State to pay $1.1 million in legal fees

It was sued over denying drug treatment at port

December 13, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The state is expected to write a check for more than $1.1 million to the lawyers for a drug treatment program that successfully sued the Maryland Port Administration over its effort to deny the group a berth for a former Navy ship.

The settlement between the attorney general's office and Project Life Inc. would bring to a close a five-year battle over the group's plan to offer a shipboard drug treatment program at North Locust Point marine terminal.

The deal will be brought to the Board of Public Works for approval Wednesday. The board seldom rejects a legal settlement.

A federal jury ruled in 2000 that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to sign a lease with Project Life, which planned to offer drug rehabilitation services for about 3,000 people aboard the former hospital ship Sanctuary.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson ordered the state in 2001 to end its delays in reaching an agreement with the group. The MPA had contended that having a drug treatment program at the pier would hurt its efforts to attract cargo-handling work to the terminal.

Deidre McCabe, a spokesman for the port administration, said the organization signed a five-year lease for the ship 18 months ago and that the vessel is now docked at the terminal. The treatment program, she said, hasn't gotten off the ground.

A spokesman for the organization could not be reached for comment.

The settlement coming before the board covers attorney's fees and costs of $1,158,471 for Washington-based Steptoe & Johnson. Most of the payment was ordered by the court, but the final agreement includes $150,000 in supplemental fees agreed to by the state.

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