STUART — Famed environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla took another beating in a Stuart court this morning, two weeks after a jury found her liable for interfering in a deal between a developer and government agencies and ordered her to pay the developer $4.4 million.
Judge William Roby, who presided over this month’s trial in a lawsuit brought by developer Lake Point, just ruled that Hurchalla’s legal team filed what he deemed a “frivolous” post-trial motion designed to delay the recording of the final judgement.
And for that, Roby is scheduling another hearing next month to award Lake Point, which is partly owned by Miami arts collector George Lindemann Jr., more attorney’s fees.
Roby then entered the Feb. 14 judgement into the record, something that kicked off the process where Lake Point is to collect $4,391,708 from Hurchalla — a daunting amount with interests piling up at the rate of $241,543 A YEAR!
Before the 10-day trial started earlier this month Hurchalla, the sister of Clinton era U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, joked she had no money, just “two kayaks and an ancient Toyota.”
But the reality is Hurchalla now has 45 days to provide the court with an accounting of her estate, including cash, properties and other assets that could end up being seized to pay off the millions.
She has been planning to appeal the judgment and has been shopping for a First Amendment lawyer to help her present her case to the appeals court.
The 77-year-old Huchalla wasn’t in court today.
The motion that caused Roby’s anger was a request to dismiss an injunction demanded by Lake Point when it originally filed the lawsuit in 2013.
At the time, the company wanted to force Hurchalla to stop badmouthing Lake Point.
The injunction eventually became moot when Lake Point filed two amended complaints.
Yet, Hurchalla lawyer Virginia Sherlock wanted the 2013 injunction dismissed by Roby before the judgment could be entered into the record.
“My client is simply seeking finality,” Sherlock told Roby. “As you know, this case is going to go on for a long time.”
The judge figured out the injunction had not been an issue for five years and went off on Sherlock.
“Your argument is the most scurrilous argument I’ve heard as a judge for a long time,” Roby told Sherlock. “I deny the motion and find it to be ‘frivolous.’ It was done for the purpose of delaying the judgement. There was finality in this matter as soon as Lake Point filed an amended complaint.”
Roby said he’ll schedule a hearing to determine the amount that Hurchalla will have to pay Lake Point for its attorney’s fees in dealing with the motion.
Lake Point attorney Ethan Loeb said after the hearing he, too, considered Sherlock’s motion a “delay tactic.”
“That’s what they do,” he said. “They delay everything.”
Sherlock rushed out of the courtroom without taking questions from the media and didn’t reply to an email requesting comment.
The case stems from a larger legal action where Lake Point claims Hurchalla conspired with Martin County Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding, and former Commissioner Anne Scott to break an agreement with Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District to exploit a mine near Lake Okeechobee then use the land as a runoff water-cleaning area.
Lake Point sued the county for violation of public records laws after the trio failed to produce email exchanges with Hurchalla, including emails where Hurchalla coached Fielding on how to get rid of the Lake Point contract and claimed falsely that Lake Point was destroying wetlands.
The county settled out-of-court and signed off on a deal that could end up costing taxpayers as much as $25 million.
The three politicians were arrested and charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to produce public records. They pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in December.
Hurchalla was the only defendant who wouldn’t settle.