By Bob Weaver

It's the biggest thing to hit Spencer in years.

A mammoth class-action lawsuit over natural gas royalties is underway in Roane County.

The outcome could mean well over $100 million dollars to royalty holders and their attorneys.

The suit essentially claims Columbia Natural Resource, now owned by another company, committed fraud. Their alleged transgression affects up to 10,000 owners who have signed on to the suit.

Several other lawsuits against gas companies have spawned since old-timer Garrison Tawney, now deceased, went on the warpath against the company.

David Hedges, publisher of the Times Record-Roane County reporter, said a full day was spent selecting jurors.

He said the courtroom was crowded with lawyers on each side, lawyers in the gallery and lots of lawyer assistants. Attorney Tim Miller quipped "There are more lawyers than jurors."

Some of the pricey lawyers had some fine looking shoes and suits that didn't come from WalMart, and some had haircuts that cost over $8, if you can believe that. There was dark sedans with scripted emblems, the kind you'd have to fill up twice between Charleston and Spencer.

Hedges said it was tough to find a parking spot anywhere in Spencer with sixty potential jurors added to the mix. Even the parking plaza was full.

"I don't think I've seen that many men in suits since, well, ever," he commented, noting that one pre-trial hearing was cut short when one of the lawyers wanted to keep an appointment in his private jet in Colorado. Likely the one who loans it to the governor, every now and then.

The cause is fairness, but then there's the money.

Lots of it showing before the case has been settled.

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