Chicago’s year-old strategy of going to trial with lawsuits against police officers instead of settling cases is paying off, city officials tell the Chciago Sun-Times. Last fall, police Superintendent. Jody Weis told Chief U.S. Judge James Holderman of the change in legal strategy. “If plaintiffs know their complaint will in fact be litigated, more focus and concern will be given to the factual validity of the complaints signed,” Weis said. In the past, the city often settled “defensible” cases because the city’s legal expenses could far exceed the cost of a settlement. One reason for launching the new strategy was a concern by officers that settlements can reflect poorly on them even if they did nothing wrong, said Karen Seimetz, the city’s first assistant corporation counsel.
A year later, the results are “astonishing,” the city says. Lawsuits filed against cops — and settlements of lawsuits — have both fallen dramatically. This year, the city anticipates that 50 percent fewer police misconduct cases will be filed than in 2009. The share of cases resolved through settlements has fallen from about 67 percent in 2009 to about 24 percent this year through the end of September. The city is projected to pay about $1.7 million to settle “small cases” against officers this year — compared with $9 million in 2007 and $9 million in 2008. Small cases are defined as those that are settled for less than $100,000 each.