Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fired Whittemore Peterson researcher wants rulings tossed

http://www.rgj.com/article/20120418/NEWS/304180085/Fired-Whittemore-Peterson-researcher-wants-rulings-tossed

Fired Whittemore Peterson researcher wants rulings tossed
2:39 PM, Apr. 18, 2012
Written by Martha Bellisle


After a lawsuit filed by the Whittemore Peterson Institute against a
former researcher passed through three judges and landed with a
fourth, their lawyer asked for a hearing so they can argue for the
damages they hope to collect.

But Dennis Jones, lawyer for fired researcher Judy Mikovits, objected
to that plan, saying it was premature. Jones said he would file a
motion Wednesday challenging all of the orders made by Washoe District
Judge Brent Adams, who took himself off the case after disclosing that
he received campaign contributions from Harvey Whittemore and his
companies.

Whittemore is married to institute founder and president, Annette
Whittemore, and is president and director of one of the institute's
subsidiaries. He has been the subject of secret grand jury hearings to
determine if he violated federal laws by using friends, family and
associates to make campaign contributions.

In a motion, Jones said all of Adams' rulings were tainted for the
same reasons the judge recused himself.

"The facts that led to Judge Adams' recusal were known to him at the
time he made various rulings in this case yet he failed to disclose
them to the parties until months later," Jones said in his motion.

Therefore, the judge's rulings "are void or voidable" so the new judge
should reconsider them, Jones said in the motion. He also suggested
that the judge could put the civil case on hold until a criminal case
against Mikovits is resolved.

The institute filed a lawsuit against Mikovits last year after she was
fired and left the area, returning to Ventura, Calif. The suit claimed
she stole notebooks containing important research material when she
left, a claim she denied.

When the institute first filed the lawsuit, it was randomly assigned
to Judge Steven Elliott, but WPI lawyer Ann Hall filed a peremptory
challenge and it was sent to Adams. After hearings and motions, Adams
ruled against Mikovits and ordered her to return all materials. But
just before the parties were to argue for damages, Adams disclosed
that he had received $10,400 from Whittemore and his companies.

Adams said he needed to step down over concerns about "the appearance
of impropriety."

The case was randomly assigned to Judge Jerry Polaha, who immediately
disclosed that he, too, had received campaign money from Whittemore.
But he insisted that he could oversee the case without bias.

Jones told Polaha during a hearing on April 3 that he believed in the
judge's ability to be fair, but said Mikovits issues "marching orders"
to secure a new judge. Jones filed a challenge, and Polaha stepped off
the case.

It was randomly assigned to Judge Janet Berry. A search of campaign
finance reports by the Reno Gazette-Journal did not find any
contributions made by Whittemore or his companies.

Berry must now decide whether she will allow Mikovits to challenge
Judge Adams' rulings, which would basically allow them to start over.

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