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Judge rejects city's Abbate verdict request

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A judge delivered a big legal blow to the City of Chicago, rejecting the city's request to set aside the Anthony Abbate verdict, a case that claimed there was a so-called "code of silence" in the Chicago Police Department.

Just days before the start of the Anthony Abbate civil trial, the judge in the case asked the city of Chicago one last time if it wanted to settle. The city said no, it would fight the Abbate case as a matter of principle.

After a 13-day trial, the city lost. The jury concluded that Abbate, a drunken off-duty cop was able to act with impunity in beating a female bartender less than half his size because there was a police code of silence and/or a failure to investigate and discipline. Bartender Karolina Obrycka was awarded $850,000.

The city followed by saying it would pay Obrycka promptly, but wanted the judgment thrown out arguing that money-hungry civil lawyers would wrongly seize on the cop code of silence claim in future lawsuits, and that taxpayers have to be protected from that.

Judge Amy St. Eve Thursday told the city no.

"The judgment in this case", she wrote, "has ramifications for society at large, not just the city's litigation strategies." Throwing the judgment out "...would not serve the public interest."

Northwestern Law Professor Locke Bowman was among those arguing that the jury's conclusion in Abbate, regarded by many as extremely significant, could not simply be erased.

"What the city was trying to do here was not only sour grapes, but also an extraordinary amount of arrogance," said Bowman. "Decisions like this are not the private property of litigants. They belong to society as a whole."

In her ruling Thursday, Judge St/ Eve twice made reference to the fact the city made the strategic decision to go to trial even though bartender Karolina Obrycka was willing to settle for a reasonable amount, which was less than half of what the jury ultimately awarded her.

Obrycka has not yet received her money, but the city has promised to pay by the end of the month.

The city law department thus far has not had any comment on Thursday's ruling.

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