Phila. attorney specializing in police brutality litigation faces legal malpractice claim by former client

Jon Campisi May 1, 2012, 9:31am

A state prison inmate filed a legal malpractice civil action at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court against an attorney the plaintiff had retained to represent him in a prior civil matter stemming from an incident of alleged police brutality.

Feldon Bush, Sr., currently housed at the Rockview State Correctional Institute, filed the pro se complaint last week against Philadelphia attorney Patrick G. Geckle alleging gross counsel incompetency.

The lawsuit claims that during a prior civil action initiated by Bush against two city police officers, Geckle failed to present internal affairs files of the officers involved in claims of excessive force, documents that would have shown the officers were subject to prior citizens’ complaints, which would have proved a pattern of brutality.

“Ethical breaches were evidence [sic] when Plaintiff’s counsel extended into a ‘Quid Pro Quo’ with opposing counsel not to use the IAD Files of these officers involved in the case …,” the pro se complaint states.

The internal affairs records and other documents would have shown that the officers, identified in the suit as Terry Flowers and Mary Pawlowski, had previously been accused of physical abuse and police brutality, and that prior lawsuits by other civilians caused the officers to face disciplinary actions.

The lawsuit also alleges other failures on Geckle’s part, including that the attorney failed to object to the “illegal use” of Bush’s criminal record at his criminal trial.

Bush complains in his complaint about the unfairness of disregarding the officers’ internal affairs files while simultaneously entering into the picture Bush’s criminal past.

“There is definitely something wrong with this picture,” the lawsuit states. “The improper use of Plaintiff’s criminal record was clearly shown in the record because most of the information used by the city of Philadelphia’s attorneys from Plaintiff’s criminal record was inaccurate, the information contained many errors and prejudicial statements and should have been challenged by Plaintiff’s trial counsel and quashed,” the suit states.

Bush claims in his lawsuit that the jury at his civil trial against the officers, which took place following the criminal proceedings, was prejudiced by Geckle’s actions.

The lawsuit also claims Geckle failed to fight on Feldon’s behalf to attempt to get a vehicle that had been seized during the course of the investigation into Bush’s illegal activities returned to the plaintiff.

“Trial counsel clearly lost his mind with regards to his client’s interes[t],” Bush wrote in his suit. “Total incompetency on the part of trial counsel.”

The lawsuit states that the criminal case against Bush was eventually thrown out because the police officers failed to show up to court to testify, although by that time Bush had already spent 17 months incarcerated.

(It was not immediately clear why Bush currently remains imprisoned).

The lawsuit claims that Bush, as a result of the alleged incompetency on the part of his former attorney, has suffered pain and mental anguish, as well as appetite loss, severe depression and other injuries.

Bush stated in his pro se civil complaint that he is seeking damages in the sum of $300,000. (The jurisdictional limit in state court, however, is $50,000).

The lawsuit never mentions the specifics with regards to Bush’s criminal past, or why he was on trial in the first place.

However, a search of his criminal docket sheet shows that Bush had been charged back in 2008 with aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer and restrictions on alcoholic beverages.

Bush was initially held for trial on some of the counts while others were dismissed.

The docket sheet shows that Bush’s court appointed defense attorney at his criminal trial was Mark D. Mungello.

Another records search shows that Bush filed suit on Sept. 27, 2011 against the Philadelphia Public Defender Association.

That suit, also filed pro se, was docketed at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

However, notes on the civil docket sheet show that Common Pleas Court Judge William J. Manfredi dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous back on Oct. 18, 2011.


The case ID number is 120402836. 

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