07/31/2007 12:00AM

Fen-phen civil case put off


A U.S. District Court judge ruled on Monday that a civil case alleging that three lawyers misappropriated money from a drug-case settlement should be postponed while a criminal case against the trio is pursued. Two of the lawyers are part-owners of this year's Preakness Stakes winner, Curlin.

Judge William Wehr issued the order after a request by the three lawyers for postponement of the civil case. The three lawyers, who were indicted in June on criminal charges of conspiracy related to their compensation in the lawsuit, are Shirley Allen Cunningham, William Gallion, and Melbourne Mills Jr. Cunningham and Gallion own a 20 percent interest in Curlin. The criminal trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 15.

The three were sued last year by the plaintiffs they represented in 2001 in a lawsuit against the maker of the diet-drug combination fen-phen. The lawsuit was settled for $200 million, but the plaintiffs have alleged that the attorneys took a larger share than they were entitled to. The civil case was scheduled to begin in September.

All three attorneys were suspended from practice last year by the Kentucky state bar.