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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  UPDATED: Former Supreme Court Justice Named In Lawsuit
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UPDATED: Former Supreme Court Justice Named In Lawsuit

Paul Kennedy, a frequent lawyer for Susana Martinez, is alleged to have mishandled the estate of civil rights lawyer Mary Han

May 31, 2014, 11:30 pm

UPDATED: Paul Kennedy's attorney sent SFR their legal answer to the lawsuit late Friday. It states that "virtually all realty and financial assets have been transferred" to the Han family and adds that the Han family "specifically and in writing waived any requirement for an accounting" when Mary Han's estate was transferred to them in September 2011.

Kennedy's response also claims that the Han family has "made repetitive and unduly burdensome requests for documents" that they've either "been repeatedly told do not exist" or else "irrelevant." It adds that Kennedy became personal representative of Han's estate for the year following her death based on instructions from Han's daughter, Katherine Han-Noggle.

Read Kennedy's response in full below.

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The sister of deceased Albuquerque civil rights attorney Mary Han is suing former state Supreme Court Justice Paul Kennedy for allegedly breaching his handling of her estate.

Kennedy, who frequently defends Gov. Susana Martinez in court—his firm has been awarded $150,000 worth of state contracts since last September—served as Han's law partner before her death in November 2010. Kennedy called 911 to first report that Han was dead. He told police that he found her body in the front seat of her BMW as it was parked in her garage, telling a dispatcher it appeared to be an "accidental suicide."

Shortly after the death, Kennedy became the personal representative of Han's estate, a move that her sister Elizabeth Wallbro alleges he didn't have the authority to make. After a year, Han's family took over the estate.

A lawsuit Wallbro filed last week in the Second Judicial District Court accuses Kennedy of withholding vital accounting information that's preventing her from determining the full value of her sister's estate. She also alleges that Kennedy broke his firm's own bylaws by failing to pay all of Han's shares and severance payments.

The filing states that Kennedy had a serious conflict "between his personal financial interest as a shareholder of Kennedy & Han and his duties as Personal Representative of the Estate."

Chuck Peifer, an attorney representing Kennedy, says they'll soon file a response that will address Wallbro's allegations. He says that they've been sharing information with Han's estate but that some has been held back to protect the privacy of Han's former clients. He adds that he's offered to meet with Han's estate to resolve issues next week.

"This is really an effort to work out the details of the estate for Mary," Peifer says.

The lawsuit is the latest development to follow the bizarre circumstances surrounding Han's death nearly four years ago. Although an autopsy showed that Han died of carbon monoxide poisoning, several people have raised questions about the Albuquerque Police Department's handling of the crime scene, where as many as 26 high ranking cops and city employees came into Han's home. Many of Han's civil litigation cases were aimed at APD.

Last year, Attorney General Gary King criticized APD's response as "terribly mishandled" and added that the the death couldn't be certainly ruled a suicide. In a separate lawsuit, Han's family is also seeking damages over what they say is a botched investigation.

Kennedy represents the governor in public records lawsuits (including litigation from SFR). He served two brief appointments on the state Supreme Court in 2002 and 2012. In November 2012, he lost his election to retain the seat to Democrat Barbara Vigil. 

Both Wallbro and her lawyer declined to comment on the case.

Read the lawsuit and response from Kennedy below:

Paul Kennedy Suit by joeyjpeters

PK Han Answer by joeyjpeters

 

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