Professional Courtesy

The match between the taxpayer’s attorney and the teams of law firms hired by JCI and the District is a little like a race between a top marathoner and a relay team. I’m choking at the prospect of reading the latest three eighths inch thick document that they’ve cranked out to give the Sixth District Court this morning. It should go a little faster for me because half of it is made up of emails Gary Glass sent to me. All of them are harmless. None reveal privileged information because no privileged info has been shared with Gary.

The issue before the court will be a narrow one. Did the taxpayer’s attorney err in communicating with a School board member at the same time he was working for the taxpayers who are suing the School District? Frankly the taxpayer’s attorney freely admits he made a mistake in not investigating the possibility that some legal rule frowned on this situation. When Gary Glass first talked to Mr. Hunter long before the taxpayers came into view this was not a problem. Gary was looking for someone to represent him in a possible suit against the Board for denying him access to public information.

When the taxpayers contacted Mr. Hunter to pursue a case that School Board member Glass had already outlined – the possible unlawfulness of the JCI contract – it didn’t occur to Mr. Hunter that this might put him at risk. He scrupulously kept Gary out of conferences with me because the taxpayers had a separate case. But he did talk to Gary about the case because it was Gary’s idea to begin with. And, of course, there are all those promiscuous email messages. When I described emails as spreading like a social disease at last night’s LDV meeting there were knowing chuckles. Of course, today’s hearing is no laughing matter.

Craig Hunter is a refreshingly honest and open man. This is not his first slip and being a lone marathoner racing a wolf pack every slip he makes could be his last and possibly the last for the taxpayer’s suit. It never occurred to Hunter that my withholding emails was anything other than an invitation for more delays. Neither did I. For the last decade I simply presume every email I make will end up in the wrong hands. It turns out, however, that no matter what I had done with my email the other side had a plan do deny discovery of the District’s public data. We won’t know until after today’s hearing whether they will succeed in keeping the District’s sweepings under the rug a little longer.

If the court concludes that Attorney Hunter’s failure to ask permission to talk to his client Gary Glass is a severe enough offense he could be pulled off the case or even have the innocent taxpayers case dismissed. It would be an easy out for the Judge. It would also subject Craig Hunter to the tender mercies of the JCI attorneys whom I suspect are working for an outfit that would love to make an object lesson of any attorney foolish and idealistic enough to reveal their dubious business practices. Mr. Hunter who recommended that we not pursue punitive damages from JCI or the School Board could end up paying punitive damages himself.

Mr. Hunter is taking this all in stride but his dilemma reminds me of the five taxpayers who faced the possibility of financial ruin in taking on the District and JCI. At worst, our case could be dismissed and perhaps some of our bond money forfeited to the defendants. I’m not sure about this because when I talked to Craig it didn’t seem right to stew about our potential losses when this honest man faces losses every bit as great if not greater.

I’ve come to like Craig Hunter very much. His attitude matches and exceeds my own in many ways. He has such faith in the law that his instinct was to have me make every email I’d ever sent or received from Gary Glass available to the Defense despite two months of stalling on their part to hand over a single item of evidence from the District or JCI. He lives by the creed that the truth will set you free. Well, maybe not this time, at least until after a new school board is seated.

Hunter is a one man antidote to all those lawyer jokes that are so popular. The attorneys who may have found a way to crush Mr. Hunter, on the other hand, are the ones sharks wouldn’t attack as a professional courtesy.

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