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Ogletree and Maricopa County Settle Legal Differences

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to settle a protracted legal battle with the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart P.C., according to a report in The Arizona Republic.

The dispute was between the county and the firm, which was representing the County Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office. The battle between the county and the firm was raging since September of 2010, when the firm was fired as a vendor by the county.

According to claims made by the county, the firm possibly violated county spending policies while it was a contracted vendor. The firm then argued that the officials for the county were retaliating against it because it was representing the county attorney and the sheriff in a legal battle with the county.

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“This was a long, drawn-out case,” Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said. “I think it’s good that we’re putting it behind us and in a sense putting a lot of things in the county behind us with it.”

The county was billed $5 million for legal services spanning a couple of years by Ogletree. Pending an audit of the billing from the firm, the county had withheld the final $1.1 million in payments. Through the settlement agreement, the firm said it would waive the balance. The cost of litigation for issues with Ogletree has cost the county $1 million, which is close to what the firm is owed by the county, according to spokeswoman Cari Gerchick.

Maricopa County claimed that Ogletree possibly duplicated its legal services, which led to overbilling. A lawsuit was filed by Ogletree against the county for making defamatory statements. A settlement was signed by the two parties in April to dismiss the lawsuit. According to the report, both sides will not be dropping any outstanding lawsuits.

A lawsuit filed by Ogletree that claims county officials refused to respond to public-records requests will be dropped. On the other side, Maricopa County said it will drop a lawsuit it filed that claims the firm possibly violated procurement code in the county.

“With various forms of litigation between the parties promising to continue forward for many years, this resolution allows us to put an end to the expense and distraction of the various disputes, to relieve the county taxpayers of the ongoing burdens these disputes would create, and for Ogletree to focus on providing its clients throughout the country with the very best legal representation available,” John Doran said. Doran is an attorney who is representing Ogletree.

Maricopa County will receive a payment of $855,000 from Ogletree and has already paid $7,546 in attorneys fees and costs. The firm also paid $78,781 to refund the county for two associates who performed work prior to being licensed to practice law in the state. The firm said that the mistake in billing occurred because of a coding error.

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