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Attorneys of the Year: Robert Bennett

circle of excellenceHardly anyone else wanted to sue the police in 1980 when Robert Bennett got a settlement in his first case of police misconduct, he says.

Today he is known nationally for his work in civil rights cases on behalf of people injured or killed by alleged police misconduct, including a $2.995 million settlement in 2017 between the Village of St. Anthony and the mother of Philando Castile, who was killed during a traffic stop in July 2016.

Bennett says practicing civil rights law is an honor because it revolves around concepts that are important to liberty.

“Prosecution of civil rights cases against law enforcement is difficult, but important to give meaning to the fundamental principles in the Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to our Constitution limiting police power,” says Bennett, who is a managing partner with Gaskins, Bennett, Birrell and Schupp LLP, Minneapolis.

The Constitution, the Supreme Court and federal court opinions on those limitations are the basis for holding law enforcement accountable for misuse of their power, he says.

“Our society needs this protection,” he says.

A second police misconduct case Bennett handled last year resulted in a $2 million settlement with the city of St. Paul for Frank Baker, who was attacked by a police dog and kicked in the ribs by a police officer.

In another 2017 case, he reached a $1.75 million settlement with the city of Chaska for the children of Dawn Marie Pfister, who was shot and killed by a police officer when she took a knife from a man who apparently had used it to hold her hostage after a car chase.

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