At the June AHPA meeting, we had the pleasure to get the most up to date information on your premier legal services. The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the plan we use to supply you with the best legal protection. Mr. Edward Fishman, LDF Administrator and Officer Fred Rowbotham, Trustee of LDF and President of the Chula Vista Police Department Association presented the membership with information about the status of the fund, reminders of the services they provide and some of the LDF high profile criminal and civil cases.
Officer Rowbotham explained how proud he was to be a part of such a wonderful fund because it is run by police officers. The LDF has 100,000 members through 1,049 associations with $11.2 million dollars in assets – and the numbers continue to climb.
Mr. Fishman provided some history of the LDF, stating the fund was started 40 years ago by one police officer who found himself in need of major legal services. Officers throughout the state of California pooled money together to help pay for the officer’s defense. It was so successful the California Officer Associations passed around the hat every month in case someone else needed similar legal assistance. Hence, the LDF was started, always with the intention that it will never make a profit and the promise of NO cap on benefits.
Remember these words: NO CAP ON BENEFITS!! This means every AHPA member subscribing to LDF receives an unlimited amount of resources.
Mr. Fishman, a criminal attorney who has defended officers for approximately 20 years, said, “Money cannot buy justice, but it gives you a shot. As the LDF Administrator, I work to give the attorneys everything they need to give you the best shot at winning.”
Every sworn member of AHPA is automatically subscribed to LDF coverage as part of membership dues, which provides 100% criminal and civil defense (within the scope of employment, even off duty if invoking peace officer authority). Civilian members can opt in for coverage in addition to their monthly dues. The benefit is available regardless of which agency conducts the investigation-Federal, State or Local. The most common legal assistance for law enforcement personal has been criminal coverage: Members get full representation by a criminal defense attorney that is highly experienced in defending public safety employees. The most common defenses for members have been due to shootings, death in custody, use of force resulting in serious physical injury, and investigation/allegation of criminal activity. Mr. Fishman reminded AHPA members of major legal cases that paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars, like Chandler Officer Dan Lovelace and BART Oakland Officer Johannes Meserle. Like these officers, AHPA members get their choice from LDF’s panel of attorneys and access to the best expert witnesses.
Additionally, AHPA members receive civil legal coverage (for an act or omission within the scope of employment). Employers should “defend & indemnify” – meaning if you are being sued civilly, your employer has the right to defend you or not. If your employer defends you, they can reserve the right to not indemnify, which means to not provide you with protection, specifically financial protection against possible loss, damage, or liability (i.e. “reservation of rights”). Mr. Fishman stated if you are sued civilly, immediately contact LDF so they can begin monitoring the case should your employer elect to not defend you. At that point, LDF will take over and provide for your defense. Mr. Fishman added this is the most underutilized service LDF provides. Officer Rowbotham recounted how Chula Vista cops were prosecuted civilly and never contacted LDF. A jury found them guilty and assessed damages on the individual officers. “There is a false sense of security that an employer is going to take care of you – and that these people are your friends,” stated Rowbotham, who encouraged everyone to contact LDF so that they can track your case or provide legal representation. The breadth of coverage includes conflict coverage, attorney fees, and other related costs (expert witnesses, filing fees, transcripts, investigations).
Lastly, the LDF also takes on affirmative relief for general importance to law enforcement cases. This has included Jason Schechterle vs. Ford Motor Company and William Cheatham & Marcus Huey vs. City of Phoenix. And retirees can receive legal coverage for allegations of wrongful possession or discharge of weapon with valid CCW. LDF will cover you criminally, civilly and during appeals. If a retiree would like this coverage, please contact AHPA’s executive secretary, Colleen Girard, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-899-4675.
Mr. Fishman said a few times during the presentation that for Trustees and those close to it, “LDF gets in your blood, because we get to help people in the most critical time in their life.” Their passion from the presentation is a reminder to us all that no case is too big or small, and AHPA members have the best legal coverage money can buy – for law enforcement, by law enforcement.
Make sure you have the LDF Hotline in your contacts list: 888-556-5631. This is your access to LDF – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. This is a simple call that not only protects you with the best legal coverage, but it is your lifeline to secure you and your family’s livelihood.