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Court loss seems inevitable in Condit's lawsuit fight with Baskin-Robbins

WASHINGTON – Former San Joaquin Valley congressman Gary Condit's ice cream headache is worsening, as Baskin-Robbins appears on the verge of prevailing in Condit's promised appeal of a lawsuit.

The appellate loss that now seems inevitable would leave the Condit family on the hook for as much as $100,000 or more in costs and attorneys fees. The money would be owed Baskin-Robbins, which sued the Condits over management of two Phoenix-area ice cream stores.

A federal judge ruled in the company's favor last November, prompting Condit's son Chad to formally declare his intention to appeal in February. So far, though, courtroom deadlines have come and gone with no discernible movement.

"(Condit) has not paid the docket fee and has not filed an opening brief," Charles Wirken, a Phoenix-based attorney for Baskin-Robbins, stated in the company's most recent legal filing.

Wirken noted that the Condit's formal notice of appeal was filed 70 days after the trial court's Nov. 24 ruling. This notice missed the court's appeal deadline by 40 days. The Condits were supposed to pay in February a $455 docket fee but have not yet done so.

The appellate brief itself was due May 20. So far, nothing has been filed.

Wirken formally asked the circuit court to dismiss the case in his latest filing, dated May 29. There seems little doubt this will happen, as appellate court clerk Molly C. Dwyer advised the Condits earlier that missing deadlines “will result in automatic dismissal" of the case.

The Condits owe Baskin-Robbins about $45,000 in past franchise fees and other costs associated with running the two Arizona stores. The company is also asking more some $60,000 in attorneys fees associated with the breach-of-contract dispute now in its third year.

The family entered the ice cream business following Condit's loss of his House seat in a 2002 Democratic primary. A long-time officeholder whose political career started in his 20s on the Ceres City Council, Condit fell out of public favor in the wake of the 2001 disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy.

Levy's disappearance prompted revelations about Condit's relationship with the much-younger woman, and it preceded multiple defamation lawsuits filed by the Condit family against those who suggested the politician had something to do with Levy's fate. This year, police charged Salvadoran immigrant Ingmar Guandique with Levy's murder, and he is now awaiting trial.

Condit became eligible for drawing his congressional pension when he turned 55 in 2003. The pension would have started at about $19,000 a year, according to National Taxpayer Union calculations. Beyond that, it's not clear if the Condits have another outside source of income; they were representing themselves in the planned appeal.

“Mr. Wirken was and is drawn by attorneys fees and not Justice or Truth," Chad Condit stated in his handwritten, 15-page notice of appeal, adding that “Mr. Wirken is a lawyer that gives all lawyers a bad name."Wirken declined to comment Friday, and Condit family members could not be reached.