Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | October 7, 2010

The Pot and the Kettle

The GOP has recently released a document listing all 59 of Barnes’s judicial appointments and the 37 cases that Barnes’s law firm has tried before those judges. The implication is, of course, that Roy Barnes used his position as governor to benefit financially.

The argument goes like this: Attorneys/other legal folks donated to Barnes’s campaign (not surprising – Barnes is a Georgia attorney and it’s not that huge of a community); Barnes appointed said attorneys to the bench as judges, plotting all along to try huge cases in front of them; because Barnes once appointed these FULLY QUALIFIED attorneys to the bench, they feel beholden to find in his favor in any law suit that Barnes’s firm – not Barnes, but his firm – tries in front of them.

Anyone else find this just a tad farfetched?

First of all, this is a huge insult to every one of the 59 judges that Barnes appointed to the bench. To imply that these judges somehow feel beholden to Barnes and that they allow personal bias to interfere with their judicial responsibilities is heinous – especially coming from a fellow attorney like Nathan Deal.

Secondly, the largest campaign donation that I saw mentioned in the AJC article or the Savannah Morning News article was for $2,000 – in campaign finance terms, especially in a race in which the Republican candidate has already spent $135,000 on airfare alone, that’s a mere drop in the bucket. Certainly not worthy of a bench appointment!

Third, are we really trying to say that a governor just should never practice law in the state again after leaving office, just to make sure that his firm doesn’t try any cases in front of judges he appointed to the bench? That seems pretty darned unreasonable to me.

Still, just in case you are concerned about Barnes’s ethics regarding this situation, here are some additional facts to consider:

  • As far as the Deal claim that Barnes spends his time suing Georgia and killing jobs, consider the fact that Barnes worked for Legal Aid for several months after leaving office. In addition, we’ve researched the two largest cases that the GOP has listed:
    • Fortis Insurance Company v Kahn:  A class action lawsuit claiming that several interrelated insurance companies illegally raised health policy premiums on small-group policyholders. Barnes was not the primary attorney on the case, though he was “very involved” and he did, as a partner in his firm, benefit financially from the $14 million verdict. The verdict resulted in $11 million being divided between roughly 3,692 members of the class action suit. The suit claimed that the insurance companies were barred, by state law, from calculating premium raises based on the health of the individual policy holders – after all, one of the supposed benefits of group policies is that the cost of illnesses is spread over large groups of people rather than directly impacting each individual. The insurance companies did not follow this law, instead calculating premium raises based on each individual’s health. The result of this action was to drastically and unfairly raise the price of health insurance for those unfortunate policyholders who had the audacity to actually get sick while insured. It was not only illegal, but morally reprehensible. To claim that this verdict was the result of Barnes appointing the judge 7+ years earlier is ridiculous. Is it so difficult to believe that the judge might have found in favor of the plaintiffs, not because Barnes represented them, but because they had a right to compensation under the law?More importantly, given the talking points of this election, the verdict favors not only 3,000+ average working Georgians, but also the small businesses that many of them work for. Small group insurance plans are often purchased by small businesses – illegally hiking premiums on such plans hurts small businesses. Isn’t Nathan Deal supposed to be in favor of small business? And if he is, why is he so upset about this verdict?
    • PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP v Bassett:  Not nearly as interesting as the last case, this one involves misrepresentation on the part of an accounting firm. Barnes’s law firm represented William Bassett, the trustee for four private trusts. In 1978, the Kellett brothers built a business operating nursing homes. They created an irrevocable trust for their children, a trust partially made up of shares in the company. In the early 1990s, the Kelletts became interested in merging their company with another company, Mariner Health Group. While researching Mariner, the Kelletts reviewed financial statements for 1991, 1992, and 1993 – statements which the accounting firm had certified – as well as reports for 1994, also certified by the accounting firm. The accounting firm’s reports were “unqualified”, meaning that the firm had determined that the financial statements were free of material misstatements and were prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles.   The Kelletts had a high level of confidence in the firm’s methods, and relied on those statements for material information about Mariner’s financial condition.   In January 1995, the Kelletts agreed to the merger. The Kelletts and their fellow shareholders received $120 million worth of stock in Mariner as part of the merger. In 1998, just 2 years after the merger was finalized, Mariner was bought out by another company. In 2000, the company filed for bankruptcy and the stock became worthless. In just a single decade, the Kelletts had gone from the owners of a profitable company to the holders of worthless stock, losing about $120 million in the process. Their decision to agree to the merger was based in large part on the financial disclosures certified by the accounting firm in question. Shouldn’t an accounting firm be held accountable when it certifies a company as profitable when in fact the company is losing money? That is what the verdict, won by Barnes’s law firm, decided.Then again, it makes perfect sense that Nathan Deal, obviously a fan of funny accounting practices, would want to protect accountants who massage numbers to show more favorable outcomes. After all, in his amended amended disclosure, Deal managed to increase his net worth by more than 30% — all through funny accounting.
  • Of the 37 cases the GOP is citing, only 19 had favorable outcomes for Barnes. In other words…about half. Given that verdicts are pretty much 50/50 decisions…doesn’t it kind of make sense that Barnes would succeed in about half the cases? I mean…if he did worse than that, regardless of who appointed the judges, then he would just be a bad attorney.
  • When Nathan Deal FINALLY released his tax returns after weeks of hemming and hawing, he demanded that Barnes reveal how many cases he had tried in front of judges he had appointed. Barnes said that after reviewing the records, he could only recall one case which he had tried before a judge he had appointed – a jury trial which Barnes won. But in that case, the judge didn’t enter the verdict – the jury did. Did Barnes bribe the jury members, too? Is that the claim?Most of the 37 cases listed on the GOP document were not tried by Barnes himself, but by his FIRM. Barnes’s firm has five other attorneys listed on its website and, knowing law firms, probably also employs several associates who don’t get top billing.
  • When there is a conflict of interest between a lawyer and a judge – the JUDGE is the one who is supposed to recuse himself. If anything untoward occurred in any of these cases – something I think the GOP would be very hardpressed to prove – then it is the fault of the judges, not the fault of the partner in the law firm that represented one of the parties to the case. In other words, even if Deal was right and there was something fishy going on, it wouldn’t be Barnes that was doing the fishing.Also, if there is indeed a problem with an unfair relationship between one attorney and the judge, it is the responsibility of opposing council to raise objections. I have not found a singe case where the opposing council took issue with Barnes or the judge based on Barnes’s former stint in the Governor’s mansion.
  • Most importantly of all: how dare Nathan Deal – one of the top 15 most corrupt members of Congress, a man who left Congress while under investigation for ethics violations, a man who has amended his financial disclosures so many times that even he doesn’t know how broke he is anymore, a man who has lied, cheated, and conned so many people that his own party members are abandoning him – try to call anyone else unethical? Now THAT’S the pot calling the kettle black.
  • And finally, something that a lot of people seemed to miss in the Savannah Morning News article – Roy Barnes appointed Nathan Deal’s own son, Jason Deal, as District Attorney. Jason Deal went on from that post to become a judge. Barnes has since tried a case in front of Judge Deal — and Barnes won. Does Nathan Deal think that his son is somehow corrupt, too? Perhaps Deal’s family loyalty only extends to his daughter and not his son.

This is just more lying and misleading information from Nathan Deal’s campaign. He knows that he can’t win on the facts, so he has been forced to resort to spreading the lies that his most loyal followers are so keen to believe.

Once again, if you dig just half an inch below the surface of Deal’s claims, you find yourself waist deep in manure.

No Deal, Georgia.

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Responses

  1. The more I read about this Deal dude, the more I wonder how he hasn’t just been laughed out of politics yet. He seems very juvenile to me. And I’m quite juvenile, myself, so that’s saying something.


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