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E. Duncan Getchell Jr., a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, has been accused of spreading defamatory statements about another Virginia lawyer in order to shore up his foundering nomination and shift blame for a multimillion-dollar court error. Richmond, Va., attorney Christopher Spencer made the allegations in a defamation suit filed in Richmond Circuit Court on Nov. 14. The original dispute arose over who had responsibility for missing the deadline to file trial transcripts in an $8 million personal injury appeal — Getchell and his prominent Richmond law firm, McGuireWoods, or Spencer. The insurer that had to pay when the appeal was tossed out sued Spencer, but not Getchell, whose signature is on the initial 2004 notice of appeal. Spencer accused Getchell and another McGuireWoods partner, William Allcott, of repeating the defamatory statements in news articles, including in The National Law Journal and The Virginian-Pilot in October. The suit alleges that Getchell and Allcott, fearing negative publicity, conspired to shift blame for the error to Spencer “in hope of salvaging a troubled nomination to the federal bench.” Spencer’s lawyer, Andrew White of White O’Connor Curry in Los Angeles, declined to comment. Getchell did not return a call seeking comment, and a firm spokesman was not available to respond.
Pamela A. MacLean is a reporter for The National Law Journal , an ALM publication.

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