BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore City argued before the state's highest court that it should not have to pay victims of corrupt officers in the Gun Trace Task Force.
The city is trying to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability from people who've filed lawsuits saying they were brutalized by the rogue cops.
"The issue before the court today is were these officers acting within the scope of their employment. If the answer is yes, then the city has to pay," said Mandy Miliman, an attorney representing the estate of one of the plaintiffs, William James.
Baltimore City believes it should not be held legally and financially accountable for the actions of the disgraced Gun Trace Task Force, a once-elite group of officers who beat and robbed people and planted evidence on them.
"None of these actions were authorized by the Baltimore Police Department," John Conroy of the city's law department told the justices on the Court of Appeals. "They were engaged in conduct that furthered their own conspiracy."
The current legal battle involves two plaintiffs -- William James and Ivan Potts -- who wrongfully spent time in prison after being framed by some of the officers. The city hopes the court's ruling will set the precedent of a blanket protection against payouts.
"Their conduct flipped law enforcement on its head. They perpetrated a fraud on the entire system," Conroy said.
The city said the officers' conduct was "so egregious," taxpayers cannot possibly be held responsible for the claims.
Lawyers for the victims believe the Baltimore Police Department turned a blind eye to the conduct, tolerating it as long as the officers were getting guns off the streets.
"If the ruling is against us, our clients and others are going to be out of luck," said Paul Zukerberg, the lead attorney for Potts.
City lawyers declined to speak following the arguments. The ruling could impact more than 20 cases.
"What's really tough about these cases is these victims were saying over and over again, 'I did nothing wrong,' and their claims fell on deaf ears," Miliman told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.
It could be months before there is a ruling from the Court of Appeals.
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