There seems to be a war going on between the Phoenix-based law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, which has a national presence, and the Maricopa County of Arizona. According to media reports, in the latest turn of events escalating the frictions between the law firm and the county, the Maricopa County has filed a notice of intent to debar the law firm. County officials claim that the move has come after the county found close to 300 billing errors made to the county by the firm.
In May 2011, the Maricopa County had filed a class-action lawsuit in the Superior Court claiming that it had been improperly billed by the law firm for county lawyer fees. The lawsuit alleged that county lawyer fees had been billed for work done by three individuals who were yet to pass the bar exam of the state.
Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the county said that following the lawsuit filed against the law firm for its questionable billing practices, at least 299 errors were found by discovery where the county believes that it was overcharged. According to Gerchick this is the first time the county has moved to debar a firm prohibiting a vendor from doing business with the county.
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart had filed a $12 million suit in January for defamation of character. The defamation suit was in response to a letter sent by county manager David Smith to county officials in which Smith mentioned that he failed to find answers as to how $5 million in county funds was spent by the law firm. The firm also objected the manner in which their services were publicly dismissed. However, the defamation lawsuit was dismissed without the county compelled to enter a settlement or make any payment.
The Maricopa County spokeswoman further added that the firm has reimbursed the county close to $78000, but officials believe that the total amount of billing errors is close to $300,000. The lawsuit was filed by the county after it refused to pay the outstanding $1 million of the $5 million bill raised by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. The county holds that it would not pay the remaining amount until the law firm could prove in court that the county truly owed it the money.