State asks court to dismiss appeal in tobacco case
The state has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal by attorneys seeking legal fees from the state's $1.62 billion tobacco settlement.
The appeal is of an Oct. 15 decision by Pulaski County Chancellor Mackie Pierce, who ruled that Gene Cauley of Little Rock, George Niblock of Fayetteville and the San Diego law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes and Lerach were not entitled to as much as $243 million in legal fees from the state settlement.
The lawyers claim Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor cheated them by preventing them from claiming the legal fees. Pryor contended the lawyers did no work for the state and are entitled to nothing.
The motion to dismiss the appeal applies only to Niblock's law firm and the San Diego firm.
The filing argues that technicalities prevent Niblock and the San Diego attorneys from pursuing the appeal.
Neither Niblock nor attorneys for the San Diego firm signed the formal notice of appeal filed in November in chancery court, so under Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure they cannot participate in the appeal, according to the motion filed by Deputy Attorney General Sammye L. Taylor and Assistant Attorney General Brian G. Brooks.
They further argued that the two attorneys for the San Diego firm listed as participating on behalf of the firm, Patrick J. Coughlin and Frank Janacek, cannot participate in the appeal because they do not appear to be licensed to practice law in Arkansas.
"I have not seen the pleading, but I have the gist of it," Cauley said Thursday. "The substance of the pleading is not worthy of any comment by us. It's frivolous."