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Paul, Weiss Secures $12 Million Settlement for Wrongfully Convicted Pro Bono Client

Paul, Weiss and co-counsel Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP successfully resolved a civil rights case on behalf of pro bono client Pablo Fernandez, securing one of the largest-ever wrongful conviction settlements to be paid by the city of New York. The case, brought in the Southern District of New York against the city and former NYPD officers, sought compensation for Mr. Fernandez’s wrongful conviction in 1996 for a homicide that he did not commit. In March 2022, the city agreed to settle the case for $12 million, and the court dismissed the case on May 3.

Paul, Weiss began representing Mr. Fernandez in 2005, during his 24-year incarceration, in connection with state and federal court appeals challenging his wrongful conviction. In February 2019, the Second Circuit granted habeas relief and reversed his conviction. Subsequently, Paul, Weiss persuaded the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office not to retry the case, and in September 2019, the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the indictment against Mr. Fernandez on the District Attorney’s motion.

Following Mr. Fernandez’s exoneration, Paul, Weiss began representing him in civil litigation. We filed a complaint containing Section 1983 and state law claims in the SDNY in December 2020 that detailed the rampant misconduct by the NYPD that led to his unjust conviction. For example, we argued that, even though Mr. Fernandez bore no resemblance to the man who shot the homicide victim, there was no physical, forensic or ballistics evidence connecting him to the crime, and there was no conceivable motive for him to have committed the murder, NYPD officers coached eyewitnesses and government cooperators to falsely incriminate him in their grand jury and trial testimony.

Based on the strength of our complaint, we urged the city to enter into early settlement negotiations, which began in the summer of 2021, before any depositions had been taken. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger facilitated mediation sessions in January and February 2022.

Paul, Weiss is also representing Mr. Fernandez in a suit in the New York Court of Claims under Section 8-b, which permits individuals to recover damages for unjust conviction and imprisonment from the state of New York. That case remains ongoing.

The Paul, Weiss team that represented Mr. Fernandez in his federal civil rights lawsuit was led by litigation of counsel Daniel Beller, partners David Brown and Lynn Bayard, and associates Jesus Franco, Kerissa Barron and Scott Kennedy.

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