Sunday, July 16, 2017

Some Days We Are All Less Smart


[Ed. note: This is a longer essay for the Sunday Magazine. It’s best to grab a refreshing adult beverage and pick a comfortable chair before you begin reading.]

In March 2016, I filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint with my employers at the Washington Attorney General’s Office. I reported my abusive immediate supervisor had demonstrated homophobia that was part of a pattern of implicit and explicit bias in the office. The AGO placed me on administrative leave, and hired Patrick Pearce, a licensed private investigator with the Seattle firm Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, to conduct an “independent” investigation into my complaint about my supervisor’s conduct. Meanwhile, the AGO refused to respond to inquiries from my disability attorney about my pending request for a reasonable accommodation of my disability – claiming they were waiting for Ogden Murphy to complete its investigation into my sexual orientation discrimination complaint first. 

Mr. Pearce ignored my actual discrimination complaint. Instead he worked with my employer to use the investigation as a pretext for wide-ranging character assassination. I was never given an opportunity to respond to most of their scurrilous allegations, or to review any drafts of Mr. Pearce’s report. To the contrary, in May 2016, the AGO summoned my attorney and me to its Seattle office to hand us copies of the 19-page final investigation report co-written by the AGO and Ogden Murphy – together with a one-sentence letter terminating my employment.

I contacted Ogden Murphy’s managing partner six months ago and requested an opportunity to correct errors in the Ogden Murphy Report. He repeatedly delayed getting back to me. Finally, in March 2017, I received a voicemail from an attorney letting me know she would be representing Ogden Murphy – Michele Corsi, a partner in the Seattle insurance defense law firm of Lee Smart PLLC.

When I told a former colleague which law firm had appeared to represent Defendants, she laughed and told me “Around here we call them ‘Less Smart.’”


One theme I return to often is the power of names.  Here are a couple of doozies:

plaintiff’s lawyer v. insurance defense lawyer

For me, the first curious thing about these two phrases is that each word and phrase, individually and collectively, denotes concepts that are ordinarily considered neutral or even positive. 

“Plaintiff” and “Defendant” are our names for the opposing parties to a civil lawsuit.  The only real difference is Plaintiff is what we call the side that moves first.  Like the white pieces in chess. 

 “Lawyer” and “attorney” are interchangeable words for one of the many weird professions the market’s invisible hand hath created. Like “manny,” “fluffer” and “key grip.” Attorneys merely have an edge in joke books sales, and can sue people.
           
“Insurance” is another odd business that helps keep the economy rolling along. Having insurance involved in your lawsuit is a good thing, for everyone.  It means we can be confident there’s a pot of money out there somewhere to someday pay everybody who deserves it. Especially lawyers. Sometimes even personal injury victims.

Many of my closest friends are lawyers, of all kinds, including trial lawyers. I myself have been many a plaintiff’s lawyer. Over the same twenty-five years of practice, I also had the frequent pleasure of representing wonderful defendants, including some who had the foresight to buy the insurance policy paying for my defense. For example, I had the golden opportunity to defend the great folks at the Gay Softball World Series, because a smart treasurer on an effective nonprofit board picked the right insurance.

My father and my younger brother are insurance claims adjusters.  My youngest brother and I are attorneys. There is nothing inherently wrong with acting as either a “plaintiff’s lawyer” or an “insurance defense lawyer.” 

My second observation: there seems to be some kind of mystical connection between the two categories. Both groups compete for ownership of the broader term “trial lawyer.” Some people strongly gravitate toward, or are repelled by, one or the other phrase. But “plaintiff’s lawyer” and “insurance defense lawyer” seem perfectly balanced to me.

Third observation: both terms can evoke strong visceral reactions. Perhaps Harvard and the University of Washington should add these terms to their implicit bias tests. In my case, as with Glinda and Elphaba’s duet in Wicked, the best way to characterize my reaction to each term is utter loathing. Hard as I try to visualize someone like my estimable bar colleagues Mark Johnson or Mark Silverman, the image of a “plaintiff’s lawyer” I see instead is John Edwards – the slimy attorney, Senator, Vice-Presidential candidate, and cad.

Meanwhile, my image of an “insurance defense lawyer” will always be the first opposing counsel I faced from the Lee Smart firm. He represented the defendant when I represented the plaintiff as the junior attorney in my first jury trial, twenty-four years ago.


Facing Lee Smart as opposing counsel in my own lawsuit – until Defendants fired them last week – inspired me to muse about how I acquired my reflexive loathing of “plaintiff’s lawyers” and “insurance defense lawyers.” 

You will find praiseworthy trial lawyers on either side. Indeed, many of the finest lawyers I know are leaders in the Washington Association for Justice, the plaintiff’s lawyer group. I know many equally admirable lawyers who are partners at the big Seattle law firms facing off against my WSAJ friends in high-profile tort cases. Regardless of whether you’re the plaintiff or defendant, these are the litigation attorneys you would want to hire if your family or your company was at stake.

There’s lots of money to be made in bet-the-company litigation. Biglaw partners get rich; plaintiff’s attorneys get richer. Charging many hundreds of dollars per hour over a couple of years’ defense work is lucrative. Yet even the most senior partner’s income is dwarfed by the 30, 40, or 50 percent contingent fee a plaintiff’s attorney gets when a client’s multi-million-dollar claim finally pays off. (The precise percentage must be agreed between lawyer and client in advance, in writing, with the attorney’s payout ultimately depending on the stage the litigation has reached by the time everything comes to an end.) Of course, there are also years when the same plaintiff’s lawyer rolls the dice and zero big claims pay off. A contingent fee arrangement means the plaintiff’s lawyer doesn’t get paid a dime unless and until the client wins. The lawyer usually has to front major expenses like experts and discovery. Probably the biggest difference between these two peer groups is successful plaintiff’s lawyers have much hotter fire in their belly, while defense lawyers tend to be more risk averse. That’s why it’s so comforting for them to find some insurance company to pay their bills every month.

I try not to be a snob. I have known excellent lawyers in every corner of the law, including the underpaid heroes who represent indigent defendants, government agencies, and small claimants. But I’m guessing money has a lot to do with my loathing of a certain kind of plaintiff’s lawyer and certain kind of insurance defense lawyer. They go together, and maybe even deserve each other.

In a multi-million-dollar, bet-the-company lawsuit, no one can afford to be cheap. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), there are too few Big Cases each year. Meanwhile, there are far too many lawyers. As well as an awful lot of iffy claims.

Strong claims end up being brought by the usual suspects from a handful of successful solo practitioners and classy boutique firms. All the other plaintiff’s lawyers compete to handle the marginal and weak claims. Thus, plaintiffs in many lawsuits are represented by lawyers who are inexperienced and/or overwhelmed and/or sliding by – unwilling and unable to give each case the skill or attention it probably needs, with no confidence they’ll ever get paid.

Separate economic forces often result in a comparably slap-dash performance from insurance defense lawyers. Most insurance companies are cheap unimaginative bureaucracies. Unless they absolutely have to, they are not going to hire those fancy biglaw or boutique defense firm partners with their exorbitant hourly rates. Instead, insurance companies use their market power to negotiate rock bottom hourly billing rates, and then continue to haggle over the bills every month. (As a survivor of two big law firms, I have spent countless hours agonizing over whether it’s possible to enter one of these deals without losing too much money.  Spoiler alert:  not if you want a classy office with a nice view.)

Law firms that find most of their business by making devilish pacts with insurance companies are exactly what the phrase “insurance defense lawyer” evokes for me. In Seattle, Lee Smart is one of the oldest and most prominent such firms. This business model usually requires a type of corner-cutting that would leave recovering perfectionists like myself traumatized. It also involves short-sighted financial trade-offs for everyone, most clumsily some version of charging the client half your usual hourly rate then later padding the bill with three times the number of hours of worked. Or taking a cookie-cutter approach to litigation, erroneously pretending or hoping plaintiffs are all the same.

Again, I hasten to add that I have worked closely with or against many marvelous lawyers at firms that do nothing but insurance defense. They have learned to make the business model work for them, without sacrificing their clients’ interests or the lawyers’ integrity.

But.

The connection I sensed between truly loathsome “plaintiff’s lawyers” and “insurance defense lawyers” crystalized for me when I read an article from the American Bar Association that a fellow bar-meeting weenie recently shared on Facebook. In “Gaslighting in Litigation,” the author describes a common young lawyer experience, particularly for women and diverse attorneys:
More often than I’d like to admit, I have found myself standing in court dumbfounded by opposing counsel’s recitation of facts and events. As a newer attorney, I often felt uncertain how to respond to these more seasoned attorneys who spoke with such authority. I knew that what they said was not exactly what happened, but they spoke in a way that sounded right. For example, an opposing attorney might tell the court a story about our discovery process and what led to the motion to compel he filed. He tells a story about how I did not return his calls, or refused to cooperate, or took a position that was untenable. And it is not true. But he tells it with such force and calmness, I begin to wonder if I’m wrong, if perhaps I made a mistake and did not conduct the process correctly. There is so much pressure to be right—felt so keenly at all stages of our careers—and so much potential to make a mistake, it becomes easy to doubt ourselves and wonder if we did screw up. 
We didn’t screw up. We got gaslit.

That’s when my own incandescent light bulb went off. Loathsome plaintiff’s attorneys and insurance defense lawyers don’t just weary me with their third-rate legal work and invariably over-aggressive approach. It’s their reality-denying sleaziness that pushes my buttons.  [Ed. note. Just like Comcast customer service.]

Neither type of loathsome attorney attempts to score points with actual logic, or even with the quibbling argument techniques we all learned in law school. Instead, both groups resemble staffers in the Trump White House. Some offer a preposterous spin on the truth. Most go directly to an emphatically delivered lie. Frequently, they have the chutzpah to falsely accuse you of some small or large litigation foul they themselves are unquestionably guilty of. Loathsome plaintiff’s attorneys and insurance defense attorneys all went to the same Karl Rove School of Unprofessionalism, at Trump University.

I’d like to think I have too much personal integrity and self-respect to ever practice law this way. But the truth is a little more complicated.

Before being hired by the Attorney General’s Office two years ago, I always worked in settings – top law firms, the American Civil Liberties Union – where we couldn’t practice law like these loathsome attorneys. When huge financial stakes or consequential legal questions are at issue, there’s no incentive to cut corners with compulsive lying. To the contrary, there will always be someone else in the case with the time, money, and incentive to challenge your work. There will be a permanent record of interest to all kinds of folks beyond the lawsuit. There will be a federal judge or state appellate judges with a passion for getting to the right answer, and the luxury of smart law clerks to help. Even our sainted state trial judges manage to spare an extra portion of their meager time and resources to track down the truth in Big Cases.   

Ordinary state court cases aren’t like that. Particularly cases brought by desperate plaintiff’s attorneys, against underfunded defendants with no viable alternative to the cheap attorneys selected by some gouging insurance company. In this legal setting, there simply aren’t enough resources available to hold loathsome lawyers accountable. Beleaguered trial judges lack support, and are already overwhelmed dealing with courtroom triage.  So judges often throw up their hands at lawyers’ sleazy assertions and petty disputes, crying for “a plague on both your houses.” The adversary system becomes a pretext for a race to the bottom. We end up with a dedicated cadre of equally loathsome plaintiff’s lawyers and insurance defense lawyers, cutting corners and bending the truth together in their cookie-cutter cases.


Reading Douglas Hofstadler’s Godel Escher Bach in my teens had a huge impact on my thinking. His analytic approach must be where I got my fascination with things like game theory and quantitative analysis. GEB introduced me to logic exercises like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and Tit-For-Tat. The latter scenario involves repeat plays where you have the choice of screwing over your opponent.  Or not.  I recall the data suggesting the optimal approach was always start out nice, and only be nasty in response to others’ nastiness.

Codependent people worry too much about everyone else’s needs, and not enough about their own. After some soul searching, I’ve concluded I would still want to be a nice person even if I wasn’t codependent. Despite recent improvements in my mental health, my parents report no signs I’m turning into a Republican. I like the high ground in litigation. I expect opposing counsel to be professional, honest, and courteous, and I always give them the benefit of the doubt.  Okay, maybe codependency gives me an unhealthy tendency to give folks the benefit of some pretty unreasonable doubts. (Or we could blame the kids, who have been heard to wail, “But Papa, you always give us another second chance!”) 

Nevertheless, as the Bard of our Age said thirty years ago, “Trust but verify.” There are important ways I treat sleazy trial attorneys differently from other lawyers. For example, although polite, from the outset I never trust a word that isn’t in writing or being observed by a judge. I limit the phone to essential conversations, usually with a reliable witness present. I immediately document even those conferences, and rebut any false characterizations. This approach means sacrificing some opportunities for efficiency and beneficial communication, but it’s always worth it.

I also make it a point never to push first. My own discovery responses are complete and on time. I go out of my way to help, but I don’t request favors for myself. My clients or my claims ask for nothing beyond what we will be legally entitled to if we win. If I get a date or some other detail wrong, I promptly explain and correct it. I don’t get hung up on trivialities, and I don’t bother the judge unless I am absolutely sure this is something he wants to hear about right this minute. (Being a parent of squabbling children gives you an infallible sense for this.) I do exactly what I say I intend to do in a particular circumstance. And now that the fog of writer’s block has lifted, I’m confident I won’t even ask to postpone any briefing deadlines for the first time in decades.

Meanwhile, I do my intel. I identify places in the case where someone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to figure things out is particularly likely to cut corners. I check for legalese argle-bargle that looks cut and pasted it from some standard form no one has actually read in years. (What were they thinking? Obviously no one was thinking.) I make a note of any language to piggyback on later. I look for factual exaggerations, misstatements, sloppy legal analysis, and unjustified demands. Then I go back and evaluate which instances of sloppiness or sleaziness might leave the lawyer or party strategically vulnerable in the unique circumstances of this particular case, and prepare to pick my battles.  

Clients want a lawyer who is unmistakably on their side. One other commonality I’ve observed in sleazy plaintiff and insurance defense lawyers is their penchant for Kool-Aid. Trial lawyers are known for their particularly “vigorous advocacy.” Like the author of the “Gaslighting” article, I can’t compete with their comically emphatic self-confidence. I’m too diffident, and burdened by my familiarity with the actual law and facts. I don’t make shit up. And I would never ask a judge to apply hypocritical and conflicting standards to the goose and gander.

Instead, I hope I can help clients solve their legal problem through thoughtful hard work, without any disassociation involved. Fortunately, most of my litigation practice in recent years involved appellate advocacy rather than trials. With appeals there’s no jury to mug for, and no discovery to bicker about. Instead, everyone is civilized, and you can always get at least one more postponement of your brief’s due date.


Most of my experience with the Lee Smart law firm occurred years ago, before I focused on appeals. Lawyers from the firm occasionally showed up representing some minor player dragged into other parties’ major litigation. I’ve never actually met Michele Corsi, the insurance defense lawyer from Lee Smart who was my opposing counsel until last week. Instead, in our four months together we had three phone conversations, exchanged numerous emails and letters, began discovery, and briefed one motion. Nevertheless, I discovered she and I shared three prior connections.

First:  In my last case before leaving private practice in 2015, I helped with the briefing for the defendant’s appeal from an unfavorable jury verdict. It was a Big Case. My job included poring over the entire record – not only transcripts from a four-week trial, but also everything that occurred throughout the litigation. Including strategic decisions made in the initial pleadings, discovery, and motion phases.

Our firm was not involved in the lower court. Instead, Ms. Corsi represented one of the defendants. Lee Smart’s aggressive strategy focused on pointing fingers at the other defendant, and attacking the mother of a special-needs child. The jury awarded plaintiffs $50 million.

Second, and this one is going to take a while before we get to Lee Smart and Ms. Corsi:  On January 7, 2016, my employers summoned me to the AGO’s Seattle office to meet with Deputy Attorney General Christina Beusch and Division Chief Michael Shinn. Mr. Shinn read from various handwritten and typewritten notes regarding the basis of the adverse employment actions he had taken, including withholding the $3,000 raise given to every other Assistant Attorney General. These secret Star Chamber documents included numerous misstatements about me, including obvious factual errors I trusted my supervisors to correct months before. Materials from this meeting are among the items Ogden Murphy identified as the basis of its “independent” investigation into my sexual orientation discrimination complaint.

During the January 2016 meeting, I immediately demanded to receive copies of these records, as well as copies of any other secret documents the AGO relied on. Mr. Shinn and Ms. Beusch ignored me. I renewed my request on multiple occasions. Nevertheless, for over eighteen months, the AGO and Ogden Murphy have refused to share even a single page of this purported evidence, ignoring both my discovery requests in the litigation and my requests for these documents under Washington’s robust Public Records Act.

[Ed. note: Last week we reported Defendants did agree to produce documents related to Ogden Murphy’s liability insurance (something the Civil Rules explicitly requires them to do), stating these documents had been “requested.” A couple of days ago, Defendants’ new attorneys finally forwarded copies of two insurance policies. Hopefully they don’t expect a pin or ribbon for showing up.]

Because Lee Smart and Defendants refused to share any of their reading material with me this month, I found other things to distract me. Such as Ogden Murphy and Patrick Pearce’s prior handiwork.

In my Complaint, I alleged Ogden Murphy’s treatment of me was part of a pattern of misleading the public about the true nature of the “independent” employment investigation business it markets to government agencies. The Complaint identified parallels with another case my research uncovered. Two years earlier, Washington’s Office of Insurance Commissioner hired Mr. Pearce to conduct an “independent” investigation into complaints about conduct by the OIC’s Chief Hearing Officer and by her immediate superior. The OIC and Ogden Murphy colluded on another tax-payer funded hatchet job attacking a distinguished public servant. In the end, the judge agreed to take early retirement, and the State agreed to pay Judge Petersen $450,000 in compensation for her injuries. 

I sent a request to the Office of Insurance Commissioner under the Public Records Act, seeking copies of materials related to Mr. Pearce’s earlier “independent” investigation. Unlike the AGO and Defendants, the OIC takes its transparency obligations seriously. The OIC has already produced almost 2000 pages of materials related to Ogden Murphy’s investigation, including emails and draft reports demonstrating what “independent” means to Defendants.

Having received nothing yet in response to numerous requests for my own investigation file, I instead turned on some classical music in the background, and read about Mr. Pearce’s collaboration with the OIC. I was startled to see Ms. Corsi’s name buried in the documents.

The OIC responded to Judge Petersen’s whistle-blower complaint against her supervisor by arguing its own Chief Hearing Officer was incompetent and dishonest. Ogden Murphy then colluded with the OIC on a scatter-shot barrage of petty complaints against the judge. For example, the OIC and Mr. Pearce managed to come up with exactly two instances from twenty-seven years of hearings where the judge delayed in issuing a ruling. One of the two involved another Lee Smart insurance client. Appendix 16 to the 2014 Ogden Murphy Report is the 45-page transcript from their appeal argument. I read every word as Ms. Corsi hyper-aggressively – and unsuccessfully – argued Judge Petersen’s decision should be voided in its entirety because she didn’t rule fast enough.

I discovered my third prior connection to Ms. Corsi during our amiable introductory telephone conversation, before I knew I would be filing a lawsuit against Ogden Murphy and Patrick Pearce. I shared my recollection that the opposing counsel in my first jury trial 25 years ago was from Lee Smart. I couldn’t remember his name, but I described him (hefty guy, gifted trial attorney, died a few years ago). She said the same attorney, Rich, was her mentor when she started at the firm. My own first mentor was the partner from my firm I assisted during the trial. I learned a lot about lawyering from each of them.


It all started with witness interviews.

Ex parte interviews are a particularly shiny cookie cutter. (“Ex parte” refers to doing something in the litigation without inviting your opponent to join in.) Lawyers handle some cases for regular clients, particularly files involving employment disputes or simple personal injuries, on a commodified volume basis. These cases have a tight budget. The attorneys only make money if they can avoid putting more time into the case than they know they’ll get paid for.

As I’ve previously written, the smallest deposition is a huge production, even if it turns out you picked the wrong witness to depose. It’s much more efficient to interview a bunch of witnesses ex parte, gather information, and determine which potential witnesses it makes the most economic and strategic sense to ultimately depose.   

It’s also a lot easier to wrap your head around a new case by picking up the phone and asking the participants a few questions about what happened, rather than assuming the role of a legal archeologist – reconstructing the same sequence of events from the incomplete and unorganized scraps of paper you gradually manage to shake loose from your distracted and disgruntled client and others. Archeology is fun but hard work. Lazy lawyers never bother to dive into the records themselves. At best they will ask some grunt to report back after grinding out a few billable hours flipping through files.

It was obvious after reading Defendants’ generic-but-aggressive Answer to my Complaint the folks at Lee Smart had not yet figured out what their clients’ case is about. This became even more evident when they chose to pitch their first battle over the right to conduct cheap ex parte interviews with the same AGO employees who hated working with me so much they had me fired from my dream job.

Among other things, I sued Defendants because after being hired to conduct an “independent” outside investigation into my sexual orientation discrimination complaint, Mr. Pearce failed to maintain a reasonable and appropriate degree of independence from my former employer. I don’t think I concealed my common-sense opinion that insisting on a bunch of secret interviews with the same colleagues who framed me would result in terrible optics for Defendants. I also pointed out that by making its employees available for ex parte interviews, the AGO would be breaching its contractual duty to me under my Settlement Agreement with the State. Moreover, in the implausible event those witnesses all agreed to provide equal access to me, any attempt to conduct such a mutually unpleasant interview would be guaranteed to trigger heightened PTSD symptoms, leaving the parties in a fundamentally unfair situation.

Nevertheless, “conduct ex parte witness interviews” was at the top of Lee Smart’s corner cutting litigation checklist. Defendants decided to bother the Court with a motion asking the judge to endorse their interview plan. This gave me the opportunity to file a short brief calmly and accurately introducing the case to our judge, against a backdrop of Lee Smart’s pettiness.

After I filed my response to the motion, the AGO piled on with their own brief (even though they aren’t a party to the litigation), knowing I would not have an opportunity to offer any rebuttal.  Fortunately, the judge did not succumb to their tag-team gaslighting. Instead, the judge correctly ruled nothing prevented Lee Smart from asking to conduct ex parte interviews with my former colleague – but the judge refused to be tricked by Defendants into offering an advisory opinion about whether nonparty AGO would be breaching its separate contractual obligations by participating in such interviews. That’s for a different lawsuit.



In my first case to go before a jury, the plaintiff had sued various parties involved in a messy real estate dispute. Lee Smart represented the lead defendant. A lawyer from our firm represented the plaintiff, but he left for other employment just weeks before trial, leaving lot of smoldering fires. The firm asked my boss Del and me to come in and finish the job.

Del has one of the most brilliant legal minds I know. He was and is a gifted advocate. Like many lawyers from his generation, he had the opportunity for substantial trial experience early in his career. But as with most of us at big firms, his recent trial experience was much more limited. The stakes in a Big Case are so high most clients cannot bear the uncertainty and cost of actually going to trial. Most cases settle or are resolved by judges before they get to a jury. This one probably should have settled long ago.

Rich, Ms. Corsi’s mentor from Lee Smart, came from the same generation as Del. One big difference from biglaw attorneys, however, is that most plaintiff’s attorneys and insurance defense attorneys get regular trial experience. For various reasons, their cases go to trial much more often than Big Cases. These attorneys still don’t have the same effortless style as prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers who appear in court every day. But compared to me or even Del, lawyers from firms like Lee Smart seem like Perry Mason.  

Rich himself was particularly skilled at trial practice, with a deceptively charming and easy-going style. During trial it was sometimes painful to watch the contrast. Rich would get under Del’s skin, and everyone in the courtroom would know it except the jurors. Like my daughter teasing my son till he hits her, Rich would subtly push Del’s buttons. Invariably Del was the one to get busted for going too far.      

My initial assignments were all well within my wheelhouse: depose the experts, figure out the documents, finish briefing various motions, get everything prepared for trial. As we planned for the trial itself, Del assigned me some minor witnesses. I of course approached my new role with both trepidation and determination, lavishly overpreparing as if I was Tracy Flick in Election.

My first witness was the mid-level city employee who reviewed some of the permit applications for the development project at issue. We needed his testimony to get some foundational background documents admitted into the record. Nothing controversial. Before meeting together, I tracked down every document that mentioned him and practically memorized each. His recollection matched the documents and all the other evidence we’d already seen. The witness and I spoke on the phone, met once near his office, then met again in the basement of the courthouse the day of his testimony. He was enthusiastic about helping to pop my jury trial cherry.

It only took one question and answer. It turns out Lee Smart had gotten to my witness long ago.  After secretly meeting with this supposed public servant, opposing counsel prepared him to give false testimony, disrupt my efforts to introduce exhibits, and gratuitously chime in about subjects with nothing to do with his role in the case. I never recovered. It was such a fiasco the judge had to give a special instruction to the jurors cleaning up my mess. My friends in the courtroom swear my jaw dropped to the floor. My own memories are hazy.

We all have good days and bad days. As I emerge from the miasma of mental illness, I’m enjoying many more good days. I’m learning to be a better father, writer, and lawyer. I think I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.

But some days we are all less smart than we need to be.


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