Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Lawsuit Cash Having a Negative Impact on Progressive Politics?

G. Douglas Jones

Alabama lawyer G. Douglas Jones helped rake in more than $50 million in attorney fees from a lawsuit against individuals and entities connected to HealthSouth Corporation. Lawyers from California and New York were involved in the case, but Jones served as co-liaison counsel here in Birmingham, home to HealthSouth headquarters.

Jones was a leading advocate of the Obama administration's recent decision to nominate George Beck as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, sources tell Legal Schnauzer. The Beck nomination was roundly criticized in a recent four-part series by Andrew Kreig, executive director of the Justice Integrity Project (JIP). Kreig calls the nomination "Obama's Alabama Snafu," and you can read all four parts of his piece through links at the end of this post.

Are the HealthSouth settlements and the Beck nomination connected? Did Jones' access to cold, hard cash help make him a "kingmaker" with the Obama administration? Do Democrats such as Doug Jones act with progressive ideals in mind? Is George Beck the best candidate to replace Leura Canary, the abominable George W. Bush appointee who helped ramrod the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy prosecution?

Sources tell us that the answers to those questions are yes, yes, no, and not by a long shot.

To top it off, Jones' public statements about the Beck nomination reflect significant foot shuffling and dissembling. Could that be because George Beck represented chief government witness Nick Bailey in the Siegelman/Scrushy case and reportedly allowed prosecutors to browbeat and coach his client? Could it be because Beck comes from the Montgomery law firm of Capel and Howard, which has strong ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove and Bill Canary, who is president of the Business Council of Alabama, husband of Leura Canary, and confidant of U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief Tom Donahue?

This scenario becomes particularly troubling when you consider that the other co-liaison counsel in the HealthSouth case--Jones' chief local assistant--was Rob Riley, the son of former Republican Governor Bob Riley. Why did Doug Jones need Rob Riley on the lawsuit team? Probably because Riley had inside information about former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. And that information probably came from Riley's involvement in a Republican conspiracy to conduct a political prosecution against Siegelman and Scrushy, a scheme that Alabama attorney and whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson revealed to the world.

Should progressives be concerned about Doug Jones' willingness to make money by jumping in bed with a member of the Riley clan? What about Jones' apparent determination to now push tainted nominees to a Democratic administration?

Regular readers know that Bob Riley has ties to GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. And yet Doug Jones, who now seems to have the Obama administration's ear, is comfortably aligned with Bob Riley's son.

In short, the George Beck nomination has GOP fingerprints all over it--and Doug Jones helped bring the nomination to life. Is Doug Jones interested in promoting justice in a state that has been riddled with Bush-era corruption? Or is he interested in protecting the interests of Alabama's moneyed elite, ensuring that the Rileys and their allies will never be held accountable for the skulduggery of the past eight to 10 years? Is Doug Jones interested in pushing the Democratic Party forward or holding it back?

Some background might help answer those questions.

Doug Jones served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama during the Clinton administration and developed the reputation as a civil-rights crusader for his successful prosecution of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing case.

Not long after returning to private practice, Jones became involved in federal litigation connected to the accounting fraud at HealthSouth. When federal prosecutors in Montgomery targeted Siegelman, Jones became the former governor's defense attorney--even though he already was involved in a lawsuit against Richard Scrushy, who would become Siegelman's co-defendant.

That clear conflict of interest is one of several questionable actions Jones has taken in recent years. Another was the decision to include Rob Riley in the HealthSouth litigation. A reasonable progressive now might ask: What side is Doug Jones on?

Did the alliance with Rob Riley pay off? Apparently the answer is yes.

As we reported in December 2009, the court awarded almost $28 million in fees and expenses for the plaintiff attorneys in the HealthSouth case. The exact figure was $27,937,317. A recent check of court records reveals that in July 2010 lawyers were awarded another $22,815,000, plus $521,003.17 in expenses--a total of 23,336,003.17.

That brings the grand total, if our math is correct, to $51,273,320.17. It's a massive case, involving 50 to 100 plaintiff lawyers, so the money will be spread around. But court documents indicate that a big chunk of it will go to the lead firms in California and New York and to the co-liaison counsel--Doug Jones and Rob Riley.

Jones works at the Birmingham firm of Haskell Slaughter. Records with the Alabama Secretary of State show that Jones formed G. Douglas Jones LLC in November 2008. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Jones did that to ensure that he would not have to share proceeds from the HealthSouth case with the firm.

Sounds like Jones has been planning for some time to maximize his take from the case he helped build with Rob Riley. Did that cash allow Jones to buy influence with the Obama administration? What does that influence mean for justice in Alabama? We will examine those questions in upcoming posts.

Here are links to the Justice Integrity Project series:

Part One: Senate Must Grill Tainted Alabama DOJ Nominee

Part Two: Bailey, Beck and Siegelman Frame-Up

Part Three: Beck's DOJ Backers Make Their Case

Part Four: What To Do About Obama's Alabama Snafu?

(To be continued)



Anonymous said...

Sounds as if Alabama has a lot in common with Virginia in chasing the "almighty dollar" and leaving justice as a secondary feature of the court system.
He then filed a claim with the government under the Hyde Amendment. After a two-day hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan awarded the Hollands $570,000 toward their $1.6 million in legal fees, terming the government’s actions "vexatious."

In addition to his service in the Department of Justice, Mr. MacBride served as chief counsel and staff director for Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, where his work focused on crime and drug policy, counter-terrorism and intelligence matters and corporate fraud. MacBride also served as a law clerk for the Honorable Henry C. Morgan, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk.
The network's Family Channel, which promoted family-friendly entertainment, was spun off in 1990 to International Family Entertainment Inc., led by Pat Robertson and his son Tim. In 1997, that company was sold for $1.9 billion to Fox Kids Worldwide Inc., which later sold it to the Disney Co.

David said...

Q: What do yo call Doug Jones and 2000 other Alabama lawyers on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?

A: A good start.

Anonymous said...

To the ABA fans of the Schnauzer. Can you NOW understand ulterior motive for Pat Robertson's Nov.7,2007 endorsement for prez- Rudy Giulani.

Giuliani's law and lobbying clients have included Saudi Arabia, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and chewing tobacco maker UST Inc.