In the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 murder by a police officer, mass protests broke out across the country in response to police brutality and racism. Hundreds upon hundreds of peaceful protestors were injured by police through their use of excessive force during this time. One of them was Deon Jones, 31, who works in entertainment and brand consulting in the Los Angeles area. Jones was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by a police officer, sustaining injuries that save for the grace of a few millimeters, could have blinded or even killed him. Thanks to a Biglaw firm’s pro bono representation, Jones just won a first-of-its-kind verdict that may serve as a blueprint for future civil rights cases.
Gibson Dunn, a firm that’s currently ranked at No. 11 on the Am Law 100, took the lead in representing Jones, with lawyers from the firms New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., offices getting involved to help secure a win. Orin Snyder — one of the firm’s most senior attorneys, who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading trial lawyers and litigators — guided the case to a landmark victory. Yesterday, a federal jury determined that LAPD officer Peter Bueno had violated Jones’s civil rights in the shooting, finding Bueno personally liable for Jones’s injuries. Jones was awarded $375,000 ($250,000 in actual damages and $125,000 in punitive damages).
The Los Angeles Times captured Jones’s reaction to the verdict being read:
Jones listened with his head bowed as a judge read the jury’s decision in a Santa Ana courtroom. Afterward, he said it was “a good day.”
“This victory isn’t just mine. It is for all the folks who historically have went out and protested,” Jones said. “It sends a message that … law enforcement cannot brutalize folks.”
“This is the first time anyone has sued and successfully obtained a verdict against the LAPD arising from the 2020 demonstrations,” Snyder said of his client’s victory. “The verdict sends a powerful message that the police cannot trample the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters. We hope the verdict will lead to meaningful reforms in how the police approach demonstrations in the future.” This is not just an exceptionally meaningful win for civil rights advocates in California, but all across the country.
Gibson Dunn’s pro bono representation of Jones in this case is part of the firm’s broader racial justice initiative, reaffirming its commitment to advancing racial justice and equity. In fact, Gibson Dunn’s largest client is its pro bono practice, and last year, the firm did about $135 million in pro bono work for causes and clients that include racial justice, free speech, immigration, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and international human rights.
Katie Marquart, Gibson Dunn’s pro bono chair, offered this statement:
“This case and this client hold a special place in our hearts. It is cases like this that remind all of us why we became lawyers. We have been working on this case since June 2020. We have given all that we had to fight for Mr. Jones and for the rights of protesters to be free from excessive force. We are so deeply grateful for this jury verdict.”
Jones was featured as a vocalist in Glenn Kaino’s exhibition, “In the Light of a Shadow,” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Please watch his incredibly moving performance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” here:
“We have a powerful platform and we are privileged when we are able to use it to further causes we all care deeply about, like we did in the case on behalf of Deon Jones,” Marquart said.
Congratulations to Gibson Dunn and Deon Jones on this momentously important victory, and best of luck to them as they march forward to the next phase of this case, where they will attempt to secure victories against the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department.
LAPD officer found liable for protester’s injury in $375,000 verdict [Los Angeles Times]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.