Lawyers of Distinction Interview with Benjamin Crump, Esq. ‘2021 Lawyer of the Year’
Lawyers of Distinction recently sat down with the recipient of our “2021 Lawyer of the Year” Award, Benjamin Crump, to discuss his work, his inspirations, and his advice to future lawyers looking to make a difference in the world.
1. What is the accomplishment you are most proud of in your legal career?
More than any one particular case, I’m most proud of the continued success we’ve had in making sure marginalized people are afforded the protections of the Constitution on an equal basis. I went into the practice of law with the greatest reverence for our Constitution and the framework it provides to create a just society that adheres to lofty ideals. But in practice, I have seen how often our society falls short of those ideals and denies those protections to people of color, immigrants, people who are poor or without power. I have made it my mission to work in every way I can to change that.
2. What was your best victory in 2021?
On many fronts, I achieved many victories during the past year but the summation of those victories was how I helped to collectively raise the value of Black lives in 2021. Following a tumultuous racial reckoning in 2020, when many people had their eyes open to the way Black people are too often targeted and terrorized by police, 2021 brought some measure of justice in the form of historic verdicts and settlements. In the case of Breonna Taylor, we reached a $12 million settlement, one of the largest amounts paid out for a police shooting of a Black woman and the largest pre-litigation settlement, and we negotiated a host of police reforms. The historic $27 million settlement in the death of George Floyd is the largest amount ever paid out in history for pretrial settlement in a police shooting case. We also achieved $10 million settlements in the deaths of Andre Hill and Jamal Sutherland, which were the highest in Ohio history and South Carolina history respectively for police excessive force cases. And, though it was a case of bodily injury rather than police violence, the $411 million verdict my trial team won for Duane Washington was historic because it is the highest verdict ever awarded in a virtual trial. We were part of a $641 million settlement for the children of Flint, Michigan – one of the largest settlements in American history for children. And at the end of this year, we celebrated a $100 million banking discrimination settlement to address the phenomenon of ‘banking while black.’
3. Who were your greatest influences in your career?
Thurgood Marshall has been my professional hero and my inspiration to pursue a career in law and to use it to promote civil rights and racial justice. My greatest personal influence is my mother Helen Crump, who taught me to be truthful, to live a righteous life, to love my family, and to treat people as I hoped to be treated.
4. What things are you hoping to accomplish in 2022?
George Floyd’s death was a galvanizing event that awakened many people to daily injustices suffered by Black people in America. The conviction of Derek Chauvin and the historic $27 million settlement were important measures of justice, but the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a critical piece of unfinished business. I am pleased that we are seeing meaningful police reform adopted in some cities and states around the country, but we need certain changes at the federal level, either through legislation or executive order. As part of that, in 2022, I plan to advocate for and help to create a federal database of people killed in police misconduct incidents, and a federal database of officers who engage in excessive force.
5. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I actually love to write. Creative writing is a great outlet for me that allows me to imagine stories and content that explore how we can create a better America and a better world for all of our children. I also love every moment I get to spend with my beautiful family.
6. What advice would you give young lawyers who desire to follow in your footsteps?
The Constitution and the rule of law are powerful tools to correct injustices but they will not produce a more just society on their own. We need people who raise their voices to call out when marginalized people are denied equal protections, people who will use the courtroom and the court of public opinion to drive change. My advice to young lawyers is to hold fast to your ideals and to use your knowledge, your intellect, your relationships, your influence, and your voice to make sure that everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, the prosperity of their family, their gender or sexual orientation has the chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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