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Karen Dunn Discusses New HBO Documentary on Charlottesville Trial With The American Lawyer and Lawdragon

October 10, 2023

Litigation partner Karen Dunn spoke with The American Lawyer and with Lawdragon about the new HBO Original documentary, No Accident, which illustrates the highs and lows of the four-year litigation in Sines v. Kessler. The film, which premiers on HBO on October 10, follows Karen, Jessica Phillips and co-counsel from Kaplan Hecker & Fink as they go head-to-head with white supremacist defendants during a four-week trial and secure a landmark verdict in 2021 on behalf of nine pro bono clients who were injured in the violence during the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In the Am Law interview, “‘No Accident’: Documentary Filmmakers Chronicle the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ Trial Team,” Karen notes that while cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, the team felt that the public needed to witness the conspiracy, tactics and motivations of the defendants in Sines that show how the violence came to be—which the film succeeds in doing.

“Making a film like this that can bring the trial to life without access to the courtroom was an almost impossible task,” Karen says. “What the [filmmakers] were able to do, with sketches, and reenactments and using our voices to read parts of the transcript, I thought that was ingenious. It gives a real sense of being there when actually being there was not possible.”

While the film is made for a general audience, Karen says that she hopes it will inspire litigators to bring more civil suits like Sines, however difficult they may be. “Our hope is that law students, young lawyers, but even experienced lawyers, will see this case and think even though it was excruciatingly hard to get the evidence in this case, it was absolutely worth every minute that was spent,” she says. “Once you can bring it all to bear in front of a jury, it's hopefully impactful both on the defendants, but also on the other people in the wider community that can see that these lawsuits can work.”

In her interview with Lawdragon, published on October 10, Karen discusses what it was like to make the film and provides insight into the trial team’s legal strategy, among other topics.

In addition to Karen and Jessica, the Paul, Weiss trial team included litigation partner Bill Isaacson, counsel Yotam Barkai and associate Arpine Lawyer.

No Accident, directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Kristi Jacobson, will air on HBO on October 10 at 9 p.m. ET, and will be available to stream on Max.

» read the Am Law interview
» read the Lawdragon interview

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