Originally created 03/09/99

Video gambling lawyer may be removed from case



COLUMBIA -- An appeals court decision could mean a lawyer representing addicts suing South Carolina's $2 billion-a-year video gambling industry will be removed from the federal court case.

Lawyers representing the state's largest video gambling operator, Fred Collins, say they now will ask U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson to disqualify lawyer J.P. "Pete" Strom in the addicts' suit after Monday's opinion by the state Court of Appeals.

A Circuit Court judge should not have let Mr. Strom remove himself as Mr. Collins' lawyer in another case after he had agreed to represent the gambling addicts in their suit against Mr. Collins and other operators, the court said, reversing the decision.

"It affects the entire case -- not only Pete Strom, but all the attorneys involved," said Collins Entertainment Corp. lawyer Tim Youmans. "They've all been contaminated in a sense because of his prior representation of us and the confidential information he possessed."

Mr. Collins' lawyers also may ask Judge Anderson this week to dismiss their client as a defendant and to dismiss the entire case, Mr. Youmans said.

Mr. Strom said Mr. Collins' lawyers told him he was no longer working for Collins in a 1996 lawsuit against Columbia 20 Truck Stop Inc., but the proper paperwork was never filed.

"This in no way affects the suit against the poker industry," Mr. Strom said. "It does not have any bearing on whether the industry violated racketeering laws."

Judge Anderson said he will consider Mr. Collins' requests when the motions are filed, but refused to further discuss the situation.

The addicts want Judge Anderson to ban operators from advertising jackpots above the legal $125 a day limit. They also claim the jackpots and illegal payouts violate federal racketeering laws as well as state statutes on gambling and unfair trade practices.