Jim Walden, the attorney at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher who represents the community groups that want to keep a hospital at the site, won a settlement in February to create the bidding process that gave preference to proposals for full-service hospitals. But after a full-service hospital was not selected, he sued again, asserting that six of the bid scores should have been disqualified.
The hearing on his motion that was to take place last week was adjourned at Mr. Walden's request over the objections of SUNY, the Health Department and 1199 SEIU. The LICH litigants will be back in court May 20. Meanwhile, LICH is set to close May 22, having lost hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Already-heated tempers have escalated. SUNY, DOH and 1199 SEIU criticized Mr. Walden's position in their documents for the May 20 hearing.
"Masquerading as an application to 'enforce' the February settlement agreed to by the litigants, [Mr. Walden] in fact asks this Court to discard the parties' negotiated settlement, bypass the procedural mechanisms" included largely at his request, "and simply anoint their hand-picked candidate," wrote SUNY attorney Frank Carone, of law firm Abrams Fensterman.
The union 1199 SEIU, once hopeful a hospital was possible, has become less optimistic as the process has worn on. In court papers, it argued that Mr. Walden and his clients were suing simply because they were not happy with the outcome.
Union lawyer Susan Cameron at Levy Ratner wrote that Mr. Walden's "dissatisfaction notwithstanding, there is absolutely no legal basis ... upon which to discard selected evaluators' scores, and thus to upset the entire carefully negotiated RFP process."
The community groups will -argue this week that once the scores it believes should be disqualified are removed, Prime will be the winning bidder.
If Justice Baynes accepts that argument, litigation is bound to continue. Prime, a for-profit hospital operator, has been in a bitter legal battle with unions in its home base of California. The fight in court this week is about scoring, but the selection of Prime could launch a battle that the powerful 1199 SEIU is willing to take on.
No matter what happens with LICH this week, another hospital will get a taste of Justice Baynes' courtroom next month. New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn, whose expansion has been contested by a group of residents who formed the Preserve Park Slope coalition, will go before the judge June 4.
"The Baynes of LICH's existence" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.