Court Roundup

Kansas

State pays $219K for Kline discrimination lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Lawsuits filed against the administrations of Phill Kline while he served as attorney general and Johnson County district attorney have cost the state of Kansas $748,659 in legal fees and expenses.

The Topeka Capital Journal reported Monday that the total includes nearly $220,000 through mid-February to defend Kline's Johnson County District Attorney's administration from a lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination. Senior prosecutor Jacqie Spradling alleged that she was fired from the office in retaliation for her complaints of sexual discrimination.

The Spradling case cost the $219,172 in fees and expenses, according to records from the attorney general's office obtained by the Capital-Journal through an open records request.

Other legal fees paid by the state to defend Kline administrations include $403,528 in an ongoing ethics case before the Board for Discipline of Attorneys and $125,959 to defend Kline aides Eric Rucker and Stephen Maxwell in their ethics cases.

Rucker and Maxwell worked in the Kline administrations while he was attorney general and district attorney.

In the Spradling case, attorneys hired by the state have denied any sexual discrimination or retaliation against Spradling. Her dismissal was a "legitimate business decision" according to attorneys with Holbrook and Osborn in Overland Park. That firm also is representing Kline in the ethics case.

Kansas law requires the attorney general to provide a defense and the state to pay legal fees for state officials and employees who are defendants in lawsuits based on the Kansas Tort Claims Act. Employees who lose lawsuits don't have to pay back the attorney fees to the state.

Spradling is represented by private attorneys is "not under the provisions of the Kansas Tort Claims Act," assistant attorney general Lisa A. Mendoza said in response to a Capital-Journal request for how much the state might have paid to represent Spradling.

Spradling now is the Shawnee County chief deputy district attorney prosecuting homicides and other serious offenses.

A disciplinary panel heard testimony for eight days in February and March tied to Kline's handling of investigations of abortion providers in Kansas. A four-day hearing will start on July 19 on the second count, in which the disciplinary administrator's office alleges Kline misled a Johnson County grand jury investigating an abortion clinic. The ethics panel won't decide either allegation until the entire case is over.

Kline currently is a visiting professor of law at the Liberty University law school in Lynchburg, Va.

Texas

Deal reached on limiting frivolous lawsuits

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The legislative fight over disputed legislation to restrict frivolous lawsuits appears to be resolved in a surprise agreement.

All sides agreed late Saturday to a new version of the measure, which has already passed the House, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its Sunday editions.

The Senate State Affairs Committee approved the revised legislation 9-0 after representatives of trial lawyers, defense attorneys and lawsuit-reform groups agreed at a brief public hearing to support it.

Senate leaders say the revised legislation seeks to hold court costs in check and hasten dismissal of frivolous lawsuits, a top priority for Republican Gov. Rick Perry that he had declared an emergency issue two weeks ago.

The changes will replace the language approved by the House and would allow judges to rule on whether a case is without merit much sooner, limit discovery, hasten hearings and assess court costs more equitably.

"This balances the needs of both the plaintiffs and the defense," said Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, a former judge who helped to hash out the agreement.

The deal left several members of the State Affairs Committee pleasantly surprised. "This is perhaps a milestone," Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, told the newspaper.

The legislation would cover civil cases, not including claims under the state family, property or tax codes, the American-Statesman reported.

Opponents of the original bill feared that the legislation would make it harder for Texans to bring lawsuits and would discourage people from bringing suits because of the fear of paying huge legal costs if they lose.

"You can be assured that you can go to the courthouse and not face the prospect of ruination by pursuing a constitutional right," trial attorney Mike Gallagher, who helped to negotiate the compromise, told the committee.

Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe and author of the original House bill, told the Senate committee that he agrees with the revisions.

Attorney's fees could be assessed against the winning parties, Huffman said.

"The (Texas) Supreme Court will write the rules concerning how these cases are handled, and we'll have to see over time how they are used," she told the newspaper. "But this will be another tool in the toolbox that judges can use."

Illinois

Attorney: Headley to testify at Mumbai terror case

CHICAGO (AP) -- A Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack will testify in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused of helping his former friend in the plot, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The trial of Tahawwur Rana is being closely watched worldwide for what testimony might reveal about suspected links between the Pakistani militant group blamed in the attacks and the nation's main intelligence agency, which has been under scrutiny after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces on May 2 outside Islamabad.

During opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker said Rana provided cover for David Coleman Headley, who took photos and videos of targets in Mumbai before the attacks and that Rana led Headley to pose as a representative for his Chicago-based immigration businesses. Rana, 50, has pleaded not guilty.

Streicker said Monday that Headley would testify at Rana's trial. Headley is cooperating with the government and may discuss allegations that Pakistan's government knew -- or possibly helped plan -- the attack blamed on the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba that killed more than 160 people including six Americans.

But attorneys for Rana, who's also accused of planning an attack that never happened on a Danish newspaper, have said their client was simply duped by his longtime friend and didn't know what plot was in store. Headley and Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian, met at one of Pakistan's most prestigious military boarding schools and stayed in touch as adults.

Pennsylvania

Feds arrest Philadelphia reputed mob head, others

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The reputed boss of the Philadelphia mob and a dozen others are facing charges following a series of arrests by federal authorities.

Prosecutors charged Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and 12 others they say are connected to the mob with counts including conspiracy, extortion, illegal gambling and witness tampering.

The FBI and law enforcement officials from Pennsylvania and New Jersey plan to discuss Mafia arrests at a Monday morning news conference in Philadelphia.

Ligambi was sentenced to life in prison in 1989 for a killing four years earlier, but the conviction was overturned and he was released in 1997.

Alabama

Chinese worry about jury's verdict

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The trade association for software developers in China says it has sent letters to Alabama officials expressing concern about a court judgment against a software company with a Chinese parent company.

Zhao Xiaofan, vice chairman China Software Industry Association, says he sent letters to Gov. Robert Bentley and Seth Hammett, director of the Alabama Development Office.

The issue stems from a jury verdict last year in Franklin County. Ross Systems, an Atlanta-based software developer owned by a Chinese firm, was ordered to pay $61 million in damages. The jury found that Ross' software system went awry at pet food maker Sunshine Mills.

Zhao Xiaofan, vice chairman China Software Industry Association, says the concern is about references during the trial to the company's Chinese connections.

Louisiana

Court rules sentence excessive in escape case

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) -- A panel of 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal judges has ruled a state judge's 10-year sentence of Courtney Paul Savoy for being a habitual offender was excessive.

But the panel did affirm Savoy's conviction as a three-time felony offender.

The 3rd Circuit sent the matter back to Judge Tom Yeager for a resentencing hearing for Savoy, an inmate from Winnfield who was convicted of helping another inmate escape from a van that had transported the pair to Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville in 2007.

Authorities say Savoy did not escape but aided in the other inmate's escape.

The Town Talk reports the Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office sought an enhanced sentence under the state's multiple-offender laws.

Published: Tue, May 24, 2011

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