Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
In 1997, Washington, D.C., officials set aside $8 million to settle Bessye Neal, et al. v. The D.C. Department of Corrections. Nearly five years later, some of the claimants — jail workers who were victims of pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation — had moved away, some had lost their homes, and one had died. But none had seen a dime until last month. On Feb. 13, Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe — which handled the case as pro bono co-counsel with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs — hosted a celebration for the victims and the attorneys. Eight years after the case was filed, five years after the settlement was reached, and just months after the last of the 19 appeals was dismissed, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia finally had distributed the money. Nearly 130 claimants were to receive amounts ranging from $2,000 to $200,000 from the fund, which had grown to $9.6 million while in an escrow account. Their accusations ranged from hostile work environment and sexual discrimination claims to sexual abuse and rape. At the reception, Lawyers’ Committee attorney Warren Kaplan recalled pulling Bessye Neal’s 14-page letter, the document that initiated the case, from a folder of potential projects. It was 1993, and it would turn out to be his first case for the committee. Piper Marbury D.C. co-partner-in-charge Jeffrey Liss praised the team of lawyers who put in more than 6,000 hours to see the case from its filing in 1994 to disbursement. “At the time, I thought, ‘If half of this is true, this is evil that has to be named,’” he said. “It all turned out to be true.” Alan Balaran, the special master in the case, was there in his new capacity as the independent special inspector at the Department of Corrections. As inspector — a position created as part of the settlement — he will investigate sexual harassment and retaliation complaints and discipline offenders. But the true testimonials came from the claimants, who had just received their settlement money. One said she had been at Safeway with barely $5 to cover dinner and came home to find that her check had arrived. “I just sat there for an hour,” she explained. “Staring at it.” Money, though, was seldom mentioned. What dominated the reflections, and frequently moved the speakers to tears, was the emotional toll of the case and the years working at the Department of Corrections. “I had to do a lot of fighting and a lot of crying,” said one woman. “Amen,” answered many of the women. “Let no man take you so low that you should hate him,” said another. “Amen,” they answered back. Neal, the author of the letter that caught Kaplan’s attention back in 1993, was the last to speak at the Piper Marbury reception. “I too didn’t want to fight,” she said. “You realize you’re in a situation like that, and you think, ‘Why me?’ “But I demanded dignity. I demanded rights. I demanded to be accepted for who I am.” “Amen,” cheered the women.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.