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When a one-time legislative consultant in the Christian Coalition’s Washington office sued his former employer for back pay in 2004, the organization knew it was in for a long legal battle. But the coalition may not have expected to go to war with its own lawyers. Earlier this month, Wiley Rein & Fielding partners H. Jason Gold and Alexander Laughlin filed a motion to withdraw as counsel in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that the coalition had failed to pay its bills in the case. The two were helping the coalition recover more than $80,000 in attorneys fees awarded it by the Arlington County Circuit Court because of “frivolous pleadings” filed by the plaintiff in the back pay action, former consultant Tracy Ammons and his attorney Jonathon Moseley. Gold and Laughlin had been retained to try and get the money from Ammons, who filed for bankruptcy. But just days later, the lawyers who had defended the coalition in Ammons’ back pay suit also moved to sever their ties to the coalition. Brad Weiss and Stephen Varholy at Tysons Corner, Va.-based Charapp & Weiss filed to withdraw from representing the coalition in Arlington circuit court. Their reason: an “irreconcilable conflict” between the coalition and its own board. The filing didn’t detail what the conflict was, but Drew McKissick, a coalition board member, says the coalition is changing its strategy in the back pay case filed by Ammons by seeking arbitration. Both Gold and Weiss decline comment on their claims, but Michele Combs, a spokesperson for the coalition, says the partings were amicable. She says the coalition paid 80 percent of its total legal bills, which have hit upwards of $150,000, to both firms. Combs says there was dispute over how much the coalition owes Wiley Rein, but she wouldn’t elaborate. And she says that the coalition isn’t sure it wants to continue chasing Ammons for the money he owes because of skyrocketing legal costs. “Why would we go spend more money in legal fees than what the sanctions order that was awarded to us?” Combs asks. Meanwhile, she says the coalition is working out a payment plan with its attorneys.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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