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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Attorney Sues Ark. State Treasurer Over Fight

LITTLE ROCK (CN) - An Arkansas lawyer says the state's Republican treasurer assaulted him inside a law office in early March after he "exploded" at the attorney's swearing in front of his wife.

Benton, Ark. attorney Luther Sutter sued Arkansas Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan Monday seeking a declaratory judgment that he acted in self-defense during a pushing match that unfolded between the two.

The spat erupted March 2 just before Sutter was set to depose Milligan's wife as part of a 2015 employment-related lawsuit filed against the treasurer's office.

Sutter represents the for department employee, who is suing Milligan and his chief of staff for defamation and invasion of privacy, according to court records.

Milligan, a former Arkansas Republican chairman elected treasurer in 2014, is trying to have the case dismissed.

Sutter, 48, says in his lawsuit that Milligan began yelling at him after he used a cuss word during a phone call that was not directed at Tina Milligan, the treasurer's wife. Sutter says he nevertheless apologized to the Milligan but that the treasurer "rushed" him.

"Given defendant's habit and practice of threatening circuit judges, political opponents, and young girls, plaintiff was in reasonable fear for his safety and that of his client," Sutter says in a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Court.

According to Sutter's lawsuit, he pushed the Republican official away in self-defense, but more details spilled out in competing arrest warrant affidavits the two filed against each other after the scuffle.

Milligan, 59, says in his affidavit to police that Sutter arrived late to the morning deposition and said the word "shit" while on his cell phone.

"I told Sutter not to use that kind of language in front of my wife, who was present for the deposition. He replied, 'Come over here big boy, and I'll set you straight,'" according to Milligan's affidavit.

Milligan told police that he met an aggressive Luther around the conference table and was shoved twice in the chest "very hard."

"It all happened very quickly," Milligan said in his affidavit to police. "I spun around and came back up with my hands in a defensive position."

Sutter told police that when the state treasurer came at him, the two "met in a 'patty-cake' style contact."

Others in the room, including Milligan's lawyer and chief of staff, broke up the fight, the affidavits say. Other eye witnesses include Milligan's wife and the former treasury employee.

Milligan says the incident left him with chest pains. Local media in Arkansas reported that Milligan had his right arm in a sling after the spat. He took a day off from state business to recuperate, according to reports.

No charges have been filed as a result of the incident. The prosecuting attorney allowed the two to pursue criminal misdemeanor complaints but both decided against doing so, according to reports.

Milligan's attorney, Byron Freeland, said in statement Monday that the lawsuit is just an attempt to draw out the case "and politically smear the treasurer."

"It is unfortunate Mr. Sutter chose this path, because this was a dead issue and all parties have agreed to move on," Freeland said in the statement. "The defendants will continue to focus on resolving this case as quickly as possible."

Milligan, a former county clerk, is facing pending employment lawsuits by two county employees who claim they were unfairly fired, according to the Courthouse News database. They are both represented by Sutter.

Milligan served as the state's party chairman from 2007 to 2008 and became the first Republican since Reconstruction elected as Arkansas banker, his office says.

Sutter is a founding partner of the law firm of Harrill & Sutter of Benton, Ark.

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