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The theme of Reed Smith’s new marketing campaign — “It’s not just business. It’s personal” — may be more on-target than anyone at the Pittsburgh-based firm imagined. Reed Smith and one of its top rainmakers, Philadelphia partner Richard Glanton, are scheduled to go to trial in state court today. Flush with tales of alleged corruption, conspiracy, and backstabbing, the case is sure to train the spotlight on how a big firm became entangled in the ethnic, cultural, and political crosscurrents of the City of Brotherly Love. The case pits Reed Smith and Glanton against a one-time ally and a longtime rival. The plaintiff, former Lincoln University president Niara Sudarkasa, is represented by Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley partner Carl Singley, the former Temple University law school dean and confidante to Philadelphia mayor John Street. While Glanton is a Republican, Singley is a Democrat, and both are among the most prominent — and well-connected — African American lawyers in the city. The trial is expected to last up to a month and promises to air a wealth of dirty laundry on both sides of the aisle. At stake: $5 million in damages, together with some very big reputations. Glanton and Sudarkasa both arrived on the Lincoln campus in the same year, 1987, she as the first female president of America’s oldest historically black college, and he as its outside general counsel. One year later, Lincoln gained control of the fabled Barnes Foundation in suburban Philadelphia. It had taken 36 years for the final provisions of the great collector Dr. Albert Barnes’s will to kick in. But when it did, Lincoln, with its endowment of less than $5 million, effectively became the owner of the greatest post-Impressionist art collection in the world. It proved to be a mixed blessing. Extraordinarily rich in art — its collection is valued at more than $6 billion — the Barnes bequest came saddled with a cash endowment almost as meager as Lincoln’s (about $9 million at the time). Glanton and Sudarkasa were promptly named to the Barnes board, where, with her support, Glanton was made president. During the next eight years, Glanton became a well-known but controversial figure in the international art world when he took the cream of the Barnes’s art on a worldwide tour. The Barnes’ money woes, however, continued unabated, helped along by a series of costly litigations. A zoning board dispute escalated into a federal suit under the Ku Klux Klan Act. The neighbors, Glanton claimed, were “mad because African American people” — Glanton and Sudarkasa — “are running the Barnes.” That, in turn, led to a countersuit for defamation in state court. Three years and a combined $6 million in legal fees later, the Barnes was reeling. Shortly after a federal judge ordered summary judgment against the Barnes in September 1997, Sudarkasa told Glanton that she intended to vote against his re-election. Six months later, he was out at both institutions. Sudarkasa’s own problems began at about the same time. A state senator started looking into alleged financial irregularities at Lincoln. That investigation led to yet another investigation, this time by the state auditor-general. In September 1998 Sudarkasa was forced out as president of Lincoln. Now she’s charging that her downfall was part of a deliberate campaign set in motion by Glanton to destroy her career and ruin her reputation. In his pleadings, Sudarkasa’s lawyer Singley argues that Glanton was desperate to maintain control of the Barnes, which he had converted “into his own private slush fund and patronage haven, doling out millions of dollars in consulting, printing, and legal contracts.” Singley also claims that, in his alleged effort to bring Sudarkasa down, Glanton “systematically leaked privileged lawyer-client financial information gained in his role as general counsel and passed it along not only to her political enemies but also to Philadelphia Inquirer reporters.” Depositions in the case suggest that Glanton’s alleged high-flying lifestyle is likely to figure prominently in the trial. Glanton — the subject of a 1993 sexual-harassment suit by a former Reed Smith associate (he was cleared) — “knows what to expect,”says Singley. No doubt he does now. Questioning Glanton about the identity of the occupant of a Barnes-owned cottage, for example, Singley wanted to know: “Was [she] your woman?” This subplot is not helping to bridge the gap between the two Philly legal kingpins. Asked by Singley if he trusted a fellow Barnes board member, Glanton replied: “Same as I’d trust you — no.” Reed Smith is in for some rough treatment, too. Former Philadelphia managing partner Michael Browne was grilled on the firm’s alleged exploitation of the Barnes art tour for rainmaking purposes. The firm, Browne replied, did sponsor events connected to the tour, but it “never got any business out of the Barnes.” Neither Glanton nor his attorney Robert Sugarman of Philadelphia’s Sugarman & Associates, returned calls. Reed Smith’s lawyer Richard Bazelon of Philadelphia’s Bazelon Less & Feldman, had no comment. Reed Smith managing partner Gregory Jordan would only say that “I expect the case will be tried in court, and we will be vindicated.” He can also expect that it will get down, dirty — and personal.

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