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Lawyer sues judicial nominee for defamation

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk] reports that an attorney filed suit against recent judicial nominee E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., and his law…

The Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk] reports that an attorney filed suit against recent judicial nominee E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., and his law partner for defamation, accusing them of falsely shifting blame onto him for a costly legal error.

In October, the Pilot reported that Getchell, nominated to the federal appeals court in Richmond (4th Cir.), and his firm, McGuire Woods, may have mishandled a client’s appeal by failing to file a court transcript on time, a mistake that ultimately resulted in the appeal’s dismissal.

According to Christopher C. Spencer’s lawsuit, Getchell and his law partner William R. Allcott deflected blame for the error onto Spencer, who represented the defendant during the suit’s trial, in an effort to save his nomination:

"Fearing that negative publicity would doom his judicial aspirations, Getchell chose not to own up to his responsibility. Instead, Getchell joined with Allcott in an unlawful conspiracy to shift blame away from Getchell and his firm and to spread the false message that Spencer, and not Getchell, was responsible for the failure to file the transcript and the resulting dismissal."

The defendant’s insurer subsequently sued Spencer and his law firm to recover the $8.3 million verdict. Spencer denies that his firm was responsible for filing the transcript during its subsequent appeal.