SOURCE: King & Spalding

King & Spalding, a leading international law firm

January 20, 2010 09:00 ET

King & Spalding Marks Start of Its 125th Year With Successful Settlement of Pro Bono Civil Rights Case

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwire - January 20, 2010) - King & Spalding this month began its 125th year serving clients by celebrating the successful conclusion of a civil rights lawsuit brought on behalf of two Nebraska men, Terry J. Harrington and Curtis W. McGhee, Jr., who alleged their constitutional rights were violated by investigative misconduct by prosecutors that led to their imprisonment for nearly 26 years for a crime they did not commit.

The case, Pottawattamie County v. McGhee and Harrington, centered on both prosecutorial immunity -- the longstanding legal premise that prosecutors cannot be held liable for their prosecutorial actions -- and the meaning of the constitutional guarantee of due process. Pottawattamie County, Iowa, and two former prosecutors settled for approximately $12 million after the United States Supreme Court granted their petition but was still considering the case.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, chair of King & Spalding's appellate practice, took the lead in briefing the case after the government's petition was granted. He argued the case pro bono before the Supreme Court on November 4, 2009. Discussions between the parties ultimately led to a New Year's Eve settlement. Although the Court formally dismissed the case on January 4 after being informed of the settlement, the briefing and Clement's oral argument -- his 51st before the Court -- were integral to the successful settlement.

"There's no better tribute to our founders than to mark the start of our 125th anniversary year by celebrating the successful resolution of a case that held such deep implications not only for civil rights but also for our criminal justice system," said Robert D. Hays, Jr., King & Spalding's chairman. "The devotion to the cause of Mr. Harrington and Mr. McGhee that Paul and his team displayed goes to the very foundation of community service and unflinching advocacy that Alexander King and Jack Spalding set down when they established our firm in 1885, and we are tremendously proud of their accomplishment."

Harrington and McGhee, African-Americans from across the state line, were convicted of murder by an all-white jury when they were teenagers and sentenced to life with no possibility of parole. Harrington was released from prison in 2003 at the age of 43 after the Iowa Supreme Court vacated his conviction. McGhee's release occurred contemporaneously. Two years later they filed civil rights cases against the police and prosecutors, setting off more than four years of summary judgment motions and appeals. Both Harrington and McGhee were ably represented by experienced civil rights litigators in the lower courts, but Clement was added to the team after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the county's challenge to a lower court decision allowing the suit against the prosecutors to go forward. Their suit against the police remains unaffected by the settlement with the prosecutors and county.

About King & Spalding

Now in its 125th year, King & Spalding is an international law firm with more than 800 lawyers in Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dubai, Frankfurt, Houston, London, New York, Paris, Riyadh (affiliated office), San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. The firm represents half of the Fortune 100 and, according to a Corporate Counsel survey in August 2009, ranks fifth in its total number of representations of those companies. For additional information, visit

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