We learned all too well last month how much the Somali community does not trust the police. Given the corrupt law enforcement in their own country, the predominately-Somali residents at a Saint Paul apartment building were reluctant to inform police of a sexual assault. The incident, which occurred in a second floor hallway, was witnessed by five to ten people.
Obviously there is a significant lack of trust which needs to be built up between police and the Somali community.
Now, with some lawyers attempting to profit (monetary and public relations-wise) from the 35W bridge collapse, the Somalis may have begun to view that aspect of law in much the same vain as Americans.
Just days after the collapse, while recovery crews were still battling treacherous waters, Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben -- one of the state's highest profile personal injury firms -- petitioned for access to the site for three attorneys and two expert witnesses.
Thankfully, U.S. District judge Patrick Schiltz shot down the request.
"The I-35W bridge collapse is, to put it mildly, of intense interest to the local bar," the judge observed.
Omar Jamal of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis can testify to that. His organization's phone began ringing off the wall after news got out that a pregnant Somali woman and her daughter were among the victims. Some lawyers who called asked for telephone numbers and other personal information, he said.
"This is the worst form of ambulance chasing," Jamal complained to the news media. "The divers are still in the river looking, and the attorneys keep calling us."
Perhaps that was due to visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads, right?
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi -- the firm that won a record settlement against Big Tobacco about a decade ago -- has offered to represent victims or their families without compensation, as have several other firms. Some folks speculate that Robins' offer is self-interested. Mike Ciresi, one of its partners, is running for the Senate. But if politics can contribute to people doing the right thing -- well, that's what politics is for, right?
Sure, we’ll go with it.
The minute the bridge collapse occurred there was an air of inevitability that this tragedy would be politicized. While that was going on, I couldn’t think of any worse behavior than that…..until now.