Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lawyers Who Should Be Horse-Whipped

By Paul

You may think that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that slippery, perjurious Bushie, is the slimiest lawyer in America. But you are wrong. I'm going to tell you about some lawyers who make W's yes-man, toady and mouthpiece seem as wise and honorable as King Solomon.

Now, before I get in trouble with my brethren at the bar (and I don't mean the Hog's Breath Saloon in Key West), let me proudly proclaim that I am a lawyer. I practiced trial law for 17 years in Miami, always trying my best to adhere to the ethical standards. Admittedly, I had difficulty with the rule that states: “A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials.”

But that aside, I never lied to a judge, a client, or opposing counsel. I came close to punching out one of my own law partners, but that's a different story.

Most lawyers and judges I know are ethical and honest. I'm pretty sure my fellow Florida lawyer and wordsmith Jim Grippando would agree. Jim is a super lawyer with the highest moral standards. And let's not forget the other lawyers-turned-novelists, most of whom had stellar legal careers, and in some cases, still perform pro bono work or teach law, or both. I'm thinking of veterans Scott Turow, Philip Margolin, Lisa Scottoline, Michele Martinez, Linda Fairstein, David Baldacci, Steve Martini, Barbara Parker, Twist Phelan, Lia Matera, Dylan Schaffer, Richard North Patterson, Jeremiah Healy, John Grisham, as well as newcomers John Hart, Kermit Roosevelt, and Jeb Rudenfeld, among many others. (The grandaddy of us all was Erle Stanley Gardner, who represented impoverished dockworkers in the courts of Ventura County while grinding out his Perry Mason tales in the early years).

But when I see the story involving the Kentucky lawyers who stole tens of millions of dollars from their own poor and sick clients, well, I think it's time to junk the Eighth Amendment and bring out the old horse whip.

The New York Times reported over the weekend on the most rotten, corrupt case of ethical misconduct I’ve ever seen – and folks, I covered the courts as a reporter for The Miami Herald around the time the Magna Carta was signed.

You may remember the diet drug "fen-phen" which not only took off weight but also caused heart damage. Several Kentucky lawyers represented 440 sick, dying, or deceased plaintiffs, including W.L. Carter, pictured in the rocking chair, and recovered a total of $200 million in a settlement from the drug's manufacturer. Not satisfied with receiving 30% of that enormous sum, as their contracts called for, lawyers Shirley A. Cunningham, Jr., Melbourne Mills, Jr. (below) and William J. Gallion apparently took advantage of their unsophisticated clients and tricked them into new, coercive deals. The lawyers latched onto another $35 million plus siphoned $20 million of their clients' money into a questionable "charitable fund" with some of the dough going to the judge who approved their excessive fees. Grand jury indictments are expected shortly.

While prison seems likely, I wonder if the courts have the ability to recover the stolen money, some of which was used to buy expensive race horses. (I am reminded of William Faulkner's line: "Once the horse moved man's physical body and his household goods and his articles of commerce from one place to another. Nowadays all it moves is a part or the whole of his bank account, either through betting on it or trying to keep owning or feeding it.")

It may take more than a process server to get results in this tawdry case. Paperwork and legal niceties can only do so much. So here's my suggestion. Send around a persuasive collector. If you watch "The Sopranos," you know Paulie Walnuts. Have Paulie shake some dollars loose, then let the felonious barristers get their Pillsbury doughboy butts passed around in a maximum security prison. *********************************************************************

Name the book and author. First prize, the next boatload of contraband seized by Special Agent James O. Born.

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling -- a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension -- becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

My daughter Wendy Sachs, author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, "How She Really Does It: Secrets of Success from Stay-at-Work Moms," has written a new article I highly recommend. It's called "Sleep, Sex & Chardonnay," and the gist is that working mothers don't have enough time for any of those items. Check it out at Wendy's blog.

Okay, it's not from this week. It's from December 1955 in A.J. Liebling's "The University of Eighth Avenue," published in Sports Illustrated.

"I never married," the Professor says. "I always live a la carte."


Writers collect great anecdotes from their book tours. Lee Goldberg seemed to get a whole week's worth of quotes from an appearance at the library in Anaheim last week. Lee's collected the nutty exchanges on his Sunday blog. Here's one:

A man approached me carrying a half-a-dozen of my books. "So you wrote all these books?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you come up with the plots, too?"

"Yes, I did."

"Wow," he said. "I wonder how many other writers do that."


I missed Tawni O'Dell's "Back Roads" when it was published to slam-bang reviews half a dozen years ago. Jay Paterno, quarterback coach at Penn State and a voracious reader, has been recommending it to me for some time. (Likewise, I have been recommending the Statue of Liberty play to Jay for some time). Anyway, I finally picked up the book and was immediately hooked.

All those times me and Skip tried to kill his little brother Donny, were just for fun. I keep telling the deputies this, and they keep picking up their Styrofoam cups of coffee and walking away only to return a few seconds later and heave their fat butt cheeks onto the metal-topped table in front of me and flash me sad, weary stares that would be almost tender if they weren't filled with so much hatred.

Odell's new book, "Sister Mine," was just published to outstanding reviews.

A friend of mine died last week in Florida. Roy Terrell, a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and an early managing editor of Sports Illustrated, lost a long battle with cancer at age 83. Here's a juicy line from his S.I. story, "This Is Cricket!" published in 1961:

Mohammed remained at bat for 16 hours and 39 minutes and scored 337 runs. By the time he was retired, the better part of four days had elapsed. So had most of the spectators.

While Jenna Bush has still not enlisted in the Army or traveled to Iraq...
Staff Sergeant Travis Strong has.



  1. Quiz guess : Murder in the Millions: Erle Stanley Gardner, Mickey Spillane, Ian Fleming
    by J. Kenneth Van Dover

  2. Jon usually nails these.

    This time...close, but no (exploding) cigar.

  3. Fleming's Casino Royale ?

  4. Sounds like 'southern justice' hasn't changed in the last fifty years...

    Nope, Alberto 'abu ghareb' Gonzalez is still a slimy, rotten, self-serving individual who deserves to go on bomb-defusing duty in Iraq. Without any personal armor. At least he'd be on the same footing as the troops over there who weren't issued with body armor as part of their kit.

    Anyway, as a lawyer, what percentage would you estimate, of the over 300 people on deathrow that Gonzalez told 'W" to rush execute as governor of Texas on his way to the White House, were actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of? That haunts me somedays...

    Dang, the opening quote isn't from Casino Royale is it? Sounds a bit too gritty, to be Fleming, but I thought I'd take a punt. :-)

    Boy, Paul, you squashed a lot into your post!


  5. I don't know what it is about Lee that attracts these hilarious encounters, but having shared the podium with him at a number of events I can verify that he does. I love to listen to his stories. He's a very funny guy.

  6. I see a headline today that Gonzales "wonders" if it might be better for everyone if he resigned.

    Yeah, I wonder, too.

  7. Ah, you guys are too quick.

    Anonymous and Marianne hit it. Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale."

    The very next line would have given it away: "James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired."