PATERSON, NJ – The City Council Tuesday night approved $100,000 contracts with five law firms to represent Paterson on lawsuits, labor negotiations and workers’ compensation cases.
The contracts for the firms represent less than 10 percent of the city’s budget for legal expenses. Last year, for example, Paterson spent $3 million on litigation and settlements and another $3 million on workers’ comp cases, officials said.

Paterson has four full-time and seven part-time attorneys on its staff. But City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman told city council members that the staff lawyers generally are too busy with the city’s day-to-day legal work, like researching proposed municipal laws and prosecuting cases in municipal court, to handle the sometimes time-consuming work that arises in lawsuits.

The vote on the contracts was 7-1. “I can’t vote on something I know I can’t afford,’’ said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez, referring to Paterson’s fiscal problems.

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The firms hired were:
• Hunt Hamlin & Ridley of Newark
• Sciro & Marotta of Paterson
• Lite, DePalma, Greenberg of Newarrk
• Ruderman & Glickman of Springfield
• Adams, Stern, Gutierrez & Lattiboudere of Newark.

Forsman told the council that the city also would be retaining “conflict counsel” for cases when multiple city employees are named as defendants and their legal positions are at odds, precluding one firm from representing them all. The five firms hired Tuesday night would be the city’s “core group,’’ Forsman said.

“Essentially, these would be our heavy hitters?’’ asked Councilman Kenneth Morris.
“That’s correct,’’ said Business Administrator Charles Thomas.

Last month, city council members had delayed the appointments of the law firms in a maneuver that was part of their ongoing political battle with Mayor Jeffrey Jones over his salaries and those of several of his Cabinet members. But the council relented, allowing the city’s legal work to proceed.