Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Reece's lawyer denounces suit

Letter to Lawson's attorney cites 'no reasonable basis of fact'

By Gregory Korte, gkorte@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A lawyer for Cincinnati's vice mayor said Monday that a recent lawsuit against her is “a transparent attempt to either punish or intimidate Alicia Reece for her vocal opposition to the boycott.” He demanded the lawsuit be dropped immediately.

        If the lawsuit is not dismissed by 5 p.m. today, Ms. Reece's lawyers said they will seek court-ordered sanctions against plaintiff Kenneth L. Lawson.

        Mr. Lawson, a lawyer representing Angela Leisure in her wrongful death lawsuit against the city, has accused the vice mayor of attempting to get Mrs. Leisure to fire him in exchange for a low-ball settlement offer.

        Mrs. Leisure is the mother of Timothy Thomas, the 19-year-old Over-the-Rhine man whose death at the hands of police sparked riots last year.

        A lawyer for Mr. Lawson said he would not drop the lawsuit, and has audiotaped evidence to support Mr. Lawson's allegations.

        “He's not going to be intimidated, and he's not going to slack off in his representation of his client,” said Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. Mr. Greenwood and attorney Alphonse A. Gerhardstein recently worked with Mr. Lawson in representing the plaintiffs in a racial profiling lawsuit against the city.

        Settlement of that lawsuit escalated the feud between Ms. Reece and Mr. Lawson. Ms. Reece opposed using taxpayer money to pay the plaintiffs' lawyers fees, and Mr. Lawson accused the vice mayor of lying about how much credit she deserved in helping to settle it.

        Last week, Mr. Lawson filed a $55 million lawsuit claiming that Ms. Reece; her father, Bond Hill businessman Steven Reece Sr.; and limousine company owner James Washington conspired to induce Mrs. Leisure to fire him.

        Ms. Reece's private lawyer, Ross A. Wright, sent a letter to Mr. Lawson's attorney's demanding that the lawsuit be dropped under Rule 11, which provides for possible sanctions for attorneys who file “harassing” lawsuits with “no reasonable basis of fact.”

        He said Mr. Washington wasn't acting on behalf of the vice mayor when he discussed specific settlement amounts with Mrs. Leisure in a conversation that she taped. Mr. Washington allegedly told her she would not receive a settlement unless she fired Mr. Lawson.

        “It sounds like what Mr. Wright is saying is that, because the plot didn't succeed entirely, "No harm, no foul,'” Mr. Greenwood said.

        Ms. Reece could not be reached for comment.


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