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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Court hands state partial victory in money fight that involved new OFR Commissioner Tom Grady



An appeals court handed the State Board of Administration a partial victory this week in a dispute over legal fees that previously involved  new state Financial Regulation Commissioner Tom Grady.

Grady and Tampa attorney Guy Burns sued the SBA last year after the board refused to pay them $1.4 million for their work in an unsuccessul 2005 lawsuit against a New York money-managing firm that nearly $300 million for the state pension, as we reported here this weekend. A jury favored the firm, Alliance Capital Management, on all of SBA's claims.

The lawyers billed the SBA even though their legal contract stipulated a favorable court decision for payment. When the SBA declined to pay up, the lawyers filed suit, arguing the board ruined any chance of a positive outcome when it signed an agreement with the firm that said neither party would appeal results of the jury's decision.

A Leon County judge sided with the lawyers in November, saying the dispute over fees could be arbitrated in court, which led to an appeal by the SBA and Attorney General's office. On Tuesday, the First District Court of Appeal judges reversed the lower court's decision and agreed with the state that a dispute over the amount of the fee could not be arbitrated, per terms of their legal contract. Read the opinion.

Here's where the partial victory comes in. The court rejected the SBA's request for summary judgment, leaving it to the county court to decide if the lawyers' complaint for damages is merited. The appellate judges admitted "we are skeptical of the merits of the law firms' claim for compensation."

Grady, who reassigned his interest in the case in May upon learning he was up for the commissioner job, is still listed as an appellee in the opinion. He starts his new job Monday.

Thursday morning calls to Burns and the Attorney General's office were not immediately returned.


[Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 1:21pm]


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