By Gina Passarella
Of the Legal Staff
A federal judge in Philadelphia has denied a motion to stay the production of legal invoices from the Philadelphia Housing Authority to HUD while the PHA's former executive director appeals the order allowing the bills to be turned over.
Last month, Judge Anita Brody denied a preliminary injunction motion made by former PHA executive director Carl Greene, who argued the PHA's decision to give unredacted legal bills to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could release privileged attorney-client information belonging to Greene.
The bills in question were from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Fox Rothschild, Duane Morris, Flaster Greenberg, Ballard Spahr and Wolf Block. Redacted bills from Schnader Harrison and Fox Rothschild have already been turned over under a previous order by Brody. The remaining bills were ordered to be reviewed to see if they contained any privileged information regarding Greene.
When the PHA's counsel, Barry Gross of Drinker Biddle & Reath, wrote a letter to the court, and later an affidavit, swearing his firm's review of the bills found no privilege belonging to Greene, Brody denied Greene's preliminary injunction motion and ordered the bills turned over to HUD.
Greene's attorneys, Clifford Haines and Lauren Cates of Haines & Associates, are now arguing on appeal that an affidavit signed by the attorney representing their opponents was not the type of review they envisioned. They argued they should also be allowed to see the bills or that a third-party review should be done. Greene requested a stay of their production until his appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was complete.
In a one-paragraph order issued Tuesday, Brody denied that request. Haines said he was disappointed with the ruling and didn't think there was any particular urgency for the release of the documents.
He said he would guess the PHA would turn over the bills now without waiting for any appeal to conclude. Haines said if the 3rd Circuit looks at the issue and decides the bills shouldn’t have been handed over, HUD's Inspector General will have to forget what he has seen.
Gross has said that the bills that have been turned over to HUD and the ones that remain will all be redacted to some degree to protect the PHA's own privilege concerns.
Gross said Tuesday the PHA is ready to turn over the bills but will wait for an undetermined amount of time in case Greene files a stay request with the 3rd Circuit. Gross said he was pleased with Brody's decision.
HUD is investigating the PHA's spending of $38 million on outside legal fees between 2007 and 2010.