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NAACP Files Suit Against Four Former Staff Lawyers

February 26, 1987

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The NAACP has sued four former staff lawyers, alleging they illegally kept more than $2 million in legal fees awarded in five school desegregation and employment discrimination cases dating to 1970.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court, charged that the fees should have been turned over to the organization.

The fees were awarded in civil rights cases brought by the NAACP in Michigan, New York, Florida and Ohio. Under law, courts may order the losing party in a civil rights case to pay the winning party’s legal expenses.

Named in the suit were Thomas Atkins, who is in private practice in New York; Nathaniel Jones, a judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio; Teresa Demchak, with the National Center for Youth Law in San Francisco, and William Wells, an assistant city attorney in Pensacola, Fla.

The NAACP alleges that Atkins should have turned over $681,023; Jones $538,188; Demchak $503,252, and Wells $279,399.

Atkins, who was NAACP general counsel from 1980 to 1984, denied any impropriety and charged that the suit was ″designed solely to harass and defame me.″

He said the lawsuit was part of a vendetta by NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks for Atkins’ criticism in 1982 of the way Hooks handled organization money.

The NAACP had no comment on Atkins’ allegations, said Jim Williams, a spokesman at the organization’s headquarters in Baltimore.

Robert S. Brown, an attorney for Jones, said the suit was ″utterly devoid of any legal, equitable or factual foundation.″

Wells was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Demchak did not return telephone calls for comment.

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