Sunday, September 19, 2021

"Worth" -- Netflix's movie on the 9/11 victim's compensation fund, and interviews with Ken Feinberg

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Netflix released a new movie called "Worth".  It is a dramatization of the story behind the 9/11 victims compensation fund, which was administered by Ken Feinberg.  

I recently watched the movie and I recommend it.  It is not a thriller, nor a courtroom drama, but it does a good job of showing the every day inner workings of torts lawyers trying to figure out how to manage the type of compromise it takes to evaluate claims fairly.  And in a case like the 9/11 fund everything was amplified and more difficult.  I don't know how much of the movie was accurate or how much was exaggerated from dramatic purposes, but I can say that the scenes where the lawyers meet with grieving and angry clients are true to life, as any plaintiffs' lawyer will tell you.

Victims compensation fund are not perfect, and we can argue whether they are even fair given how the lawyers calculate compensation, but I think the movie is worth watching (excuse the pun).

In addition, if you have 20 minutes, take a look at Ken Feinberg himself talking about compensation funds in this short talk.

Finally, just a few days ago Feinberg was interviewed for a podcast.  You can listen to the interview by clicking on the play button below or by going here.

In both the talk and the recent interview Feinberg explains why he thinks that victims compensation funds are not a good idea as an alternative to litigation and should not be used generally in the future.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Wrongfully Convicted Man who was Imprisoned for 23 Years Sues Prosecutor

 A recently exonerated man who spent 23 years in prison has filed a complaint against a longtime Mississippi district attorney alleging various violations of the U.S. and Mississippi state constitutions.  The plaintiff was tried six times for the 1996 murders of four people.  The defendant prosecuted all six trials, none of which resulted in a legally valid conviction.  Four of those murder trials resulted in convictions and death sentences but all convictions were vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct.  One of the opinions reversing one of those convictions was written by now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who wrote that “The state’s relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals strongly suggests that the state wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.” 

The background story is very compelling but the case will be an uphill battle.  I expect that the prosecutor will argue qualified immunity and will cite Supreme Court precedent which makes it very difficult if not almost impossible for exonerated plaintiffs to win claims against former prosecutors.  For this reason, cases like this often settle out of court, which provides some level of compensation.

For more information on the case go to Law&Crime, NPR, and Courthouse News Service.