The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette got the jump this morning on dismissal of a lawsuit over Jeremy Hutchinson’s failed representation of a nonprofit health provider in Batesville.  I can explain what this likely signifies.

Based on the Arkansas Blog’s past reporting, it seems likely the insurance company for the former senator’s former law firm made a settlement offer acceptable to Preferred Family Healthcare in the case. All participants in the lawsuit are bound by a confidentiality agreement and the order dismissing the case was perfunctory.

Hutchinson, who’s been indicted on tax charges related to personal use of campaign money, faces continuing investigation for legal fees he received from PFH. PFH is the parent of the Batesville nonprofit, Health Resources of Arkansas, involved in this particular lawsuit. Hutchinson claimed his monthly retainer was a legitimate legal fee. A former PFH lobbyist said it amounted to a payment for Hutchinson to do the firm’s legislative bidding.

David Coleman, a former employee for Health Resources, sued for unpaid retirement benefits. He won a default judgment of $357,000 because Hutchinson failed to file responses in court. PFH paid the judgment, more than $383,000 with interest, and then sued Hutchinson and his former law firm, now Steel, Wright and Gray. The targeted deep pocket was not Hutchinson, of course, but the insurance carrier for the law firm, which Nate Steel acknowledged to me in September.

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Both Hutchinson and the Steel firm resisted the PFH suit arguing PFH didn’t have clean hands. As a legal matter in this case, it’s impossible now to say. But through testimony of its lobbyist Rusty Cranford and others, it’s been alleged by the government to have had many unclean hands in the course of raking in millions in state money from Medicaid and other government grant programs. Several former legislators and former employees of related nonprofits are in prison or heading there as a result. This suit is but a tiny offshoot of a sprawling web and here about Hutchinson’s incompetence as a lawyer, not bribery allegations.

The settlement provides that each party pay its own legal fees and court costs, but makes no mention of settlement of the claim itself.