Monday, December 08, 2008

What is the Judge in the Monteiro Case Doing?

The jury decision in the Monteiro case came down in late May.

To no surprise, the opinion of the jury was strikingly similar to the opinion of a very clear majority of people in the street and of outsiders viewing things in the City of Cambridge.

You see, very easily a majority of the most visible "organizations" in the City of Cambridge have been created by friends of the Cambridge City Manager at the request of the Cambridge City Manager (or his minions), and, to no great surprise, operate to protect the Cambridge City Manager. The key people in these organizations praise the heck out of the City Manager and his nine similarly bad city councilors. Their words are commonly great. Their actions are commonly exactly the opposite, and they cannot understand the problem.

The jury expressed a much more common and very much an outsider view of the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge City Manager. The jury expressed contempt for the Cambridge City Manager. The jury found that the Cambridge City Manager deliberately destroyed a woman’s life because she had the nerve to file a civil rights claim against him.

The jury expressed their contempt as powerfully as they could. The jury ordered $1.1 million or so in actual damages and $3.5 million in penal damages to be paid by the City of Cambridge to Ms. Monteiro.

The city filed motions to reverse the decision. These motions, for the most part, had already been decided in a similar motion before a different judge. One exception, mentioned in the Globe article cited in a prior report, was that the Cambridge City Manager stated that he was mistreated by the failure of the jury to learn that the Civil Rights complaint which was the source of the retaliation was thrown out by a prior jury. So a bad civil rights complaint gives the Cambridge City Manager the right to destroy a woman’s life? That is quite simply not the law.

Also filed was a motion to reduce the award of damages.

The motions were heard in a hearing on June 10, and three filings followed. The first, by the City of Cambridge, was described as papers. The second was described as the plaintiff’s response. The third, on August 4, was a motion by the city to strike the plaintiff’s response.

Now we sit.

I have no access to the papers. They are on the judge’s desk. I have thus no real knowledge as to the content of the papers, only to their titles on the court’s formal list of papers which is called the court docket.

The motion to strike the plaintiff’s response to the city’s papers is highly unusual. Apparently the judge allowed Cambridge to file papers with regard to an argument at the hearing, and allowed the plaintiff to respond to the papers. The motion to strike was apparently the only avenue open to the city to respond to a plaintiff’s paper which was probably devastating.

It would be unusual for the judge to reverse the jury, especially in light of the prior judge’s ruling in the same case.

It seems to me that the judge is responding to motion to reduce damages. The jury socked Cambridge with pretty much the maximum allowed under US Supreme Court decisions, three times damages. It is very difficult to justify such an award in general, but such reprehensible behavior could possibly justify it.

The jury used a broad weapon, money, to respond to really bad behavior.

The judge is not so limited, especially since she had the city’s motion to reduce in front of her. The judge has powers of "equity" in Superior Court in addition to the powers the jury has.

I think she is recognizing that the monetary damages do not hit the point directly enough. I think she is looking at a series of statutes by which the legislature has dictated forfeiture of pension rights in response to severely gross misbehavior in office.

I think she is working on an order replacing part of the monetary punitive damages with an order that the Cambridge City Manager be fired and his pension stripped.

I find such an order a reasonable response to reprehensible behavior, another example of the contempt by decent human beings to the status quo in the City of Cambridge.