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City of Denver spent nearly $2M on outside law firms for George Floyd lawsuits

Denver's City Attorney's Office has paid seven outside law firms a total of $1,851,048.53 to litigate, then ultimately settle 20 lawsuits filed in connection with the 2020 George Floyd protests that alleged excessive force, civil rights violations and police misconduct.

The information on legal fees was provided to CBS News Colorado via a Colorado Open Records Act request to the Denver city attorney.

The City Attorney's Office says the city has now paid out about $11.7 million to settle those lawsuits, but the costs to pay outside attorneys bring the true cost of those legal actions closer to $13.6 million.

Although the city attorney's office has 134 lawyers and 53 paralegals and an annual budget of more than $41 million, administrators turned the Floyd lawsuits over to seven outside law firms which charged anywhere from $75 to $275 per hour for legal work. 

Racial Justice Protests Lawsuits
FILE -Denver Police move during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Denver. A federal jury's $14 million award to Denver protesters injured during 2020 demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd could resonate nationwide as courts weigh more than two dozen similar lawsuits. David Zalubowski / AP

RELATED: Verdict Returned In ACLU Lawsuit Over Damages, Denver Police Action In George Floyd Protests

The firms that received the legal work were:

  • Hall & Evans which was paid $1,363,960.80
  • Lasater & Martin which was paid $ 159,534.25
  • Berg Hill Greenleaf & Ruscitti which was paid $149,746.64
  • Vaughan & DeMuro which was paid $80,064.24
  • SGR,LLC which was paid $58,311.90
  • Wells, Anderson & Race, LLC which was paid $24,038.50
  • Kissinger & Fellman PC which was paid $15,392.20

Denver City Attorney Kerry Tipper declined to be interviewed about the decision to outsource the legal work, releasing a brief written statement saying:

"The decision to hire outside counsel is made on a case by case basis and typically reflects the need for additional capacity or subject matter expertise."

RELATED: Aurora sues Denver over lawsuits from George Floyd protests

Her office has a civil litigation section, tasked with defending the city in civil lawsuits that allege personal injury or civil rights violations. 

But the CAO suggested their civil litigation section, comprised of 12 attorneys and four paralegals, was overloaded with cases. 

According to an office spokesperson, in 2022 the civil litigation section handled 598 claims and 183 lawsuits.

The city attorney's office said the outside law firms were chosen through a competitive bidding process.

Tayler Overschmidt, director of communications for the Denver Auditor's Office said, "there are any number of factors they might consider when making the (outsourcing) decision, such as the long-term costs of salary and benefits, any current hiring freezes, or a lack of specialized skill available in the job market at the city's career service salary rates."

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