The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 30, 2013

UPDATE: Opening statements begin tomorrow in Walker trial





Seven potential jurors for the city of Clinton's legal malpractice suit were excused this morning, including one woman who said she would not be able to award the city of Clinton $4.67 million even if the city proved its case. The city is suing Michael Walker and his law firm Hopkins and Huebner. Walker is the attorney who represented the city in the emergency medical services case that resulted in the city settling with whistleblower Timothy Schultheis and the federal government for $4.5 million in 2010. The city's goal is to recoup the expenses of the settlement along with other fees, totaling $4.67 million. Mayor Mark Vulich appeared for the city along with the attorneys it has hired for the case from Chicago law firm, Hannafan and Hannafan, as well as Davenport firm Gosman, Tarbox and Associates. Walker was present with his attorneys from the Davenport firm Lane and Waterman. Judge Nancy Tabor is presiding over the case. As the first day of the trial got under way at the Scott County courthouse in Davenport, attorneys representing both the city and Walker asked more than 25 potential jurors various questions in order to pare down the pool. At the end of the jury selection both sides will choose four jurors apiece they would like to decide the case. The trial is expected to last 12 days. Mike Hannafan asked potential jurors if anyone would have trouble awarding the city the amount it seeks even if the city proves its case that Walker's failure to properly analyze the EMS billing case resulted in the city settling. "Is there anyone here who would hesitate if the evidence supported it?" he asked. "That's a lot of dough, so is there anyone here who would be reluctant or hesitate to award $4.67 million?" One woman raised her hand. "I'm just of a mind that that's too much money," she said. "Greed comes to mind." Following her admission, she was excused. Jurors also were asked if they had any knowledge of the legal malpractice suit or the underlying EMS case. While none of the potential jurors said they knew any details of either case, a couple had heard about it in passing. One man, who formerly lived in Clinton, was taken outside of the courtroom to discuss with the attorneys and Tabor what he knew about a case the city had been involved in. After returning, he was excused. Jurors responded to questions from both plaintiff and defense attorneys about their experience with medical billing, municipalities or other factors that could affect their ability to be an impartial juror. The remaining five excused jurors were let go for various reasons, including scheduling conflicts. Jury selection is expected to be complete by the end of today.

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