Dick Sprague Is Suing Ken Smukler Over Chump Change
Dick Sprague is the most feared attorney in Philadelphia. Ken Smukler is a behind-the-scenes Democratic political operative who has worked for the likes of Kathleen Kane, Bob Brady, Rick Mariano and Marjorie Margolies back before she was Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law. And now Sprague and Smukler are squaring off in court.
Sprague, who turns 91 later this month, has filed a lawsuit against Smukler over a legal bill. It’s not a lot of money as these things go, especially not for two men who live in big houses on the Main Line.
In the lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, Sprague claims that Smukler owes him a whopping $11,362.57 for legal work performed by Sprague and his firm earlier this year.
The suit includes copies of various bills sent to Smukler between March and June. Smukler was billed $500 an hour for Sprague’s time and that of another attorney in his office.
There’s also a series of email correspondence between Smukler and Sprague’s firm that shows Smukler balking at the 7.5 hours attributed to Sprague personally. In an email, Smukler stresses to Sprague’s office that he’s not refusing to pay the entire bill. He just can’t understand where this 7.5 comes from, adding that the office’s accounting of Sprague’s time “strains credibility.”
Smukler and Sprague’s office go back and forth with one other, debating the validity of the bill, and eventually, Sprague deputy Peter A. Greiner threatens Smukler with a suit. “The assertion and accusation that Dick would inflate his time is inaccurate and offensive,” Greiner wrote to Smukler.
Less than a month after those emails were sent, Sprague made good on the legal threat.
According to the complaint, the firm represented Smukler “in connection with a subpoena issued by the Twenty-Seventh Philadelphia County Investigating Grand Jury for Smukler’s testimony scheduled for March 11, 2016.”
That grand jury is reportedly the one investigating a corruption case that Kane dropped when she was Attorney General, although we don’t know exactly who the grand jury is looking at. (The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office told us they couldn’t comment on that grand jury investigation.)
The lawsuit states that the firm prepared an emergency petition to try to delay or prevent Smukler from testifying, represented Smukler during the grand jury hearing, and provided “research into issues that arose during Smukler’s hearing and the implications of that hearing to Smukler.”
In an email Smukler sent to Greiner, Smukler indicated that he was not a target of any criminal investigation but a witness. He added that there was some discussion between Smukler and the firm over what information, if any, Smukler could share with Kathleen Kane about his grand jury appearance. By that time, Kane had already been indicted by a grand jury and was facing trial.
According to an email attached to the suit, Common Pleas Court Judge Diana Anhalt demanded that Smukler and Greiner be sworn to secrecy over what was said before the grand jury that day.
But what has us wondering more than Smukler’s grand jury testimony is this: Why the heck is Sprague suing Smukler over such a relatively small amount of money? Sprague probably has cufflinks worth more than that.
This seems like the kind of dispute that two power players would normally settle over a round of golf or a single-malted tête-à-tête at the local country club — not in open court for all the world to see.
We asked Smukler and Sprague’s firm for comment on the suit and got none. Fight nicely, gentlemen.