Balto. Co. to Pay Hundreds of Thousands in Lost Suit

… Appeals ruling closes police officer’s case on rights violations …

baltimoresun.com

By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

11:02 AM EDT, July 30, 2011

A veteran Baltimore County police detective will receive $225,000, and his lawyer could get more in fees now that the county has lost a case in which the officer claimed his rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit this month denied the county’s appeal on procedural grounds in the case of Det. William Blake, saying the county’s lawyers did not properly make their motion to reduce the amount of the $225,000 verdict delivered by a U.S. District Court jury in Baltimore in April 2010. The county decided this week not to ask for a re-hearing on the appeal, meaning the case is closed, said county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

“We’re thrilled the county is finally going to pay the award that Detective Blake earned,” said Kathleen Cahill, Blake’s lawyer. “We look forward to the next phase” of the case, in which the District Court will determine her fee.

She declined to say specifically what the cost could be, but she said work on the case lasted five years, and “fees and expenses entailed in a fight of that duration are considerable.”

Last July, Blake filed a motion with U.S. District Court saying that up to that point, a “fair estimate of the amount of attorney’s fees sought, including litigation and costs, is $370,000.” That figure did not include the cost of the appeal.

Blake, 42, who has been on the force for 24 years, charged the county with violating his rights for ordering that he take neurological and fitness-for-duty tests in 2006, 10 years after he suffered what the lawsuit called a “potential seizure” on the job.

Blake argued that three weeks after being ill he had been pronounced fit for service. He claimed that the police chief at the time, Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, ordered the electroencephalogram and other tests in reprisal against Blake. Blake had testified before the county Board of Appeals on behalf of another officer who was challenging a forced retirement for health reasons.

The federal appeals court ruled that the county’s lawyers made a procedural error in not making a motion to have the U.S. District Court jury verdict reduced, therefore the appeals court is “powerless to review the district court’s ruling.”

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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