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Law partners’ feud lives on in suit

Wed., Nov. 25, 2009

Allegations include defamation, emotional damage, misspending

A dispute between two law partners that sent one to jail following an armed confrontation at their Spokane office in 2007 has become a messy civil lawsuit that local judges are avoiding.

Connie Powell and Dean White opened their law practice in the summer of 2006, sharing clients and carving what they hoped to be their own niche in criminal and civil litigation. But their relationship soon unraveled into a feud marred by allegations of extramarital affairs and physical abuse, including a Nov. 7, 2007, fight that began outside a bar and culminated in their office, where police said White held a gun to Powell’s head in their law firm, threatening to kill her.

More than two years later, the feud still simmers even after White was sent to jail for 30 days following an Alford plea to charges of third-degree malicious mischief and unlawful imprisonment involving domestic violence in connection with the gun incident. White’s law license was suspended for six months in March by the Washington State Bar Association and hasn’t been reinstated.

Powell filed a lawsuit against White and his wife, Vita White, seeking money for defamation and emotional damages as well as a court-ordered solution to how to split up the law firm’s assets.

Dean White filed a counterclaim alleging Powell had taken money from the law firm after his arrest and tried removing him from the name of the corporation without court approval. He also alleges Powell used the firm’s money to pay for her current office at 1316 W. Dean Ave.

The lawsuit was on hold as criminal proceedings and state bar proceedings wrapped up. But six months have passed since that happened and the case shows no signs of a resolution. Even the reasons for the lack of progress have led to bickering, court documents show.

Craig Mason, who works at Powell’s law firm, recently was hired to represent her but ordered off the case Nov. 10 by Judge Richard Miller after Vita White’s lawyer, Dennis Cronin, noted Mason could be called as a witness at trial. Mason has asked the judge to reconsider.

Miller is an Adams County Superior Court judge assigned to the case after conflicts pushed it out of Spokane County.

Cronin declined to comment on the case.

Dean White’s lawyer, Julie Twyford, did not return a phone call seeking comment.


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