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Victim of MPD excessive force seeks nearly $475,000 in attorney fees

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//December 15, 2023//

Lead Counsel Samantha Baker (right) and Emil Ovbiagele (left), won a $2 million federal jury verdict December 1, 2023, along with co-counsel Nate Cade.

Victim of MPD excessive force seeks nearly $475,000 in attorney fees

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//December 15, 2023//

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Counsel for Jospeh Walker who recently won a $2 million verdict against the city is now seeking reimbursement for nearly $475,000 in legal fees.

According to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal on Thursday, December 14, Attorneys Samantha Baker and Emil Ovbiagele, President of OVB Law & Consulting, S.C., filed a motion pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988, seeking Walker’s legal fees and costs for having to bring and prosecute his claims. Co-counsel Nate Cate also signed off on the motion.

Ovbiagele made other headlines recently as a Wisconsin Law Journal award recipient.

Walker is also seeking an enhanced legal fee of 33.33% (Extra $104,848.18) based on the alleged City’s prior failed attempts to resolve and the Common Council’s purposeful circumvention of settlement in this matter.

“This case depicts the exact type of civil rights litigation that Congress intended to encourage lawyers to handle when it decided to create a fee-shifting provision in Section 1983 cases so that state actors bear ‘the full burden of paying for enforcement of their civil rights obligations,'” the motion states.

According to court documents, Walker seeks $111,255.00 for legal fees to lead counsel Ovbiagele and an additional $42,970 to lead counsel Samantha Baker.

Walker is also seeking $83,476.50 in legal fees to co-counsel Nate Cade, and thousands more for other attorneys, legal assistants, law clerks, and paralegals, including $10,752 in legal fees for Ovbiagele’s Paralegal Austin Baldwin, who also recently won the Wisconsin Law Journal’s unsung hero award.

The motion also requests additional fees for the following individuals:

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, on December 1, a Federal jury in Milwaukee ruled the city of Milwaukee must pay out $2 million to Walker, the man who was shot multiple times in the back by four Milwaukee Police officers.

$1 million was awarded for excessive force in damages and another $1 million was awarded for officers’ failure to intervene.

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on December 1, Attorney Samantha Baker at OVB Law & Consulting said, “After 3,526 days, Joseph Walker can finally rest. This verdict sends a clear message: With great power, comes great responsibility. In a time where there is so much doubt in humanity, the jury showed compassion, but more importantly, they upheld the constitution, and they affirmed that nobody is above the law.”

Ovbiagele, Milwaukee Bar Association President, and founder of OVB Law & Consulting, also represented Walker. During a December 1 interview, Ovbiagele agreed with Baker.

“Today’s decision represents a pivotal moment of justice for Joseph Walker, a powerful statement about the sanctity of human life.” Ovbiagele said.

“The Jury’s verdict is a stark reminder that no individual should endure the terror of being shot in the back on their own front porch, especially by those entrusted to protect,” Ovbiagele noted.

“At OVB Law & Consulting, our commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless remains unwavering. Over the past two years, my team and I have embraced the profound duty of championing Mr. Walker’s pursuit of justice. The Jury’s verdict reinforces a fundamental truth we hold dear in our nation: accountability is paramount, without exception,” Ovbiagele added.

Co-counsel expressed gratitude for the jury’s verdict.

“But for the grace of God the shots missed his spine by 3 centimeters. Every day he gets to wake up and see his son,” said Nate Cade, Jr. who also represented Walker. Cade works at Cade Law Group.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the five-day Federal jury trial in Milwaukee was a result of Walker taking legal action after being shot multiple times by four Milwaukee Police officers. The trial began Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee.

The case was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

A panel of 34 potential jurors appeared Monday, initially taking questions from Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph; eight jurors were ultimately selected.

According to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, in the early morning hours of April 6, 2014, Joseph Walker was shot multiple times by four Milwaukee Police Department officers.

Walker sued the city of Milwaukee, along with MPD Sergeant Tanya Boll and MPD Officers Balbir Mahay, Jeremy Gonzalez, Daniel Clifford and Lisa Purcelli under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating his constitutional rights.

Walker alleges that Boll, Mahay, Clifford and Gonzalez used excessive force against him when shooting him (Count I) and that Gonzalez, Boll, Purcelli, Mahay and Clifford failed to intervene to stop the excessive force (Count II).

Walker also sued Milwaukee for its alleged failure to train its officers. (Count III and Docket # 62 at 18 n.3.)

Previously, the defendants moved for summary judgment in their favor on all three of Walker’s causes of action. However, the Court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Defendants were represented by city of Milwaukee Attorneys Naomi Gehling, S. Todd Farris, Anthony Jackson, Yolanda Y McGowan, Clint B Muche, Robin Pederson and Katryna Rhodes.

According to the amended complaint obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, the case was filed as a federal civil rights action under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Milwaukee Police Department officials deferred comments to the city attorney’s office. Despite multiple attempts by the Wisconsin Law Journal to obtain a comment from the city attorney’s office, no response was received.

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