Appeal Of Lawyers' Award Blocked

Posted: November 22, 1990

The city's efforts to set aside part of a controversial damages award - amounting to about $40,000 - to Philadelphia lawyer M. Mark Mendel and his partner yesterday were blocked by a state judge, who said the city didn't have grounds to appeal the award.

Deputy City Solicitor Miriam B. Brenaman said she was shocked by the decision of Commonwealth Court Judge Madaline Palladino, which derailed the appeal in its preliminary stages.

"We'll have to ask for reconsideration, and if we don't get that, we'll ask for (consideration) by the Supreme Court," said Brenaman.

Dennis J. Cogan, attorney for Mendel and his law partner, George F. Schoener Jr., said Palladino's ruling was correct and that Brenaman was ''confused."

Mendel and Schoener were awarded more than $250,000 last year, based on a

finding that they were assaulted and falsely arrested during a 1986 City Hall incident. Their case was heard by Stanley M. Greenberg, a former Common Pleas Court judge who works for a private firm, Judicate, which operates as an alternative to the public-court system.

Greenberg made the award in two parts. In August 1989, he awarded $187,500 to Mendel and $26,500 to Schoener. Two months later, he increased the awards to $222,862.50 for Mendel and to $31,497.90 for Schoener, to account for interest - called delay damages. It is the additional money the city is contesting.

In its appeal, the city argued that the rules of Judicate prohibited delay damages. Brenaman said the issue of delay damages was never raised during the hearings, so Mendel and Schoener did not have the right to raise the issue after their initial award.

By her ruling, Palladino agreed with Cogan's contention that both the city and his clients had agreed to move the case from federal court to Judicate, with the understanding that federal rules of law would apply. If the case had been tried in federal court, Mendel and Schoener would have been allowed to collect delay damages, Cogan said.

The original award in the case was controversial because Greenberg said Mendel and Schoener could collect more than $75,000. The city believed that it had an agreement to cap any award at that amount.

Another point of controversy was Greenberg's role in the hearing. He had once testified, in connection with another case, that he had socialized with Mendel for many years.

Mendel and Schoener contended they were assaulted and falsely arrested by Philadelphia Police Detective Stephen Kaiser after an altercation with Kaiser in a sixth-floor courtroom on Nov. 5, 1986.

According to Mendel and Schoener, Kaiser pulled a gun and chased Mendel into a courtroom, then yanked him backward by the neck and punched him. Then, they said, Kaiser ran into the hallway and slammed Schoener against the wall before arresting both of them. The argument stemmed from an accusation by Mendel and Schoener that Kaiser fabricated evidence in a case.

City lawyers argued that Mendel and Schoener provoked a scene with Kaiser, and that they were trying to discredit Kaiser. The city said Kaiser never assaulted Mendel and did not cause the injuries Mendel claimed. Kaiser was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal-affairs investigation.

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