Minneapolis will get free legal help with police union cases from law firm

Minneapolis is bringing in lawyers from the Jones Day law firm to help on some cases involving the police union, which some elected leaders and activists have pegged as an obstacle to reform.

The City Council voted 9 to 4 Friday morning to approve an agreement that will allow the city to receive free assistance from the international firm. Mayor Jacob Frey said he will approve the agreement and hopes it will help their efforts to reform the department following George Floyd’s death.

“To have the backing and assistance from a major law firm ready to go to town for deep structural change and accountability in our police department is hugely helpful,” Frey said.

The agreement has been in the works for several months.

Jones Day has been offering similar free assistance to cities across the country looking at criminal justice reform in the wake of the killing of Floyd in May.

One of the firm’s local partners is Andrew Luger, who served as the U.S. attorney for Minnesota from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama. After stepping aside, Luger joined the Minneapolis office of the firm, focusing on investigations and white-collar defense.

City Attorney Jim Rowader said his office is “currently stretched very thin” after some staffers left or were promoted. They have also seen “a substantial increase in the number of police grievances and arbitrations, as well as increased litigation demands.”

The firm could assist with negotiations over the union contract, which expired at the end of 2019, or in officers’ disciplinary cases. They could also help draft police reform legislation, work on disability claims and provide public safety data analysis.

Now that the council has signed off on the deal, Rowader said he expects they will “do a deeper dive to determine precisely where and when these services can be effectively and successfully utilized.”

Voting against the deal on Friday were Council Members Steve Fletcher, Jeremiah Ellison and Cam Gordon, as well as Council President Lisa Bender.

Earlier in the week, when the agreement was being discussed in committee, they raised a variety of concerns. Some said they wanted more detail about how the arrangement would work or wanted to explore whether other firms could provide similar services. Some raised concerns about the national firm’s work on President Donald Trump’s election appeals.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994

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