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Federal Judge Throws Out Race Discrimination Case Against Cordish Co.

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Maria Carter
/
KCUR
Hundreds turn out at the Kansas City Power and Light District to watch David Cook face David Archuleta in the America Idol final.

 This story was updated on June 17 at 4:32 p.m. 

A federal judge has thrown out a race discrimination suit against Cordish Companies Inc., operator of the Power & Light District in Kansas City.

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith ruled earlier this week that the case brought by Dante A. R. Combs and Adam S. Williams was not supported by the evidence.

The two men had sued over three separate incidents in which they were removed or not allowed to enter three clubs in the popular downtown entertainment district. They claimed that Cordish paid so-called “rabbits” to pick fights with African American patrons in order to give an excuse to eject them.

Smith found no evidence suggesting that Cordish or its affiliates hired rabbits. And he ruled that, because Combs had failed to list his discrimination claims in a personal bankruptcy petition, he was barred from asserting them in the lawsuit. Although Combs and his wife filed for bankruptcy nearly three years before he sued Cordish, the Power & Light incidents took place in 2010 and the summer of 2011, and Smith said Combs knew about the claims at the time. 

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Janice Miller Karlin reopened the case Tuesday, June 16, just a day after Smith's ruling, to allow Combs to list the lawsuit against Cordish as a contingent claim. In contrast to Judge Smith, Karlin found that Combs' failure to list the claim when he filed for bankruptcy was "inadvertent" and "an innocent mistake devoid of bad faith." 

Linda Dickens, Combs' and Williams' attorney, said she was surprised by Smith's ruling and plans to appeal.

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