Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Truth, Fiction, and Dirty Lawyers

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

This is my second blog post today.  Over on my website, I reveal how covering the courts as a young newspaper reporter helped shape my cynicism about the so-called justice system and therefore my fiction.  Please take a look at "Mystery Writers Find Truth in Fiction."

Then come back over here where I'm hard at work.

A Plague of Dirty Lawyers?

I never told this to anybody.

Okay, last night, I told my fiancee, Marcia Silvers.   No, I'm not a fugitive, and I've never been committed or convicted of "moral turpitude," which was a crime back when I was covering the courts.

Here's the big secret.  Twenty-five years ago, when I was tiring of practicing law in a multi-national, deep-carpet, boring-as-hell law firm, I considered a couple of career changes.  One, obviously, was writing mysteries or legal thrillers. Resigning my partnership at Morgan Lewis for that life looked like a straight path to the poorhouse.  (Of course, that's the path I chose, and everything worked out swell...with a few bumps along the road).

The other option I considered was becoming a Florida Bar prosecutor and going after shady lawyers.  Really.  I've always been offended by crooked or incompetent lawyers.
This may be surprising since two of my main characters in fiction, Jake Lassiter and Steve Solomon, have been known to cut a corner or two.

But they don't steal!

And they never put their own interests ahead of their clients.  In fact, just the opposite.  They frequently risk everything for their clients.  Or for a woman.  As Steve says in Law Number 8 of "Solomon vs. Lord:"

"I will never break the law, breach legal ethics, or risk jail time...unless it's for someone I love."
But that, friends, is fiction.  And this is not.  Every couple weeks, the Florida Supreme Court disbars, suspends or publicly reprimands dozens of lawyers.  (A reprimand sounds pretty mild, but the lawyer is required to stand before the Court in open session and receive a tongue lashing.  It has to be humiliating as hell.  And that's for relatively minor offenses like missing filing deadlines or telling a trial judge to jump in the lake).

I just picked up the current list of lawyers tied to the stake and burned in the public square.  Or rather, disciplined by the state's highest court after trial. I am awed and stunned by their actions.   This is a SMALL sampling.  I see no reason NOT to use their names, do you?

Guy Jean-Pierre of Boca Raton was disbarred for forging his niece's name on some stock-trading documents.

Anthony Martin Livoti, Jr. of Fort Lauderdale was suspended indefinitely after being convicted of money laundering in an $830 million fraud case.  ("Indefinite" suspension is virtual disbarment).

Frank Exel Marley III of Davie was suspended indefinitely after being convicted of bilking the Florida Seminole Tribe of $1.3 million in "travel, phone calls, and meetings that never occurred."

Nick W. Stieglitz, Jr. of South Miami was suspended indefinitely for misappropriating client funds.
 I could go on.  Thee are what seem to be hundreds.

Now, I wonder if I should, in my dotage, offer my services, pro bono, to prosecute shyster lawyers.

Remembering the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood

Many thanks to Patty Smiley for posting the photograph she took of Harley Jane Kozak and me at what would turn out to be my last signing at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. Along with many others, that fine bookstore is sadly gone. Paul Levine


  1. Fiancee????? I suspected as much with the teasing March 31 announcement on Facebook but you have now leaked the information to the world. CONGRATULATIONS!

    I'm watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and wondering what will happen to Saul, Esq. DON'T TELL ME! But I'm worried. Such a fun character. The bad guys always are.

  2. Mr. Paul Levine,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I digress because I know several good lawyers who are like Atticus Finch. They can do that because they can afford to. One attorney has a spouse who is a financial whiz so the family can afford to be comfortable. Another attorney lives in an area where the cost of living is managable.

    Sorry to hear about the closing of the mystery bookstore in Westwood.


  3. from Jacqueline. Wow, congrats from me too, Our Paulie! I saw that reference to your fiancee straightaway and wondered when we all get to drink to you both and raise a glass to your continued health and happiness (heck I'll have that drink this evening!). And thank you for the lovely reminder about Westwood's loss - that was a great mystery bookstore and I loved visiting (I dropped in quite a lot when I was taking a memoir workshop at UCLA Extension - it was great to just hang out and have a coffee with the gang there).

  4. Thanks for the comments and good wishes, everyone. Meanwhile, today, up in West Palm Beach, a federal judge sentenced real estate lawyer Timothy McCabe to five years in prison for stealing $6 million from a total of 73 clients. I guess it's no excuse that he only stole a little from each one.