As Baltimore nears a recommendation for a police monitor under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, Venable remains as the only law firm in a select group of finalists vying for the role. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, meanwhile, has signed on for an additional three years—and fees of up to $6.4 million—in a similar role in New Orleans after its selection in 2013.
Venable is one of four finalists for the Baltimore police monitoring role, called for in a consent decree reached with the Justice Department following an investigation launched in the wake of Freddie Gray’s 2015 death from injuries suffered while in police custody.
The Baltimore consent decree, approved in April by U.S. District Judge James Bredar, calls for wide-ranging reforms to the city’s policing after the DOJ found shortcomings in its stop, search and arrest practices, and allots up to almost $1.5 million per year to pay for monitoring compliance over a three-year period.
The choice in Baltimore has been winnowed down over the past several months after 26 different teams, including law firms Barnes & Thornburg, BuckleySandler, DLA Piper, Gallagher Evelius & Jones and Venable, submitted applications in June.
Both DLA Piper and Venable made it through an initial cut, but only Venable made it into the current list of four finalists selected jointly by the city, the Baltimore Police Department and the DOJ, according to a city government website about the monitor and the selection process.
Partner Kenneth Thompson would lead the Venable team. He is described in the firm’s application for the monitor role as a lifelong Baltimore resident. Thompson’s deputy monitors would be fellow Venable partner Seth Rosenthal and Theron Bowman, a deputy city manager in Arlington, Texas, who previously spent nearly three decades with Arlington’s police department, including 13 as its chief.
Venable is joined on the list of finalists by regulatory compliance company Exiger; CNA, a Virginia-based nonprofit research and analysis organization; and Powers Consulting Group, a consulting firm headed by a former Maryland state trooper and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.
The four finalists took part in public meetings earlier this week, according to local news reports. The city, police department and DOJ are scheduled to recommend one or two of those finalists to Bredar next week after a public comment period has closed.
A representative for Venable did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.
While Venable remains in the running for a monitor position in Baltimore, Sheppard Mullin has long been at work in a similar role in New Orleans, having been hired in 2013 to oversee a DOJ consent decree calling for police reforms in the Louisiana city.
New Orleans has reportedly paid about $7 million in connection with the monitoring. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who is supervising the police monitoring under the New Orleans consent decree, ordered that Sheppard Mullin’s fees be capped at $6.4 million under a recently approved three-year extension.
Sheppard Mullin partner Jonathan Aronie serves as the New Orleans monitor and confirmed the three-year extension in an emailed statement on Friday.
“The New Orleans Police Department has made and continues to make tremendous progress in achieving the goals and mandates of the Consent Decree,” said Aronie. ”Notwithstanding the Department’s progress, Federal District Court Judge Susie Morgan extended the term of the Monitoring Team for an additional three years since NOPD is not yet in full compliance, and will need to show sustained compliance for two years once it comes into full compliance.”
Venable and Sheppard Mullin are not the only large law firms to have gone after a police monitor role under a DOJ consent decree. Among many other firms, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom pursued a monitor role in Cleveland, but was beaten out by Matthew Barge, a former Skadden associate who now serves as co-executive director of a law enforcement consultancy called the Police Assessment Resource Center.
Scott Flaherty covers the business of law with a special focus on plaintiffs firms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sflaherty18.