Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rotten tomato crops produce lawyer reprimand

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Sarah Vestal, a former Arkansan now living in California, sent me this copy of a recent decision by the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct issuing a reprimand and fine of $1,500, plus $50 costs, to Graham Catlett, a Little Rock lawyer, over Vestal's complaint about Catlett's role in a failed organic tomato business.

The Catlett-Vestal partnership grew rancorous years ago and resulted in a lawsuit, ultimately settled, over Vestal Gourmet Foods, set up to grow organic tomatoes near Sheridan. The crux of the professional conduct complaint is over actions by Catlett after a greenhouse and regular organic tomato crop failed in 2005. The report says non-organic tomatoes were purchased and labeled as organic to supply to Vestal customers. Vestal and Catlett were feuding over the business and Vestal filed a complaint with the USDA over the mislabeling. Ultimately, the USDA revoked the firm's organic certification.

Vestal also complained to the lawyer disciplinary agency. It cited Catlett under a rule that says dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation can be professional misconduct. Stark Ligon, director of the agency, said Catlett did not ask for a public hearing and accepted the committee's decision. It was filed Wednesday with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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