A ruling in former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Spencer Collier's lawsuit against ex-governor Robert Bentley is advancing the case one step closer to trial.
This week Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin declined to dismiss the whole lawsuit, instead dismissing only two counts against the former governor. Griffin ruled Bentley’s hiring and firing of cabinet members is covered by absolute immunity, regardless of the reason prompting the termination.
“I'm looking forward to taking Robert Bentley's deposition,” said Kenny Mendelsohn, Collier's attorney.
It's something Mendelsohn has said since Day One representing the former ALEA secretary when Collier publicly stated he was maliciously fired by Bentley and his alleged mistress, Rebekah Mason.
Judge Griffin’s most recent ruling in the lawsuit will allow Mendelsohn to begin the discovery process, requesting documents and depositions.
“So many times as a lawyer, I am there about what we hope we will be able to prove, or what we think the facts are,” Mendelsohn explained. “In this situation, everybody knows what happened. We had the [Alabama] Ethics Commission investigation where they interviewed numerous witnesses. You had the attorney general’s investigation that would have been bigger indictments had they not worked out a plea. You had the Impeachment Committee and Mr. [Jack] Sharman and his staff did a tremendous job. When I went in last week, I said this is stuff I know I can prove.”
Mendelsohn is anxious to begin the discovery process, to finally learn the truth about what transpired before and after Collier’s ouster.
“The big question in my mind is where everybody is going to stand on this,” Mendelsohn mused. “Are folks going to say, ‘I was doing it because the governor told me to do it, or I was doing it on my own?’. Now that they have to take a position under oath, I think we will see some interesting things about what really went on.”
The ruling dismissed Collier's wrongful termination claim against Bentley, which equated to two counts in the lawsuit. Currently, seven counts against the former governor remain including three counts of invasion of privacy, three counts of defamation, and one count of conspiracy.
No claims against other plaintiffs: Rebekah Mason, RCM, Michael Robinson, and Stan Stabler were dismissed.
Bentley's attorney, John Neiman, said the court rightly dismissed the two wrongful termination counts but respectfully disagrees on the issue of immunity on the remaining tort claims.
“We will work to show the courts, in the proceedings that are to come, that those remaining claims are just as meritless as the wrongful-termination claims the Court rightly dismissed”, Neiman wrote in an email Friday.
When asked if Neiman was considering appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme? Court, he said no decision had been reached but called it a "strong possibility".
Despite Thursday’s ruling, resolving this lawsuit could still take time. Mendelsohn says he will entertain conversations about a settlement.
"It would be in the best interest of everybody if the case can be resolved,” he explained. “I don't know if it can. It would be nice if we could put this bad chapter about Robert Bentley behind us.”
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