All lawyers (and other people too, of course) who volunteer their time to help kids, the elderly, the poor, the powerless, and the down-trodden, deserve our praise for their altruism. On the other hand, it takes a particular bravery when your client or his cause is also unpopular, even despised. Lawyers who take on unpopular clients and causes up the ante when it comes to doing good work deserving recognition and honor.
It is one thing to brag at meetings and parties about going to bat for some sympathetic client, particularly against a malefactor, and another thing to take up the cause of, say, a convicted sex offender alleging mistreatment by law enforcement.
With that in mind, Minnesota Litigator highlights the achievment of New York attorney Anthony J. Colleluori, along with Minnesota counsel, Steven Corson, who took on the case of Philip David Schaub, a paraplegic convicted sex offender who brought a claim based on his treament (or lack of treatment) when jailed in Olmstead County. (Schaub had suffered a car accident in the mid-1980’s, was not very well taken care of when in custody in the Spring of 2003, and suffered serious health consequences as a result.)
United States Court District Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.), in awarding this past week attorney’s fees for the successful constutional action that Colleluori and Corson took on, pointed out that their client Schaub had sought help from over 1,000 lawyers and had received written denials from over 200 lawyers. Finally, Colleluori took up Schaub’s case and won an award of $964,000, of which $750,000 were punitive damages after a bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge James R. Rosenbaum (retired).
Cynics will undoubtedly note that Schaub’s counsel could well have been motivated “pro money” rather than “pro bono” (and, in the end, was successful in his goal). Minnesota Litigator is in no position to know the attorneys’ personal motivations. Regardless, Schaub’s lawyers obviously took a very hard case and, assuming the judgment was sound (and it was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit), prevailed against tough odds in the of upholding a citizen’s constitutional rights.