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Chiles family gets 'dream team' legal help in fight with Gov. Crist and state leaders

The Chiles family has attracted a powerful "dream team" of lawyers in its fight to protect tobacco settlement funds from Gov. Charlie Crist and other money-starved state leaders.

Steve Yerrid, Fred Levin and other lawyers who helped the state secure a multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement have agreed to back the family in an attempt to prevent the Lawton Chiles Endowment health care fund from being used to shore up an anemic state budget.

"From a legal perspective, it doesn't get any stronger than that group," Lawton "Bud" Chiles III said this afternoon. He said the team has not yet analyzed a legal strategy.

The Chiles family was supposed to meet at 1:30 p.m. today with House leaders, including Speaker Ray Sansom. But the meeting was canceled. "I have no idea why," Bud Chiles said. Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, issued a statement suggesting the meeting was premature. "Once we are closer to making final budget decisions on the 2008-09 fiscal year spending reductions, the meeting will be more productive," he said.

But the cancellation also comes as Sansom is under growing pressure to address questions about his new job at Northwest Florida State College.