• Goins Aaron, PLC of New Orleans

$14 Million Jury Award against DA Reversed

March 30 2011 | blog

On March 29, 2011 in Connick v Thompson, a 5-4 decision, the U. S. Supreme Court reversed the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which had split 8 to 8 to nominally affirm a $14 Million jury verdict obtained by former death row inmate John Thompson against the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office based on an alleged violation of federal civil rights law (42 USC Section 1983).   The jury verdict, as noted by the Supreme Court Majority, was based on a jury charge given by the trial court which erroneously stated that a DA could be held liable for deliberate indifference  to the need for training based on a single instance of a Brady violation by an Assistant DA.

In overturning the jury verdict which had the potential to shutter the local DA's office the Supreme Court Majority quoted from the trial court record which showed that the trial court had twice rejected the correct legal standard for determining deliberate indifference.   That standard, which requires a showing of a pattern of Brady violations, was first advanced by trial counsel for the DA's Office in a well worded motion for summary judgment and again in a proposed jury charge.   Attorneys of Aaron, PLC served as trial counsel for the DA's Office before the District Court and appellate counsel before a three judge panel of the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as well as before the entire Fifth Circuit sitting En Banc.    Aaron, PLC attorneys additionally provided assistance in the drafting of the DA's Cert Petition to the U. S. Supreme Court. 

At the trial court level Aaron, PLC attorneys were able to defeat twelve of Thompson's fourteen causes of action through motions for summary judgment and motions for judgment as a matter of law.   The federal jury split on the two remaining causes of action finding on the one hand that the DA (Connick) did not have an unconstitutional policy as related to the turnover of evidence favorable to a defendant, but that as to the failure to turn over evidence favorable to Thompson the DA was deliberately indifferent to the need for training.  

Kudos to Kyle Duncan of the Louisiana Attorney General's Office who argued the Thompson case before the Supreme Court and to the following current and former attorneys of Aaron, PLC  who worked on the Thompson case at the trial and/or appellate levels: Bill Aaron, Mark Carver, Richard Goins, Renee Smith, DeWayne Williams, Candice Richards-Forest and Scott Stevens.  

Aaron, PLC is ranked a Tier 1 Best Law Firm by U. S. News and World Report and Best Lawyers.   The Tier 1 ranking relates to Aaron, PLC's highly successful Municipal Law Practice which includes Municipal Law, State and Local Government, Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, Public Utilities, Land Use and Telecommunications.

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