Tribune overlooks a courtroom bromance | Bleader

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tribune overlooks a courtroom bromance

Posted By on 12.02.13 at 04:57 PM

Lake County Jail brings two great pals back together.
  • Thomas Delany Jr./Lake County News-Sun/Pioneer Press
  • Lake County jail brings two great pals back together.
There's a peculiar omission from Monday's front-page Tribune story on problems at the Lake County jail.

Reporter Robert McCoppin tells us that Sheriff Mark Curran appointed an "independent attorney" 20 months ago to look into the deaths of two former inmates: Eugene Gruber, who was paralyzed when his neck was broken in a scuffle with officers in October 2011 and who died four months later; and Lyvita Gomes, who in January 2012 died 15 days into a hunger strike she started in the jail.

Terry Ekl was identified by the Tribune as the attorney Curran hired to review the cases. James Sotos was identified as the attorney representing the sheriff's department who has advised officers not to talk to Ekl until civil suits brought by the dead inmates' families are cleared up.

The upshot: Ekl's been paid $68,000 so far, McCoppin reports, but the matter languishes: "no jail employee has been disciplined . . . no specific policy changes have been announced . . . [Ekl's report] has yet to be completed."

Sotos has his legal part to play and Ekl has his. And if Sotos's part complicates Ekl's, there's nothing unusual about that. Our legal system is adversarial.

But what isn't said is that Sotos and Ekl are hard to buy as adversaries—or even as independent operators. Legally, they have a history of being best friends forever, generally on behalf of the uniforms. And Ekl's niece, Elizabeth Ekl, is a partner in Sotos's law firm. Here's a recent story of mine that observes Terry Ekl and Jim Sotos's tandem lawyering.

So what actually gives in Lake County? Sotos stalls; his pal Ekl rings up fees; nothing changes.

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