Attorney Ryan Solomon Ordered to Pay for LaFrance 'Shenanigans'

by Gwen Moritz  on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011 3:19 pm  

Ryan Solomon

In a sharply worded order filed early Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson ordered Rose Law Firm attorney Ryan Solomon to cover the costs that an accused criminal incurred during and after a contentious deposition last month.

"There is no justification for the actions of Mr. Solomon" or his client, USA Drug scion Jason LaFrance, Wilson wrote in a 23-page order. "Mr. Solomon's conduct is a classic case of a lawyer setting professionalism aside and posturing for a longtime friend and valued client."

Wilson's order followed a day-long hearing on Nov. 28 at which Solomon, his partner David Martin and federal prosecutors attempted to explain what Wilson called "shenanigans" before and during the deposition of LaFrance by Little Rock attorney Pat James.

Martin was cleared of any wrongdoing, and Wilson said LaFrance "appears to have acted under the encouragement of Mr. Solomon; therefore I will not impose sanctions for his poor manners."

"We respectfully disagree with the court's conclusions," Steve Joiner, managing partner of Rose Law Firm told The firm, he said, is considering Solomon's options, which include appealing the sanctions.

James, on the other hand, said he and his clients, former USA Drug executive Garret Sorensen and his wife, Katherine, "are gratified by the court's decision and feel vindicated."

The Rose law firm has already paid about $3,300 for the court reporter and videographer who recorded Jason LaFrance's Nov. 7 deposition, but James said he would also file for "substantial attorneys fees."

James represents the Sorensens in a civil lawsuit filed by the pharmacy chain's holding company, Stephen L. LaFrance Holdings Inc. They - along with Katherine's sister, Shannon Walters - were accused by the LaFrances in civil court and by a federal grand jury in criminal court of secretly setting up an advertising placement business to which Garret Sorensen steered USA Drug commissions.

Wilson had denied the Sorensens' request to depose witnesses in the criminal case. But two Pulaski County Circuit Court judges, Ernest Sanders and Wendell Griffen, had refused to stop depositions from proceeding in the civil case. Federal prosecutors, in what Wilson noted was "an attempt to avoid legitimate discovery in a civil action," then unilaterally moved the LaFrances' civil case out of state court and into federal court. Wilson, however, refused to stop the civil depositions.

In his order, Judge Wilson reiterated his ruling from the bench at the end of the Nov. 28 hearing: Federal prosecutors had no authority to move the civil case into federal court. He suggested that the Sorensens and their attorney might successfully petition for sanctions against the government, which has already been ordered to pay the cost of having the case sent back to state court.

Wilson seemed to hint that the government may have been "judge shopping" when Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Jegley insisted that the court clerk combine the civil case with the existing criminal case, in which Wilson had denied depositions.

"Perhaps the judges of this district should consider amending Local Rule 40.1 to make an exception for this particular situation. Until that time, however, Local Rule 40.1 should be followed - especially in view of this district's long-standing opposition to judge shopping," Wilson wrote.

A burning desire by both the LaFrances and federal prosecutors to avoid depositions and other discovery was obvious, Wilson found.



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