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July 2015: Pro Bono Victory

July 2015

Quinn Emanuel responded to a request from the Federal Bar Council Public Service Committee to take on the pro bono representation of an individual defendant for limited-scope discovery purposes in a prisoner civil rights case. A mentally ill plaintiff-inmate asserted multiple claims against the City of New York, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and several individual defendants, involving an incident that resulted in injuries for both the plaintiff and our client. This case entailed a very important decision for our client: whether and when to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege. Our client not only faced liability in the civil action, but because there was also an ongoing criminal investigation, he might inadvertently incriminate himself criminally. After completing some initial discovery and participating in a settlement conference before the Court, Quinn Emanuel was able to secure a global settlement in which our client will pay nothing and obtain a complete release of all claims against him.

The client was a long time psychiatric social health technician at Bellevue Hospital in the prison psychiatric ward. He worked for the City for ten years without any incident. But last February, he had a run-in with a mentally ill inmate on consecutive days, which was captured on video surveillance. The inmate, through his pro bono counsel from a major national law firm, sued the City, Bellevue Hospital, and all the individuals who could be seen in the video surveillance, including our client, Corrections Officers, and other psychiatric social health technicians at Bellevue Hospital. The City refused to represent our client, who started attending, pro se, conferences in front of Judge Valerie E. Caproni. After the client filed an application for pro bono counsel on a limited scope discovery basis, Judge Caproni granted his request.

Quinn Emanuel volunteered and immediately initiated a counterclaim for assault and sought discovery from the plaintiff-inmate related to his competency and his violent past. Following the initial discovery, Judge Caproni referred the case to Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman for settlement. At the settlement conference, the plaintiffinmate continued to demand a significant sum from our client. In the end, despite pressure from both the plaintiffinmate and the co-defendants, Quinn Emanuel convinced the parties and the Court to allow our client to walk away in exchange for dropping our counterclaim against the plaintiff-inmate. The plaintiff-inmate took the offer from the City, and our client can now move on and look for a new job without any potential liability stemming from this incident.