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The POWER 30: Robert Bennett

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

Robert Bennett

Robert Bennett, Robins Kaplan LLP

The POWER 30: Robert Bennett

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

Robins Kaplan LLP

Robert Bennett calls it “defending the indefensible.” Referring to the city of Minneapolis he says, “They’ve reaped what they’ve sown.”

He’s speaking of a recent settlement with the city of Minneapolis on behalf of two clients, John Pope and Zoya Code, who had brutal encounters with police officers, including Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of homicide in the killing of George Floyd.

Before the Floyd tragedy, Chauvin was involved, along with other officers, in separate incidents involving Pope and Code. Pope will receive $7.5 million and Code $1.375 million, before attorney fees.

In a press release announcing the settlement last April, Bennett said, “Beware the ease of blaming Chauvin alone. While he is a blunt instrument of police brutality and racism, he could never flourish in a police agency that lived up to its mission statement.” He also noted that Chauvin was allowed to train younger officers in his excessive force.

Notable is the fact that the Pope and Code interactions were filmed by police body cameras and the evidence was released to the plaintiffs by United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, subject to some protective redaction of person’s identities. The defendants sought to prevent the release of the tapes under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. But as Leung stated, state law does not control the federal courts. Discovery is a procedural matter governed in federal court by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, not by state rules governing access to information, Leung said.

Bennett and his team, including Katie Bennett, Marc Betinsky, Greta Wiessner and Andrew Noel, had some other important success recently. The state of North Dakota paid $2.9 million in compensation for the suicide of a 12-year-old boy while in state custody.

Additionally, Soren Stevenson settled his case with Minneapolis for $2.4 million after he lost his left eye to a police rubber bullet while protesting George Floyd’s death near 35W.

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