Thursday, December 17, 2020

In an apparent act of panic, Drummond seeks emergency stay with Alabama Supreme Court

Drummond Coal

In an apparent act of "widespread panic," Drummond Company yesterday filed an emergency motion with the Alabama Supreme Court to stay discovery in David Roberson's $75-million lawsuit -- and to consider Drummond's petition for a writ of mandamus to overturn the trial court's denial of its motion to dismiss.

The filing comes before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tamara Harris Johnson had a reasonable chance to consider Drummond's emergency motion to stay discovery in her court.

What appears to have Drummond in such a panic? In its motion to the state's high court, Drummond states that it is not "practicable" to wait for a ruling from the trial court, "given the approaching deposition dates." Drummond notes that Roberson attorney Burt Newsome has set depositions to begin on Monday (12/21/20), continuing through the holidays and into January 2021. Drummond makes no claim that such a schedule is improper, but it voices concern about the "burden" and "expense" such discovery will impose.

Specifically, Drummond notes that Newsome seeks to subpoena documents from Alabama Power and testimony from its CEO, Mark Crosswhite. From the motion:

The vast majority of the expense for the parties and expenditures of resources by the parties, non-parties, and the trial court lies in plaintiffs' claims concerning the legality of "The Plan" that underlies Roberson's federal conviction. . . . The discovery currently seeking to be stayed in effect seeks to relitigate Plaintiff Roberson's criminal conviction and would be unnecessary if Drummond's petition is granted.

Never mind that Roberson's civil claims involve individuals, entities, and issues that were not part of the criminal trial. And never mind that Drummond already has propounded discovery requests of its own.

The motion goes on to express concerns about interrogatories and depositions that already are set for various executives at Drummond and Alabama Power:

If this court grant's Drummond's petitition for writ of mandamus, all the foregoing discovery will be irrelevent. Accordingly, it does not serve the interests of justice, the parties, or the court system to go through the expense and effort of discovery in this case until this court rules on Drummond's pending mandamus petition.

Is Drummond's concern really about "expense and effort," or does it not want to participate in evidence gathering at all? Is discovery likely to unearth wrongdoing that Drummond wants to keep under wraps?


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