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With $16.6 million in Fulton County, Ga., tax dollars at stake, what trumps a former Georgia attorney general? A former U.S. attorney general. Former U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell has filed a formal notice of appearance on behalf of two members of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library Board and the system’s director. Bogle v. McClure, No. 1:00-cv-2071 (N.D. Ga., Jan. 21, 2002). At the same time, Atlanta’s Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, widely known more for its representation of black plaintiffs in suits against large corporations, has entered the case on the side of seven white Fulton County librarians who were found by a jury to be the victims of race discrimination. Bell’s appearance sets up a battle royal with former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers, who persuaded a federal jury here in January to award $23.4 million to the librarians, who said they were transferred from the downtown library and stripped of management responsibilities because they are white. On May 10, U.S. District Judge Beverly B. Martin of the Northern District of Georgia reduced the award to $16.6 million, but her opinion affirmed the jury’s findings that the library board chairman, co-chair and the library system director had discriminated against the white librarians. Bowers, a partner at Atlanta’s Meadows, Ichter & Bowers, convinced the jury here that library board chairman William McClure, Vice Chairwoman Mary Jamerson Ward and Director Mary Kaye Hooker had discriminated against eight members of the central library’s management staff because they were white. In reducing the verdict, Martin found that one of the eight had suffered no damages because she remained in management despite a transfer. Even though Martin reduced the judgment, Fulton County Attorney Overtis Hicks “O.V.” Brantley has said that the judge “did not go far enough.” She said she intends to appeal the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “No, I won’t tell you,” Brantley said Wednesday when asked why she has turned to Bell — former President Jimmy Carter’s U.S. attorney general and a former 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge — to handle the county’s appeal. ‘IT’S A MAJOR CASE’ “I will just say that it’s a major case. I decided I wanted some help beyond my in-house staff. I chose that firm. I chose Judge Bell.” Brantley continued, “Judge Bell was very interested in taking the case. I called him up personally and asked him personally to do that as a personal favor to me. He was very gracious and agreed to do that. “For those people who think all large law firms are very greedy, he even offered to assist me free of charge initially.” Brantley said Bell did consult with her free of charge. But she now has retained Bell’s firm, King & Spalding. K&S associate Lovita T. Tandy and partner H. Lane Dennard also have entered notices of appearance in the case. Bell, 83, remains an active litigator. On Thursday, he was out of town and could not be reached for comment. But through his secretary, he declined an interview, saying he was concerned that he might “get into the merits of the case, and he doesn’t want to do that.” BOWERS’ SELECTIONS By the time the county hired Bell, Bowers already had turned to an Atlanta firm known for its affirmative action litigation for appellate help. Michael B. Terry and Joshua F. Thorpe, partners at Atlanta’s Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, have joined Bowers in fighting the county’s appeal. Bowers confirmed this week that Terry has been “of enormous help” already. He said he turned to Bondurant, Mixson for help “because they’re good. That’s all I know. They’re damn good.” Terry has been a lead attorney in ongoing affirmative action litigation against Georgia Power Co. and its parent, the Southern Co., by the company’s black employees. Thorpe worked on behalf of Coca-Cola Co.’s black employees in class action litigation that resulted in a $192.5 million settlement last year. “We’ve handled a number of plaintiffs’ discrimination cases, like Georgia Power, so it seemed like a logical fit,” Terry said. “Our position on this, and it’s an issue that we have thought about — our position is that discrimination is discrimination, and it does not matter what the race or ethnicity or gender of the victim is. It’s wrong, no matter what. I see no inconsistency … of policy and no inconsistency of law.”

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