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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Holmes recruits outside counsel to augment police defense work

5/3/2011  5:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

Fulfilling a pledge made when he became City Attorney, Pete Holmes announced Tuesday that his office is seeking bids from private firms and individual lawyers to represent the Seattle Police Department against a range of allegations, including wrongful arrest and death, excessive use of force, police misconduct and violations of federal civil rights.

The City's long-standing annual contract with Stafford Frey Cooper expired at the end of 2010. Going forward, police officers will be represented by torts attorneys in Holmes’ office or outside counsel as circumstances require. The formal requests for qualifications and proposals are available at and will be advertised in the Daily Journal of Commerce and posted on the Washington State Bar Association website.

The driving force behind the change is the austere budget climate. The City can save as much as $800,000 annually through competitive bidding and CAO's lower internal hourly costs. As Holmes said last fall, "It's a tough time budget-wise. We can pay top fees to Stafford Frey, and then wonder why we can't put officers on the street. There's a direct connection."

Equally important, the City will be able to play a more supportive role on policy – by having a closer working relationship with the actual officers.

Aside from the need to pare costs, Holmes noted he has been concerned over the lack of a competitive process for selecting and retaining Stafford Frey Cooper. City rules require competitive bidding and posting contracts with the City Clerk. “Bidding on this work is a big part of my overall transparency-in-contracting agenda,” he said.

Holmes’ move is supported by Mayor Mike McGinn and by the City Council, which agreed during last year’s budget deliberations to add funding for two torts lawyers plus a paralegal and legal assistant. Handling the bulk of police defense work inside CAO will be Brian Maxey, who represented New York City police for the law department there, and Dominique Jinhong, an experienced federal litigator and former Thurston County prosecutor.

The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) has been made aware of Holmes’ decision to bid this legal work. In a letter to SPOG after he took office, Holmes wrote, "the selection of counsel for city employees is a decision vested within the discretion of the City Attorney, and is not subject to collective bargaining.”

Stafford Frey Cooper will be eligible to compete to represent the city on individual cases and likely will be competitive because of the firm's expertise in defending officers accused of excessive use of force.

“In all cases, the City Attorney intends to provide police officers with the same quality of or better legal representation and support they have received in the past,” the request for qualifications states. “The City Attorney will place the qualifying attorneys on a roster to be provided to the Seattle Police Department for distribution to its officers, Seattle Police Officer’s Guild and Seattle Police Management Association.”

Responses are due to CAO by May 31. By early July the law firms will be notified of their selection.

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