Ruling on his first jury trial as a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen declined to overturn a jury verdict in favor of a fired East Chicago worker who’d claimed she lost her job for political reasons.
In an eight-page ruling on Aug. 1 in Blanca I. Camacho v. George Pabey, et al., No. 2:05-cv-456, Judge Van Bokkelen ruled that a reasonable jury had evidence to find in favor of Camacho and award her $250,000.
Camacho was a restaurant inspector when she was fired in 2005, months after Mayor George Pabey took office. Camacho was one of more than two dozen former city workers who alleged they were fired for political reasons following the new mayor’s taking office, and she sued Pabey, the city, and its human resources chief.
Most of the other suits were dismissed, but Camacho’s suit made it to trial and became the first where jurors found in her favor. The November 2007 verdict awarded her $225,000 against the city and $25,000 in punitive damages.
East Chicago attorneys filed a motion in April for the judge to reverse that verdict and enter a judgment on grounds of insufficient evidence. But Judge Van Bokkelen declined to do that Aug. 1, ruling that a reasonable jury could have disbelieved the defendants’ explanation that Camacho was fired to reduce city expenses and not because of political reasons.
Attorneys for the city have told local media they plan to appeal Judge Van Bokkelen’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.