A judge in Virginia ordered Wednesday that the NRA’s outside attorney, William Brewer, and the public relations team at his firm be walled off from “highly classified” material that Ackerman McQueen turns over in discovery.
The NRA and Ackerman, its long time public relations firm, are embroiled in a bitter legal battle that has resulted in the two organizations severing ties after decades in business together.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Ackerman’s attorney, David Dickieson, argued that the communications shop within Brewer’s firm poses a direct competitive threat to Ackerman’s public affairs business and that handing over proprietary information to Brewer’s public relations team would allow them to siphon away business from Ackerman.
Dickieson also noted the bizarre family feud at play in this case: Brewer is the brother-in-law of Ackerman chief executive Revan McQueen.
“There’s a Shakespearean tragedy that’s taking place here,” Dickieson said.
The split with the NRA appears to have deeply damaged Ackerman’s business. Dickieson said the firm has furloughed, laid off or terminated 50 people and has shuttered its Alexandria, Virginia, office.
In court, the NRA’s attorneys and an attorney from Brewer Attorneys & Counselors disputed the notion that they are a competitor to Ackerman, though the judge was apparently was unswayed by their arguments.
Meanwhile, the NRA managed to delay for a few weeks a subpoena for a deposition from NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre. The judge ruled that LaPierre will have to sit for a deposition the week of September 23, rather than early September.
“We view today’s decision as a positive development for the NRA,” said Michael J. Collins, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel to the NRA. “The ruling allows the Brewer firm to review all documents produced by Ackerman McQueen, and only limits the documents being made available to Mr. Brewer to those that are ruled to be highly-confidential.”
Collins added, “We are pleased to see the deposition of Mr. LaPierre will be scheduled in a manner that accommodates him and his many obligations to the NRA and its members.”