Appeals court lets Alston & Bird back into DeKalb schools case
4:46 pm, October 28th, 2011
A DeKalb County judge was wrong to disqualify Alston & Bird from defending former DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis against racketeering charges, a panel of the state Court of Appeals has ruled.
DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker booted Alston off the case last fall based on prosecutors’ plans to call a witness employed by an Alston client on unrelated matters, Parsons Commercial Technology Group. But Friday’s opinion written by Judge Keith R. Blackwell and joined by Judges Anne Elizabeth Barnes and A. Harris Adams said Becker had abused her discretion.
“The record reveals merely that Alston & Bird has a relationship with Parsons,” wrote Blackwell. “The remainder of the case for disqualification consists of one conjecture piled upon another.”
“While the State may be able to present facts that would authorize the trial court to disqualify [Alston partner Michael L. Brown] and Alston & Bird,” Blackwell continued, “it has not done so yet, and the record now before us does not warrant disqualification.”
Lewis, former school district chief operating officer Patricia Reid and two others are charged with corruption in a case that involves the school district’s construction program. Lewis was indicted for illegally steering contracts to certain vendors, accepting bribes in the form of tens of thousands of dollars in tickets to major sporting events and stealing taxpayer funds by using his office credit card for personal purchases. The defendants have denied the charges.
The appeals court’s decision is here.