Lawyer who charged Duke $2 million in one year is no longer handling lacrosse cases

Please scroll down. Important update in the Potti Mess. Plus FC's Annual Report to Stakeholders in Duke, and a faculty member's analysis of Duke's budget. Four posts this busy Saturday morning.

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The lawyer who billed Duke University for $2 million in one year alone for the time she put in defending the university in complex lacrosse litigation -- Jamie Gorelick -- is off the four year old cases.

So are three other lawyers in her well known, high priced Washington DC firm -- Wilmer Hale. FC believes the three other lawyers billed Duke separately from Gorelick, and expenses for travel, secretaries, typing, phone bills and so forth were extra.

There is no explanation for the departures. Did the lawyers quit? If so, why leave a deep pocket client? Did Duke get tired of the hefty bills?

Duke has refused and refused FC requests for information about the cost of the lacrosse hoax. "We don't comment on pending litigation," snarled Michael Schoenfeld, chief spokesman for the Brodhead Administration. He should have added that Duke won't comment before there is litigation, and won't comment when it is over either.

The departures came to light in Saturday's Herald-Sun. It's not known how the paper learned of the development, because the only official notice is very very well hidden: the four lawyers who are off the case have had their names removed from the very lengthy distribution list of briefs and motions in the litigation. This change emerged when yet another round of paperwork appeared; counting the three cases involved, we believe that's round 642.

The missing names are not something the casual observer would observe.

Duke University still has two defense lawyers from the Greensboro firm Ellis and Winters. U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty Jr. is letting allegations go forward that Duke's top leaders committed fraud and helped obstruct justice as they responded in 2006 to the hoax.

Another claim centers on allegations that Duke conspired with now disgraced and disbarred DA Mike Nifong to cover up the fact the university turned over data on the players' night-of-the-party movements to investigators without a subpoena.

And the Duke Health System -- a separate defendant largely because rape-nurse trainee Tara Levicy made up stories about the condition of Crystal Gail Mangum, the go-go dancer and prostitute who scammed the entire hoax -- is getting counsel from the Raleigh firm of Yates, McLamb & Weyher.

This of course does not count the lawyers in-house, in the office of Duke's general counsel, Pamela Barnard. They are not actively involved in the litigation, only supervising it and rubber stamping the bills for payment.

The city of Durham, also a defendant, has still more lawyers working on its part of the litigation.

The litigation is in federal court -- actually three cases started by the three lax players who were falsely indicted, their teammates and their families. Different parts of the litigation are in different stages.

For example, some plaintiffs recently were allowed to start limited pre-trial depositions against Duke officials --- sworn testimony that the university has dreaded because President Brodhead and former trustee chair Bob Steel must go under oath and experience cross examination. Moreover, the scope of depositions is wider than questioning permitted when Brodhead and Steel get on the witness stand in front of a jury.

Other parts of the lawsuits are still before the trial judge. And still other parts are now before the 4th circuit Court of Appeals.

FC -- after exhaustive review with a plaintiff's lawyer -- has estimated that the lacrosse case -- from start to finish -- will cost more than $450 million. This includes donations lost because people got pissed at the way Brodhead was handling things. It includes settlements with the three players, the extensive cost of litigation, and Duke's potential liability in remaining litigation.

Final note about Gorelick. A high ranking official in the Justice Department under President Clinton, she was appointed to the 9-11 Commission and promptly became the punching bag for right-wing talk radio. This is because she helped set rules that limited the ability of federal agencies to swap intelligence information.

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