April 2, 2014 — Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips has ruled that Lexington lawyer Jim Deckard will serve as lead counsel for class action lawsuits alleging utility fraud against the City of Olive Hill.
Deckard and local attorney Michael B. Fox were both vying for the position, having filed separate suits on behalf of Olive Hill utility customers.
At a preliminary hearing last November, Phillips heard arguments from both lawyers concerning who should be appointed as class counsel.
In her ruling, Phillips outlines the reasons for choosing Deckard:
“Mr. Deckard has had professional experience at the highest levels of state government. His role within such governmental positions has afforded him litigation experience in various settings,” said Phillips.
“Of great signiﬁcance to this Court is the fact that Mr. Deckard’s partner, Hon. Matthew Malone, not only has experience in complex litigation, but also has superior experience in utility law.”
Deckard and Malone also sought to add local attorney Patrick Flannery, who initially filed a suit before bringing Deckard on board, as co-counsel, but Phillips denied the request.
“While local counsel may be desirable for purposes of convenience, the Court is concerned that Mr. Flannery may have a conﬂict of interest that would make him unsuitable to serve in the capacity as local counsel or co-counsel,” said Phillips.
The judge specifically noted that given the size of the potential class and Flannery's position as county attorney, it is reasonably likely that a member of the class might be involved in litigation with Flannery's office.
The size of the class also factored in to the decision. According to figures presented to Phillips, there could potentially be a massive number of plaintiffs in this case.
“Based on initial discovery responses, class counsel has informed the Court that there may be more than 4,500 potential members of the proposed class,” said Phillips.
Additional proceedings in this case are scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, April 7, to hear arguments on a motion filed earlier this month by Deckard that seeks to add former City Clerk Cheri James and former Utility Manager Derrick Jones as defendants in the suit.
Joe Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 286-4201.