story by Ryan Saylor
Two prominent attorneys who have been in the news in recent weeks and months due to their legal wrangling with the city of Fort Smith have joined forces to create a new law firm.
Attorneys Matt Campbell and Joey McCutchen, along with William Buckley, have created the law firm McCutchen, Buckley, Campbell — The Law Firm.
"Our purpose is to impact the lives of our clients and citizens in our communities, and to do it one person, one moment, and one interaction at a time," McCutchen said in an e-mail to The City Wire. "We do that by protecting clients' livelihoods and legal rights against any infringement, whether from catastrophic injuries from a business's violation of safety rules or from government overreach in our communities."
McCutchen, on behalf of client Jack Swink of Fort Smith, filed a lawsuit July 1 that alleged the city of Fort Smith violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by polling city directors by telephone about whether or not to remove items from a meeting agenda. He has previously been involved in litigation against the city regarding other alleged violations of the Arkansas FOIA.
Campbell, who lives in Pulaski County, is legal counsel in a whistleblower lawsuit against the Fort Smith Police Department and revealed in a post on his Blue Hog Report blog allegations that the Daily and Woods Law Firm — the city's contracted legal counsel — had charged for services not performed and overcharged for others. City Attorney Jerry Canfield has denied the allegations.
Campbell said while he and McCutchen have been involved in legal disputes with the city in recent months, the law firm's focus would be about more than just government transparency.
"I want to do more personal injury and I want to be able to focus the rest of my practice in terms of consumer protection and civil rights. A one stop shop for helping people," Campbell told The City Wire. "Joey had the same mindset. He wanted to do personal injury. And I think that would be the primary driver of the firm, but there are other (areas of practice) they want to focus on, too."
Campbell partnering with McCutchen — essentially merging his Pinnacle Law Firm with McCutchen's law firm — came about following the departure of McCutchen's former legal partner Chip Sexton. Any lawsuits being fought by the attorneys in the firm will be unaffected by the formation of the new company, which became official last week, Campbell noted.
And even though the two men partnering in practice may appear like combining oil and water due to Campbell's liberal political leanings and McCutchen's conservative leanings, McCutchen said he and Campbell have long been involved in similar causes, such as tort reform.
"I was aware of Matt's reputation in the legal community and I was impressed with the thoroughness and credibility that Matt showed in his reporting on the Blue Hog Report, as well," he said. "Following our discussions about how to best fight against the impeding 'tort-reform' efforts in Arkansas, I think we both quickly realized that working together as partners would be beneficial to our clients and the people of Arkansas generally."
Campbell added that with any political persuasion, there will always be some level of agreement.
"I've said for a while that if you go far enough left or far enough right, you meet up on the other side and find some stuff to agree on. … We're not too far apart, at least as far as open and transparent government."
Campbell said he would work in Fort Smith two days each week for the foreseeable future and spend the rest of the week at the firm's office in North Little Rock.