JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Auditor Nicole Galloway is asking that the courts disqualify opposing lawyers in the Missouri Alliance for Freedom (MAF) case against her.
The MAF is suing the State Auditor, alleging violations of Missouri’s open records law in a case that goes back to July 2017, with the MAF saying Galloway has refused to turn over documents requested by the conservative nonprofit.
But in the latest turn of events, Galloway is seeking relief from the courts, arguing that the MAF’s attorney in the matter (Eddie Greim, John Benton Hurst, and the Graves Garrett law firm) should not be allowed to handle the case due to a conflict of interest under the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct.
The case itself stems from early 2017 when the State Auditor’s Office requested documents and records from the Missouri Department of Revenue. After Revenue refused to produce the requested information, they were served a subpoena by the Auditor’s Office. Following that, the MAF sent three letters to the Auditor’s Office, requesting all records related to that audit and communications maintained by the office.
In July 2017, the MAF filed suit against the Auditor, with Greim and Hurst working the case.
But now, nearly one year later, Galloway is asking the courts to consider the fact that the attorneys had been or were being hired by the Governor’s Office to perform services related to the possible impeachment of Gov. Eric Greitens.
In a motion filed with the courts on May 21, Galloway’s attorneys say that the case names the Missouri State Auditor as a party and “does not appear to asset and claim against Auditor Galloway in any personal capacity,” and as such, is an action against the State of Missouri.
The State Auditor’s Office is part of the executive branch of Missouri government, and, as her attorneys argue, counsel representing the state in one matter cannot represent a private entity in a proceeding against the state.
And under the law, if the attorneys cannot permissibly represent MAF, then no other Graves Garrett attorney would be able to do so.
On these grounds, Galloway’s attorneys request that a proper review should be conducted and that the court should:
(a) issue an order suspending all proceedings, including discovery, in the present case pending a ruling on the motion to disqualify
(b) enter a scheduling order as follows:
1. Defendant may submit one set of discovery requests to include, as needed, interrogatories, request for documents, request for admissions, and deposition(s) directed solely to facts surrounding the issue of conflict of interest. Interrogatories and document requests must be served within five business days of entry of the scheduling order. A request for admissions must be served no later than ten business days of service of responses to any interrogatories and requests for documents (whichever is later).
2. Any depositions must be completed no later than 30 days after service of responses to requests for admissions, or 30 days after responses to interrogatories/request for documents is due if no request for admissions is requested.
(c) grant an evidentiary hearing on the record.
A hearing is scheduled in the case for Wednesday, June 6, before Judge Jon Beetem, at 10. a.m. The bench trial is set for August 27.
Read the filing below:
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.