Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Harry Dunn Case Update: A Check Finally Gets Cashed

The suit against the American driver was settled in September when the Dunn family accepted the insurance company's offer. However, at that point the family's former law firm - Cohen, Milstein - filed a lien on any settlement money while they petitioned the court for 30 percent of that boodle in accordance with their contract to represent the family. As you may recall, Cohen Milstein had withdrawn from the case due to unresolvable differences with its clients before a second firm got the case to settlement.

That dispute still goes on, but last Friday the judge in the case issued an interim order requiring distribution of settlement funds not in dispute, meaning that some of the insurance money will finally flow to the Dunn family and, of course, some of that money will stick to their current set of American lawyers.

The amount of the settlement remains confidential, however, UK Twitter gossip says the amount that is not in dispute is seventy percent of the total. That would make perfect sense, since Cohen Milstein is claiming thirty percent, according to a rare unsealed motion filed with the court.

Will Cohen Milstein get that much? Depends on the judge. He might give them all of that, or some of that, or none of that.

So let's see ... thirty percent for them, and another thirty for the firm that replaced Cohen Milstein, leaves, uh, forty percent for the three Dunn family plaintiffs to share.

The family and its horrendous spokesman / advisor are keeping silent on the money as of now. After all, they're still raising donations from the public (to the tune of $213,000 so far) and might not want to do any victory laps yet.

But watch this space for whatever clues we might gather from the family's future spending. Was the settlement Land Rover kind of money, or second-hand subcompact kind of money?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Harry Dunn Update: Family Takes One Step Back From Civil Settlement Money, Criminal Hearing Cancelled

It wouldn't be another week gone by if I didn't have a post about the Harry Dunn case, would it? Well, here's what we know as of today.

The U.S. Court in Alexandria issued a denial of the plaintiff's request for prejudgement interest, and heard dueling motions on other matters.

My take, which is based on unreliable and unsourced UK Twitter gossip, is that the Dunn family is likely to lose its battle to exclude their first set of American lawyers from the insurance settlement boodle. As the firm of Cohen Milstein had already stated in an unsealed motion, their work achieved an initial settlement offer and that offer is proof of the monetary value CM brought to the plaintiffs, notwithstanding that the plaintiffs rejected that offer. So they'd like thirty percent of that amount, please.

As for the criminal case against the American driver that the Crown Prosecution Service has been impotently threatening, it hit a snag when the would-be defendant declined to go along. The CPS announced on Friday that the court hearing they'd had scheduled for next week has been cancelled. 

The BBC's Home Affairs correspondent reported:
A hearing was scheduled for Westminster Magistrates' Court on 18 January, but the CPS said this had been "vacated".

A spokesman for the CPS said: "This is to enable ongoing discussions between the CPS and Anne Sacoolas's legal representatives to continue."

Last month, Mrs Sacoolas's lawyers denied she would attend a court appearance via video link and said no such agreement had been made.

The CPS announcement was immediately spun by the Dunn family spokesman as a "postponement" of the hearing, a term that was repeated across the UK news media. Of course if it actually were a postponement, then there would be a new date for a hearing, whereas the CPS said the hearing date had been "vacated." As in, there is now no date set for a hearing on that matter.

More to come. Much more.


SecState Blinken to FSJ: A World of Risk

SecState Blinken was interviewed for this month's Foreign Service Journal, and he - meaning, really, his office and staff - showed he has been briefed on an initiative now underway to approach Congress for relief from some strictures on overseas security and risk acceptance that were imposed by legislation which was passed over twenty years ago.
FSJ: You said in the speech at FSI that you will seek authorities and policies that allow diplomats to manage risk more effectively and smartly. Can you tell us more about this new risk management platform and how it will be implemented?

Secretary Blinken: My first responsibility is to ensure the safety of our people and their families in the field. From the COVID-19 pandemic to anomalous health incidents, the risks facing U.S. diplomats overseas are as significant and complex as ever.

But we must find ways to address these threats and risks without losing the in-person diplomacy and public engagement that are at the core of our profession. That’s a message I’ve heard loud and clear from every part of our workforce, everywhere I’ve traveled, including at our highest-risk posts.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve moved many U.S. embassies, consulates and American Centers out of city centers and into more hardened facilities where they’re less accessible to the people they were created to reach. In some cases, there were good reasons for those moves. But there have also been some unintended consequences. It’s become immensely difficult to open new posts, even in low-threat environments; and it’s harder than it should be to adjust our presence to respond to crises and opportunities. Last year, China surpassed the United States in total number of diplomatic and consular posts. We make it harder to outcompete China when we are so hindered in how and where we can operate. We’ve got to fix that.

As our diplomats know, a world of zero risk is not a world in which we can deliver for the American people. We have to accept risk and manage it smartly. One way to do that is by working with Congress to update the legislation that governs our physical security requirements overseas and reforming the Accountability Review Board process. Here, too, there is bipartisan support to update our mindset and operations, focusing more on lessons learned and less on individual culpability when it comes to security incidents.

So I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to make some commonsense changes that will strengthen our diplomacy while continuing to keep our people safe.
Good on you, SecState Blinken. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you can persuade Congress to acknowledge the reality that this is, unavoidably, a world of risk.