Judge clubs Sierra donor

  A San Francisco Superior Court judge has found that Ray Graham III maliciously prosecuted the Sierra Club Foundation and owes the organization $2.8 million.

The judgment, made in mid-July, is the latest wrinkle in the long-standing feud between Graham, an heir to the Firestone fortune, and the foundation over a $100,000 donation he made back in 1971. The money was intended to buy grazing lands in northern New Mexico for Hispanic ranchers, but was never spent for that purpose (HCN, 6/9/97).

Graham brought a lawsuit against the Sierra Club Foundation in 1989, claiming it intentionally misused his donation. He lost the case, but the Sierra Club Foundation countered last year with a malicious prosecution lawsuit, claiming Graham agreed to give the money with no strings attached and that he was bent on smearing the Club's reputation. On July 17, Judge John Munter agreed with the foundation and awarded it $800,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

"Every time Graham's claims have been submitted to a jury or judge, he's lost," says Peter Adang, the Sierra Club Foundation's attorney. "I would hope that he would put the matter behind him now and get on with his life."

Graham says he will appeal the decision. - Paul Larmer

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