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Stumbo wants gas company attorneys booted from case

By John O'Brien | May 24, 2007


FRANKFORT, Ky. - Because of a conflict of interest with the Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office, Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo says the law firm defending Marathon Oil in an $89-million price-gouging suit should be disqualified from the case.

The firm Frost, Brown, Todd, LLC, which has offices in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana, has a contract that runs through June 30, 2008, to represent Fletcher in a variety of matters, Stumbo says.

The attorneys, though, challenged Fletcher's power to issue executive orders in times of emergency. Stumbo is arguing that Marathon illegally raised prices during a declared state of emergency following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Fletcher had to sign off on the order.

Marathon dropped Fletcher as a defendant from its federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the price-gouging suit filed against it, but Stumbo says that shouldn't matter because the lawsuit still challenges the Governor's authority.

"The deletion of the Governor from the caption of this case does not alter Plaintiffs' direct challenge to the Governor's powers to declare an emergency and trigger the anti-price gouging provisions of Kentucky state law," Stumbo wrote.

State agencies ordered to act by Fletcher once he signed the emergency order included: Division of Emergency Management (executed Kentucky's Emergency Operations Plan); Adjutant General (issued active duty orders to the National Guard); Finance and Administration Cabinet (funded the costs of the emergency operations); and Kentucky Community Crisis Response Board (activated trained counselors to provide crisis response services.

"Quite clearly, the Plaintiffs' action may impact other state agencies with which Frost Brown Todd maintains an attorney-client relationship," Stumbo wrote.

"At a minimum, the breadth of the Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint strongly suggests a conflict for Frost Brown Todd, which regularly engages in personal service contracts with the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

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Commonwealth of Kentucky