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Judge blocks St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gardner from paying outside law firms

Judge blocks St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gardner from paying outside law firms

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ST. LOUIS — A judge Wednesday blocked Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner from paying potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to five outside law firms representing her.

Circuit Judge Joan Moriarity granted a preliminary injunction sought by a St. Louis resident, Charles Lane, that would block payment, writing that Gardner’s office did not comply with state law when entering into the contracts. The judge also said there was not enough public money set aside to pay the contracts at the time they were signed.

“Lane has a high likelihood of success on the merits” of his underlying lawsuit, Moriarity wrote.

She also denied Gardner’s motion to dismiss the suit and Lane’s motion for judgment on the existing court filings and testimony, meaning the suit will proceed.

The injunction replaces a series of temporary restraining orders that Lane and his lawyer, Elkin Kistner, have been seeking to block the legal payments since they filed suit in April 2019.

Kistner on Wednesday said Lane “is just gratified that the court entered an order consistent with his theories and protecting the taxpayers.”

A spokeswoman for Gardner said Moriarity’s ruling will be appealed.

Lane has filed at least four other suits against the city over financial matters, including retirement benefits and control over city parking revenue.

Gardner has said that she had the right to enter into the contracts and that she had to hire outside firms because of a conflict of interest with the City Counselor’s Office. She’s also sued Lane and others alleging a widespread racist conspiracy against her and said that investigations of her and a former investigator are retaliation for her prosecution of former Gov. Eric Greitens.

City lawyers generally have sided with Lane in his suit. Comptroller Darlene Green has set aside $375,000 for legal costs, and the special prosecutor investigating the handling of the Greitens investigation has billed the city at least $395,000.

Gardner or her office signed the contracts between June 2018 and April 2019, for rates as high as $540 an hour, Moriarity’s ruling said.

Robert Patrick • 314-340-8131

@rxpatrick on Twitter

RPatrick@post-dispatch.com

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