Lawyer In University Suit Ruled In Contempt

FAYETTEVILLE -- Which part of "no more discovery" do you not understand?

Fort Smith attorney Eddie Christian Jr., was found in contempt of court Wednesday for ignoring an order that he stop discovery in a lawsuit over disparaging e-mails sent to former Razorback quarterback Mitch Mustain by a booster.

Christian represented John David Terry in the lawsuit claiming that University of Arkansas Chancellor John White failed to thoroughly investigate the situation. The suit has been thrown out twice as meritless.

Lawyers for the University of Arkansas and a friend of coach Houston Nutt, Sherrie Darby, filed the two contempt complaints against Christian alleging he knowingly and intentionally issued subpoenas for evidence after Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay specifically ordered him to stop. Christian received the information and handed it over to a newspaper, Mustain's mother, Beck Campbell, and others.

University officials and Darby found out by reading it in the newspaper after the fact.

Christian said Wednesday he interpreted the judge's order to mean he could resume discovery after 20 days.

"It was my intent that no discovery take place ... I quite honestly don't know how anyone could construe it any other way -- no discovery," Lindsay said in finding Christian in civil contempt. "I think the order is clear in that regard. I don't see how Mr. Christian, being the experienced lawyer he is, could have interpreted it any other way."

Lindsay didn't assess a fine but ordered Christian to pay the other side's attorney fees and costs associated with the contempt action and to return all the materials to their sources without keeping any copies. He's also to retrieve any copies he handed out and provide the other side with the names of everyone with whom he's discussed or shared any of the information.

"I don't know of anything more I can do to unring the bell," Lindsay said.

Christian said he'll appeal.

"We'll appeal the finding of contempt just like we're going to appeal every order that's been entered by this court," Christain said as he headed for the elevators.

Christian said his client, Terry, didn't know about the subpoenas being issued.

Terry filed suit April 24, alleging Fayetteville campus Chancellor John White didn't properly investigate e-mail to Mustain. The suit also claimed White violated university and NCAA regulations and policies. Terry said White shouldn't be paid his salary because he wasn't doing his job.

Lindsay threw the case out June 4 saying there were no facts to back up Terry's claims but gave Terry and Christian a chance to refile on a couple of claims if they could find more evidence. On Aug. 17 he spiked the case for good and awarded the University $1,000 in attorney fees to deter the filing of such "meritless" lawsuits by others in the future.

Lindsay said any complaints about White's handling of the e-mail from booster Teresa Prewett should be brought to Arkansas' Board of Trustees or expressed in a letter to a newspaper editor. But they don't belong in a courtroom.

"This type of case ... would invite not only every football fan but every baseball fan, track fan, softball fan and soccer fan to second-guess the coaches and the athletic directors," Lindsay said during his August ruling. "This is none of the court's business."



LEGAL LINGO

Contempt Of Court

Willful disobedience or disregard of a court order, misconduct in the presence of a court, action that interferes with a judge's ability to administer justice or that insults the dignity of the court. There are both civil and criminal contempts.

Source: The 'Lectric Law Library

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