Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump is asking a Texas judge to appoint him to a key leadership role in the massive lawsuit over the deadly Astroworld music festival, citing the fact that a disproportionate number of victims are Black while the “vast majority” of their lawyers are white.
Crump, who rose to prominence representing the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, filed a motion Thursday seeking to be named “co-liaison counsel” for the thousands of victims who have sued Live Nation and Travis Scott over the festival disaster.
Appointing Crump, who is Black, to the key leadership role would allow him to “help speak for the African American victims” and send a message of “fairness and diversity and inclusion.”
“Ben Crump provides both a strong voice and clear visibility to the community most affected,” Crump argued. “It cannot be seriously argued that there is anyone better situated or more respected in the eyes of the African American community than Mr. Crump.”
Crump’s request came three weeks after an initial hearing in the case in which he said he was “concerned as I look at the room,” noting that almost all of the attorneys representing victims were white. The judge overseeing the case echoed those worries, saying that the lawyers in her courtroom “do not necessarily look like the people that they are representing.”
In Thursday’s motion, Crump argued that the best way to address that “disparity” would be appoint him to the liaison role – a sort-of point man for the dozens of attorneys who represent the more than 2800 victims who have filed suit.
“Simply put, Mr. Crump is the ideal candidate to serve as plaintiffs’ co-liaison counsel as he is in the best position to get the proverbial ‘pulse’ of the Astroworld Plaintiffs’ community, provide the Court with necessary updates, and serve as the spokesperson for—and be the face of—the plaintiffs’ litigation team,” he wrote.
It is unclear what percentage of Astroworld victims are Black, but Crump said it was a “disproportionate number.” Media reports of the hearing earlier this month said that “most” of the roughly 50 attorneys in the courtroom were white.
Live Nation, Travis Scott and others are facing billions in potential liability over the crowd crush incident during the rapper’s Nov. 5 performance at the Houston festival, which left 10 dead and hundreds more injured. The cases accuse Astroworld’s organizers of being legally negligent in how they planned and conducted the event.
For efficiency, hundreds of individual lawsuits have all been consolidated in a single court. Judge Kristen Brauchle Hawkins will handle the complex process of coordinating thousands of litigants, exchanging evidence, taking depositions, and all other pre-trial matters.
The case is still in its earliest stages, including picking which attorneys will take key roles in the case. In a separate filing on Thursday, a proposed version of a sweeping “case management order” laid down a group of attorneys as the “executive committee” made up of key plaintiffs lawyers. It also listed proposed liaison counsel – but did not list Crump. It’s unclear the extent to which the plaintiffs lawyers have agreed to such roles or are vying amongst each other for them.
Under Crump’s proposal, he would serve alongside attorney Jason Itkin and Richard Mithoff, who have served in the liaison counsel role on an interim basis.