Disqualification Of Attorney Sought In ORU Case

Friday, November 2nd 2007, 5:27 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Attorneys for Oral Roberts University are asking a judge to disqualify the lead counsel for three professors who brought a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school, citing significant conflicts of interest.

The motion, filed Friday in district court, claims Gary Richardson, the attorney for the dismissed professors, also represented Stephanie Cantees, the sister-in-law of ORU president Richard Roberts.

The motion alleges that Cantees consulted Richardson's law firm about some of the same issues alleged in the lawsuit brought against the university, making his conflict "direct and immediate," according to the document.

The professors' legal filings included a report allegedly authored by Cantees, which details numerous allegations of legal and moral problems of Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay.

In her report, titled "Scandal Vulnerability Assessment," Cantees details allegations that university funds covered numerous home remodels and a $29,411 senior trip to the Bahamas for one of Roberts' daughters, and that 29 photos showed Roberts' wife riding in her sports car with an underage male, among others.

The allegations in the report have rocked the 5,700-student Bible Belt university named for Richard Roberts' evangelist father, Oral Roberts.

"The Richardson law firm knowingly and intentionally based its petitions in part on hearsay stolen from Ms. Cantees' computer," the lawsuit claims. It also adds that the majority of Cantees' notes consisted of "unsubstantiated rumors or personal comments from anonymous persons."

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, both Richard and Lindsay Roberts denied wrongdoing. Richard Roberts has said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

ORU attorneys John Tucker and Jo Anne Deaton declined to comment on the motion Friday, saying they did not want to talk about the case in the media.

Richardson said although he or his firm counseled Cantees on several matters in the past, "she never consulted me about anything relevant to the lawsuit."

Cantees' report was allegedly obtained by an ORU student repairing her laptop. The student later provided a copy to Tim Brooker, one of the three dismissed professors.

The motion filed Friday alleges that Brooker told Cantees he provided the material on her computer to "third parties" and refused to return it to her, "even though he acknowledged it was stolen."

Brooker called those allegations "ridiculous," and said nothing was stolen since Cantees loaned her laptop to students working on a local political campaign. He said once he got a copy of the report from a student, he turned it over to the school's provost.

"They are clutching at straws," Brooker said. "This is delusional."

After the material went missing, attorneys for ORU allege Cantees sought counsel from Richardson in the summer of 2006 about her legal options to "redress the theft and recover the information."

"Now, more than a year later, it is evident the Richardson law firm is one of the recipients of Ms. Cantees' stolen computer material disseminated by Dr. Brooker," the motion claims.

Attorneys for ORU also filed a request for court ordered early mediation Friday, saying it would be in the best interest of all the parties and citing the university's policy of resolving matters without litigation.

Richardson said the university is trying to intimidate his clients into mediation, and that it would be premature to consider.

"In order for mediation to be effective, we need to do some discovery, and that means getting subpoenas and documents -- something they don't want us to do," he said.

Watch the video: Judge Asked To Disqualify Attorney In ORU Case

For more on the lawsuit involving ORU, click here.