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Short $244.27? Though Gruber Hurst Johansen & Hail probably didn’t want to make a federal case out of a nonpayment-of-fees dispute with a client, a suit that the Dallas-based firm recently filed just might become one. On Aug. 15, the defendants in Gruber Hurst Johansen & Hail v. Hackard & Hold, et al. moved to have the fee-dispute suit removed from Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 4 to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. In its July 6 petition, Gruber Hurst alleges the defendants � California-based Hackard & Holt and its two attorneys, Michael Hackard and Theodore J. Holt � owe it just under $74,755.74 in fees associated with defending Hackard & Holt in two breach-of-contract suits filed in Texas and Missouri in which the firm was accused of nonpayment of legal and expert witness fees associated with fen-phen litigation. Gruber Hurst withdrew as counsel, and both suits are still pending. But the problem with attempting to remove Gruber Hurst to federal court is that under 28 U.S.C. �1441(b), a civil dispute must involve citizens of different states and a matter in controversy that exceeds the sum of $75,000. Hackard & Holt notes in its removal motion that Gruber Hurst’s claim is $244.27 short of meeting the federal jurisdictional limit but that Gruber Hurst “more likely than not . . . has incurred in excess of $244.27 in attorney’s fees thereby satisfying this court’s requisite jurisdictional amount.” G. Michael Gruber, a partner in Gruber Hurst, says he is not sure why Hackard & Holt wants the suit heard in federal court. Holt, who is representing himself, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Hackard, who also is representing himself, declines to comment. In its petition, Gruber Hurst maintains it is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees. Brian Hail, a partner in Gruber Hurst who filed the suit on behalf of the firm, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. So it’s unclear whether Hail intends to charge his firm more than $244.27 for his services in the litigation. Proper Procedure Austin attorney Elizabeth Reyes alleges in a suit against current and former officials with the Texas Office of the Secretary of State that she was fired in September 2005 for making comments to a reporter that embarrassed Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s longtime adviser, and other Republicans. Reyes filed Reyes v. Williams, et al. on Aug. 16 in the 53rd District Court in Travis County, three days after Rove announced he plans to resign at the end of August. Matt Holder, an associate with San Antonio’s David Van Os & Associates and one of Reyes’ attorneys, says the fact that Reyes filed the suit the same week Rove announced he would step down is just a coincidence. “She chose to file suit at a time she thought appropriate,” Holder says. Holder declines to disclose where Reyes is employed as an attorney to protect her privacy. According to Reyes’ original petition, the alleged reason for her termination in September 2005 was that she violated the Office of the Secretary of State’s policy and procedures manual on press calls when she spoke to a Washington Post reporter about whether Rove’s ownership of two rental cottages in Kerr County qualified him to vote in that county. Reyes alleges that she was fired because the statements attributed to her in the Post article � that a county prosecutor could go after someone who votes in a place where he doesn’t live � caused political embarrassment for defendants Roger Williams, then secretary of state, and H.S. “Buddy” Garcia, then deputy secretary of state. Reyes alleges in the petition that at the time she allegedly made the comments, she did not know she was talking to a journalist. Among other things, Reyes alleges that Williams and Garcia violated her rights to free speech and association under the First and 14th Amendments. Reyes further alleges that Williams and Garcia did not allow her to present a grievance concerning her termination, and that denial “furthered their initial act of retaliation” against her. Williams, owner of a car dealership in Weatherford, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Daniel Womack, a spokesman for Garcia, now the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, declines comment about the suit. Reyes also names Phil Wilson, the current secretary of state, as a defendant. In addition to seeking damages against Williams and Garcia, Reyes seeks an injunction to require Wilson to purge any references to the termination from her employment record at the secretary of state’s office. Scott Haywood, a spokesman for Wilson, says the Secretary of State’s Office does not comment on pending litigation. [ See "Counsel Fired Over Comment in Rove Article Explores Legal Options,"Texas Lawyer , Oct. 3, 2005, page 1.]

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