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November 29, 2010 9:51 PM

Libel Case Reveals How Manatt Received Controversial Jamaica Work

Posted by Brian Baxter

Responding to a libel suit filed by Jamaican lawyer Harold Brady, the island nation's prime minister claims that a former chairman of the Republican National Committee in this country steered Jamaican officials to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips for help in dealing with a delicate extradition request.

Bruce Golding, head of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), states in court papers that Brady approached him in early September 2009 and suggested he could make contact with Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., according to The Jamaica Gleaner. Fahrenkopf was RNC chair from 1983 to 1989 and once served as a "special partner" at Hogan & Hartson (now called Hogan Lovells), the firm where Brady once worked as a consultant.

The purpose of reaching out to Fahrenkopf was to open a channel to U.S. law enforcement officials in order to discuss the Jamaican government's concerns about the requested extradition of alleged Kingston drug baron Christopher Coke.

"The claimant [Brady] was instructed and agreed that in contacting Frank Fahrenkoph [sic], he was representing the JLP," according to court documents cited by the Gleaner, which reports that Brady was advised that the JLP would pay his expenses.

In the second week of September 2009, Golding's defense lawyers claim, Brady told their client that he had contacted Fahrenkopf, who had in turn suggested the Jamaicans contact Charles Manatt, a founder of Manatt Phelps and chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1981 to 1985.

Brady later indicated to Golding that he had contacted Manatt Phelps and began working with a senior partner at the firm, which in order to be formally retained would need to receive approximately $100,000 per quarter, according to court documents obtained by the Gleaner. That sum matches figures contained in documents filed by the firm with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Citing Golding's defense papers, the Gleaner reports that within several weeks of the initial contact, Manatt Phelps got in touch with Brady and told him that the firm would prefer to act as the government's agent, rather than the JLP's. Golding claims that when Brady relayed this information to him, he disagreed, and that Brady responded, "OK, prime minister."

Brady then signed a Manatt Phelps retainer in October 2009. That agreement described him as a consultant to the government of Jamaica. Manatt Phelps has consistently denied it had any role in the Coke extradition and has steadfastly maintained that its client was the Jamaican government. (Click here for copies of e-mails between Manatt Phelps lawyers and Jamaican officials.)

Fahrenkopf, who is now president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the time of this story. A spokesman for Manatt Phelps also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Jamaican government has established a commission of inquiry--set to begin proceedings on Wednesday--to look into the contested extradition of Coke. The alleged international drug trafficker was eventually turned over to the Justice Department in June after a long fight that ended with running gun battles on the streets of Kingston.

In other JLP-related legal news, a Jamaican national named Ian Johnson gave a 23-page sworn statement in a U.S. court on November 18 accusing James Robertson, a party member serving as minister of energy and mining, of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot.

The JLP-led government has expressed support for Robertson, who has called the charges leveled by Johnson "spurious, unfounded, erratic, and self-serving." Golding has said that while the allegations are disturbing, there should not be a rush to judgment until the matter is fully investigated, according to local news sources. No case has yet been brought against Robertson in a U.S. court.

Johnson's lawyer, former Holland & Knight partner David Rowe in Fort Lauderdale, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

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