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Pam Stephenson’s law degree questioned in ex-CEO’s lawsuit
State Rep. Pam Stephenson (right), chair of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, insists she has a law degree, even though a registrar says the school transcript does not show it.
The proof, it would seem, is not in the pudding, but in a sealed envelope tucked away in a file cabinet on the fifth floor of the Fulton County Courthouse.
That’s where court clerks keep the case file for a lawsuit filed last year by Otis Story, Stephenson’s predecessor as CEO of Grady Memorial Hospital. The suit claims she and Grady screwed Story out of a $1.8 million severance package.
Now, Stephenson’s credibility has become an issue in the case. Story contends Stephenson fired him without warning in January 2008 so she could take the $600,000-a-year job for herself.
Stephenson, who was chairman of the authority that oversaw Grady at the time, assumed Story’s position the same day. She herself was replaced as CEO when a new non-profit board took control of the public hospital and its health-care network.
So Story’s lawyer has pushed to get a copy of Stephenson’s transcript, which – as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last July – shows that she attended law school from 1976 to 1979 but not that she graduated. The school, Woodrow Wilson College of Law, closed in 1987; Oglethorpe University keeps track of its student records.
“Defendant Stephenson’s resistance to producing proof of her degree, which typically hangs on the wall of every lawyer’s office, begs the question: What is she trying to hide?”
Stephenson’s lawyer, Robert Highsmith, fought back and got the transcript sealed, citing a 1981 Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that the transcript was off-limits unless Story could prove its relevance to the underlying dispute.
Without specifying what the transcript shows, Highsmith argued that Story just wants to embarrass his client, “to exact litigation concessions from Ms. Stephenson using irrelevant personal information.”
Stephenson has practiced law since passing the state bar admissions exam in 1994. The State Bar of Georgia has destroyed the documentation of her proof of graduation from an accredited law school, but ruled last August that she must have proven it in 1994 because the bar allowed her to practice law.
Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. had the transcript placed in the court file and sealed Dec. 19. He ruled Story might get the transcript if he can prove relevance to the case.
The lawsuit is scheduled for Bedford’s July 7 trial calendar. Story’s attorney said in a recent court filing that “in-depth” settlement talks are ongoing.