Cases Regarding American Money Bail System and Financing of Terrorism Awarded Public Justice’s 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award
Public Justice’s 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year award was awarded to two legal teams: one that won a historic settlement regarding financial institution funding of terrorism, and the other that ended the use of unconstitutional money bail systems in four cities. The award was presented on the evening of Sunday, July 24 at Public Justice’s Annual Gala & Awards Dinner at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles.
Jones (Varden) v. City of Clanton and similar cases represents one of the first challenges to the constitutionality of the American money bail system. The system forces detainees – who are often held for minor, non-violent offenses – to sit in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail. These detainees constitute 60 percent of the US jail population.
In January 2015, Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law filed suit in federal court of Montgomery, Ala., making his client the first person to file a systemic challenge to the American money bail system on equal protection and due process grounds since the rise of mass incarceration more than 30 years ago. Shortly after, the Department of Justice filed a landmark Statement of Interest, agreeing that a person in jail on a money bail she cannot afford, and without an inquiry into her ability to pay, is unconstitutional.
Since the settlement of the four cases eligible for this year’s award, which not only ended the use of money bail in four cities, but secured confidential compensation for plaintiffs, Karakatsanis and Equal Justice Under Law have been working tirelessly with local counsel and non-profit organizations across many states to challenge the money bail system in the US. These four cases have set an incredibly important precedent in the age of criminal justice reform, one that continues to be important for the conversation surrounding money bail and pretrial justice in the United States.
Linde v. Arab Bank was a mass tort consolidation case with 117 plaintiffs who were injured in suicide bombings and attacks in Israel, 40 wrongful death cases, along with 440 family members of those injured or killed. The plaintiffs claimed that Arab Bank knowingly provided financial support to terrorist leaders and the families of terrorist operatives, including suicide bombers. This case marks the first time that a financial institution has been brought to trial – and held liable –under the ATA.
The plaintiffs argued that Arab Bank administered a Saudi-funded universal insurance plan for the benefit of Palestinian terrorists killed, injured, or apprehended by Israeli security forces. For years, branches of the Saudi charity authorized payments ranging from $140 to $5,316 to terrorists and their families. The plaintiffs also argued that Arab Bank should be held liable for every terrorist act committed since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada, a period of escalated Israeli-Palestinian conflict that began in 2000, because the charity provided its clients with financial benefits regardless of whether they were affiliated with terrorist groups.
Although the Linde case was successful, it took over a decade before the team was able to bring the case to trial. The team overcame many hurdles and even secured sanction against Arab Bank and its defense counsel.
The parties in Linde reached a confidential settlement agreement in August of 2015.
The other finalists for the award were Andrews v. Lawrence Livermore National Security, Fox v. Johnson & Johnson, and Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson, read about the accomplishments of those finalist teams here.
2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Teams:
Jones (Varden) v. City of Clanton & similar cases
Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law in Washington, D.C.; Matthew Swerdlin of Birmingham, Ala.; J. Mitch McGuire of McGuire & Associates in Montgomery, Ala.; William M. Dawson of Dawson Law Office in Birmingham, Ala.; Thomas B. Harvey and Michael-John Voss of ArchCity Defenders in St. Louis, Mo.; Cliff Johnson II and Jacob W. Howard of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in University, Miss., Katie M. Schwartzmann, and Eric A. Foley of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans, La.; and William P. Quigley of New Orleans, La.
Linde v. Arab Bank
Michael E. Elsner, Jodi Westbrook Flowers, and John M. Eubanks of Motley Rice in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; C. Tab Turner of Turner & Associates in North Little Rock, Ark.; Gary M. Osen, Aaron Schlanger, Ari Ungar, Cindy T. Schlanger, and Naomi Weinberg of Osen LLC in Hackensack, N.J.; Joshua Glatter, formerly of Osen LLC; Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner in Dallas, TX; Joel Israel, formerly of Sayles Werbner; James Bonner of Stone, Bonner & Rocco in Summit, N.J.; Noel Nudelman, Richard Heideman, and Tracy Reichman Kalik of Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik in Washington, DC; Gavriel Mairone and Ariel Mairone of MM-Law in Chicago, IL; Steven Steingard and Stephen Schwartz of Kohn, Swift & Graf in Philadelphia, Pa.; Shawn Patrick Naunton of Zuckerman Spaeder in New York City; Margaret E. Lynaugh, formerly of Zuckerman Spaeder in New York City; Allan Gerson of AG International Law in Washington, DC, Peter Raven-Hansen of Washington, DC; and Jonathan David of The David Law Firm in The Woodlands, Texas