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Baltimore to seek ruling on indemnification for Gun Trace Task Force lawsuits

While jury awards are typically not before the Baltimore Board of Estimates, City Solicitor Andre M. Davis says he will go to the board if any judgment is for more than $25,000. The spending panel on Wednesday approved payment of a $147,000 jury award in a police brutality case. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Lawyers for Baltimore city will ask a judge to not force it indemnify any of the Gun Trace Task Force officers named as defendants in civil lawsuits. ‘We are taking the position… that no duty of indemnification is owed to any of the officers in the Gun Trace Task Force because they were not ever acting within the scope of their employment,’ says City Solicitor Andre M. Davis.

The Baltimore City Law Department plans to file a motion in the coming weeks arguing the city does not have to indemnify any of the Gun Trace Task Force officers named as defendants in civil lawsuits.

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis, in an interview Friday, said the motion for declaratory judgment has been made in the individual lawsuits that have been filed so far. But with more than 50 claims in the pipeline, the city plans to ask for an affirmative ruling in all current and future cases involving the members of the corrupt Baltimore Police Department unit.

“We are taking the position… that no duty of indemnification is owed to any of the officers in the Gun Trace Task Force because they were not ever acting within the scope of their employment,” he said.

Davis called the issue of indemnification a matter of first impression in Maryland and perhaps in the country due to the unprecedented nature of the cases. Eight officers were indicted on federal racketeering charges and accused of planting evidence, robbing defendants and overtime fraud. Six pleaded guilty and two were convicted at trial.

“We’ve never seen a situation like what we’re facing now where essentially you have a criminal conspiracy joined by multiple officers over a significant period of time,” Davis said.

The question of the city’s duty to indemnify will be “something of a race to the appellate courts,” he said, where the city’s lawyers have found no case law about the application of civil liability and the scope of employment to facts like these.

“We’re saying we do not owe any indemnity and that’s going to have to be established case by case by case by case until we get some rather definitive parameters from the Court of Appeals,” Davis said.

Davis spoke Friday after Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams denied the city’s indemnification motion in William James’ lawsuit against four of the former GTTF members. The officers allegedly stopped James’ car in 2016, pulled him out, planted a gun and arrested him. The charges were later dismissed.

James filed suit in March against Jemell Rayam, Daniel Hersl, Wayne Jenkins and Marcus Taylor as well as the city and police department.

Williams dismissed claims against the city and police department Friday, a ruling Mandy L. Miliman, who represents James, said she did not oppose due to sovereign immunity. She said she included the city in the lawsuit to put them on notice of the claims but when the motion for declaratory judgment was included in the city’s motion to dismiss, she filed a “heated opposition.”

“Because they filed the motion for declaratory judgment, I had to oppose it,” said Miliman, of D’Alesandro & Miliman P.A. in Baltimore.

The city contends in the motion the alleged actions of the officers “are in direct contravention and not supported by any law enforcement training, nor do these actions further any recognized mission of the Baltimore Police Department.”

Miliman countered in her motion that to enter a judgment excusing the city from indemnification “would have a dangerously sweeping effect on the Baltimore City citizens who were victimized for at least seven years, by officers working directly under the auspices, and at the direction, of the BPD.”

She argued that whether the officers were acting within the scope of their employment must be determined by the fact finder after a trial.

The officers have not yet been served James’ complaint because they are incarcerated in federal institutions and their locations are not being disclosed.

Davis said the city is hoping to come to an agreement with private defense counsel for the officers where they will “streamline service of process” by accepting it on behalf of their clients.

The case is William James v. Jemell Rayam et al., 24C1801701.


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