the fact that she did not improve her conduct in the face of numerous warnings, and (her) history of censure support the court's finding that her conduct at trial was willful, egregious, and not entitled to a presumption of unintentionality," the judge wrote in her 31-page opinion.
The ruling not only overturns the jury's verdict in December awarding $260,000 in damages to Nicole Tomaskovic for the July 2007 incident involving Officer William Szura but also ends litigation over whether the city had a pattern and practice of covering up for the actions of bad officers.
Ellis, who was an assistant corporation counsel defending Chicago police officers against allegations of wrongdoing between 2004 and 2008, said she recognized that overturning a jury verdict and finding in favor of the losing side "is the most severe sanction available in litigation and should not be imposed lightly."
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