In the process, he’s also managed to tug the reins of progress while at the same time adding more bitterness to the city’s already acrimonious politics. Anniston residents, who are in many ways the true victims of Little’s numerous nuisance lawsuits, deserve to know who’s paying for all this foot-dragging.
Over the past three years, Little has filed five lawsuits in civil court. The targets include Mayor Gene Robinson, the authority charged with developing McClellan, and this newspaper. It’s reasonable to wonder if there’s another politician in the country who so frequently runs to the courts. For Little, serving notice of legal filings seems to take precedent over serving his constituents.
Litigation is such the first impulse of Little that when he was arrested last week on misdemeanor allegations of violating city property codes, the councilman vowed, “I’m going to file suit on everyone I need to file suit on, even myself if I need to.”
If that’s an attempt at humor by Little, then congrats to the councilman for realizing that genuine comedy has an element of truth to it.
The serious side is the toll Little’s lawsuits have taken. McClellan Development Authority officials blamed a lengthy legal battle for stalling the process of selling property on the former fort. The MDA won the case, but not before wasting thousands of dollars to defend itself.
Little’s defamation lawsuit against The Star has dragged on for more than 30 months. A local circuit court dismissed the suit in March 2010. Little and his attorney William Eugene Rutledge have pressed on, appealing the case all the way to the state Supreme Court. In November, the Supreme Court sided with The Star. Undeterred, Little’s attorney has vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if he has to.
It’s the sort of long-term legal stance we’ve come to expect from Team Little.
Sue, appeal, repeat.
All this time in court must be costing Little a pretty penny. A Birmingham attorney like Rutledge doesn’t come cheap. With lawsuit after lawsuit and hours upon hours of legal work piling up, Little must owe a hefty legal bill.
One legal bill Little asked the city of Anniston to pay was for $62,000. Were that sum multiplied over all of Little’s recent legal action, he would owe $300,000.
Neither the councilman nor Rutledge will say how much the legal bills are. In the deposition Little gave during his libel suit against The Star, he said he lived on a councilman’s salary and retirement benefits from service in the U.S. Army. While perhaps a comfortable living, it is not one that can easily afford repeated high-dollar legal service.
Somebody is footing the bill for all this litigation, most of which has produced very little besides wasted money and time. Ben Little, a three-time elected politician, owes the city some answers. How much is this frivolous legal work costing? And who is footing the bill?