June 22, 2004
Lewis and Roca, a law firm that has come under fire after investigating a Scottsdale principal, is asking a federal district court to drop a governing board member’s lawsuit.
Board member Christine Schild is suing the Scottsdale Unified School District and its contracted legal firm for $100,000 each, saying her civil rights were violated when the board’s attorneys advised her against and prevented her from discussing the district in the past.
Lewis and Roca’s attorney Paul Eckstein filed a brief in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Monday, asking the case be dropped, and for Schild to pay for all attorney fees.
At a 7 p.m. meeting today, the Scottsdale school board is expected to vote to place Lewis and Roca back on a list of law firms it hires, after voting 5-0 to remove the firm on June 8.
In May, attorney Mary Ellen Simonson wrote a letter to the district saying the firm would no longer represent the board during meetings in response to what it called "abuse" from Schild. However, Simonson said her firm is willing to continue other work with the district, and on June 9 wrote a letter accepting an offer to remain contracted.
The district is hiring an in-house attorney that could take over much of the legal work. Lewis and Roca served as the district’s primary legal arm for seven years, including a recent investigation of former Sequoya Elementary School principal Maureen Booth.
Schild and other board members are investigating whether to audit the $225,000 fee in that case, but Simonson said that was less than the $250,000 estimate given to the district in September.
Neither Schild nor her attorney could be reached for comment.