In a 6-2 decision, the Alabama Supreme Court today denied an attorney’s request to review judicial orders filed in a civil case against Fairhope restaurant owner Ronan McSharry, who is being sued by a woman he shoved off a barstool in 2018.
Last August, attorney David McDonald, who is representing plaintiff Paula DiNardi, filed a writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court, alleging Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Clark Stankoski repeatedly made findings of fact “based solely on McSharry’s unverified representations, while prohibiting DiNardi from obtaining public records and sealing a number of files in the case at McSharry’s request without holding a hearing as to why they shouldn’t be public.”
After McSharry was convicted of misdemeanor assault and public intoxication in Fairhope Municipal Court, Stankoski has also presided over McSharry’s criminal appeal. In March, he dismissed the assault charge after determining city prosecutor, Marcus McDowell, made a fatal error on the charging document: omitting the fact that McSharry “did cause physical injury to another person.”
Two days after Lagniappe published a report on the dismissal,” the city appealed Stankoski’s decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. There, Presiding Judge Mary Windom determined the city’s appeal was filed after the 14-day statutory deadline, but gave the city an additional 14 days to “show cause.” The city didn’t respond, and the appeal was ultimately dismissed May 7.
At a City Council meeting May 28, McDowell said he strategically allowed the appeal to be dismissed “because it is quicker to get this case to trial if we go back and refile it as a new complaint.”
“Our plan is to go ahead and file the complaint,” he said. As of today, the charge has not been refiled. Meanwhile, a jury trial is scheduled in McSharry’s public intoxication charge Nov. 5.
But in the civil case, where DiNardi is seeking unspecified damages for hospital bills and related trauma after the incident, McDonald alleged Stankoski was being unfair.
“The new trial court has granted nearly every motion filed by Mr. McSharry before Ms. DiNardi has had a reasonable opportunity to respond,” McDonald wrote in the mandamus. “Further, the trial court has repeatedly made findings of fact without a hearing, based solely on the unverified representations of [McSharry’s attorney].”
Supreme Court justices Sarah Stewart and William Sellers dissented with the decision, but neither side wrote an opinion in the matter.
In the same case, Stankoski also allowed McSharry’s attorney, James Pittman, to subpoena privileged communications he believes exist between this newspaper and its alleged sources.
Lagniappe began reporting on the assault case and McSharry’s criminal history after another one of his attorneys, John Beck, sought to have the case dismissed based on alleged “politically motivated” interference by outgoing Mayor Karin Wilson. Pittman’s subpoena seeks “any and all communications” between Lagniappe and public officials in Fairhope, other local media figures and attorneys.
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