Letter: What I learned at Project Jackson Trial

  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014

As you have probably heard by now, Steve Donohue, through his lawyer James Mosteller, has not submitted his final court order to Judge Kinard regarding Project Jackson. Kinard will ultimately make the decision on the trial case, but this decision will not occur until after he returns from vacation; and therefore the decision will be delayed until August or September.  

Let me explain some of the facts as I witnessed them while attending the trial. Those who did not attend the trial might not know the facts as they were presented. Up to this point most of the information has been released through the City or their representatives of the project with a degree of spin. For example, on a local TV station interview Mayor Lark Jones said:

“I’ve been practicing law for 40 years, and when a judge asks you to do something by a certain date, you generally do it by that date or there are consequences.”

The court reporter will have the transcript of the conversation regarding the timing for the delivery of the draft. As I recall, the Judge said to the attorneys “What’s your schedules like?”

He continued saying that he and his grandchild were going on vacation to Costa Rica on Friday morning and that he had some other trials scheduled upon his return. He further stated that if you want this case decided by next Friday, (July 25) you need to have your proposed orders to me by Thursday at 9 a.m. Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get to them until mid-September. He didn’t mention any consequences nor did he imply there would be any if the proposed orders were not presented.

Kinard has been a judge for more than 26 years.  He knows how to tell attorneys what he wants and to set deadlines.  If he intended to set a deadline he would have said — “Each party must have their court order to me by Thursday 9 a.m., if you want me to consider them before my final ruling on Friday,” or words to that effect.  He never said that or even implied such a deadline.

Jones also said that delaying the ruling would have financial implications. I believe that the Mayor is counting his chickens before they hatch. I guess he assumes the ruling will go his way. It’s Donohue’s position that no TIF money should be spent on this project. If the investors lose money, so be it; but the taxpayers will be saving $44 million dollars. Why would Donohue be in a rush to provide documents in less than six days when the judge originally said he would make a decision within 30 days of the trial date?

At every hearing and at the trial, the City has two or three attorneys on the case plus a paralegal or two.  Donohue has one attorney, Mosteller, who is a sole legal practitioner and he had no paralegal at the trial. This isn’t Mosteller’s only case.  Mosteller told the Judge that he had “protected time” for Monday and Tuesday.  Protected time is where an attorney advises the courts and judges that he will be out of his office on those days and that hearings and other deadlines should not be scheduled.  The protected time was to attend to an important personal matter for him that had been scheduled for a long time.  On Wednesday, July 23, Mosteller was in court again on another case.  There just wasn’t enough time or resources available for Mosteller and Donohue to put together such an important document by Thursday, especially since it was not mandated.

In this very sensitive case which will have a vast impact on every citizen of Aiken County and North Augusta, it is extremely important to present the most complete, accurate and thorough information to Kinard so that he can make a decision sustainable on appeal.

Gerald Baygents

North Augusta

Aiken Standard

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