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Lawyers Squabble Over Jones Legal Fees

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 27, 1998; Page A05

While Paula Jones tries to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, her past and present attorneys are engaged in a squabble over legal fees.

Two former lawyers for Jones, still seeking to recover $800,000 in unpaid bills, went to court yesterday to intervene in her appeal of the case's dismissal by a federal judge. Joseph Cammarata and Gilbert K. Davis withdrew as Jones's attorneys last fall, but argue they should be compensated for three years' work on her behalf.

The lawyers who took their place have said they would challenge that claim. In a notice of appeal filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright dismissed the Jones lawsuit April 1, the current lawyers wrote they would seek to overrule Wright's previous determination that Cammarata and Davis were due "reasonable attorney's fees for their zealous and effective representation."

"This is an unprincipled attack on our entitlement to legal fees and we are asking the Court of Appeals to permit us to defend ourselves," Cammarata said yesterday. "At the end of the day, by cutting us out, they seek to enrich themselves."

Cammarata and Davis, who represented Jones from May 1994 until September 1997, were paid just $23,000 each from a legal defense fund and have placed an $800,000 lien on any proceeds Jones wins in her case. In their filing yesterday, Cammarata and Davis sought to undercut the argument of Jones's current lawyers that their lien against her hampered settlement negotiations with Clinton, writing that they were provided no examples to prove that claim.

In justifying their right to payments, the former lawyers pointed out that they won a unanimous Supreme Court decision allowing Jones's lawsuit to proceed while Clinton was in office and negotiated a $700,000 settlement proposal that Jones rejected.

Donovan Campbell Jr., who is now Jones's chief attorney, did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday. Since taking over the case in October, his firm's expenses have been paid by the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, but at least $900,000 in hourly bills have gone unpaid because they are working on a contingency basis.

The president, too, is contemplating legal action to pay his legal bills.

The president has hired a new law firm to negotiate with and possibly sue two insurance companies that his advisers contend are obligated to pay at least $1.5 million in outstanding bills.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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