Judge dismisses racketeering and defamation suit filed by Power & Light District’s owner

08/28/2014 12:34 PM

08/28/2014 7:50 PM

A Kansas federal judge has dismissed a racketeering and defamation suit that the Power & Light District’s owner filed against a law firm and two attorneys.

The law firm, Dickens Law LLC, has filed a suit in a different court, alleging that the Cordish Companies employed “rabbits” to initiate fights with African-American patrons to discourage them from coming to the district.

Cordish has denied that it did any such thing.

In its federal suit, Cordish alleged that the law firm and attorneys Linda Dickens and Austin Johnston engaged in a racketeering enterprise when they threatened to expose the alleged “rabbit” scheme to the public.

According to the suit, the attorneys pressed for a settlement for a fired bar manager who alleged that he had been ordered to employ a Caucasian male “for the sole purpose of initiating altercations with African-American patrons.”

The Cordish suit also included a defamation claim for statements Dickens made to reporters in March.

U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum dismissed the suit, noting that Cordish’s allegations did not describe “the type of long-term criminal activity” at which the federal racketeering statute was aimed.

Lungstrum also noted that dismissal was appropriate because Cordish’s allegations against the lawyers and the law firm described only the “legitimate acts” of attorneys “acting on behalf of a client in the course of pending litigation.”

With the main racketeering claims dismissed, Lungstrum declined to hear the defamation claim.

Lawyer David Larson, who represented Dickens Law and the attorneys, said he and his clients were happy with the order.

“We believe it was the correct ruling, and we’re pleased the court agreed with our analysis,” he said.

Lawyers representing Cordish could not be reached for comment.

Two other legal actions involving Cordish remain active.

A suit filed in late February in Jackson County Circuit Court by the fired bar owner, Glen Cusimano, alleged that Cordish and others deliberately created disturbances to eject black patrons from the district.

That suit moved to federal court in Kansas City in May and has not been set for trial.

A class action lawsuit brought on behalf of African-Americans who claimed to have experienced racial discrimination in the district has been set for trial in August 2015.

In an order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith dismissed one of the two civil rights counts in the suit, noting that it was “redundant” to the second count. Smith also ruled that he would not have jurisdiction for that type of claim until the plaintiffs had notified the Missouri Commission on Civil Rights.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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