Every time someone thinks they have an opportunity to sue the city of Dayton, they call me (sometimes well before it is appropriate to call).
In the hope that they look on my site before looking for my phone number (yes, it’s in the phone book, no, this doesn’t mean you should call me) here is my download on lawyers: most of them suck.
When I was arrested for my public protest about secret meetings of the Dayton City Commission– I had called the police chief the day before, I had planned for someone to bail me out if needed, but, I hadn’t done the most important thing: find a laywer in advance.
Would have been hard in this town- most lawyers don’t like constitutional law, they prefer chasing ambulances, messy divorces or contract law.
I called Anne Whiteman who was at the time the local chapter president of the ACLU to ask for recommendations- she suggested Ovington and Greger. When I called them, they seemed really happy (lawyers aren’t allowed to call and solicit business directly). They said they had been watching the news that night and thought what a great case (they were married at the time). After I came in to meet them, with TV cameras in tow on that Friday morning (I was arrested on a Wednesday morning) they seemed a bit distant.
BTW: The ACLU office in Cleveland wouldn’t ever return my calls or provide any assistance. However, I heard they later used my case as a citation for protecting the Klu Klux Klan in Cincinnati- which sucks eggs.
Monday morning I got a letter blowing me off as their potential client in the mail (after the case settled I faxed them a copy of that letter with a copy of the check- with a big “oops” on the letter). Scratch lawyers 1 and 2.[note: Ovington is now a judge, Greger’s last public case I saw was defending a WSU professor who was e-mailing a cop from work thinking he was talking to a 14 year old girl, thankfully, he lost the case- although I’m not a big fan of these entrapment cases].
Next up was an attorney out of Cincinnati. He was a nice guy, had gone back to school to become a lawyer at 40- and had won a case against the City of Cincinnati for ripping of the citizens on their water- while giving discounts to companies). He gave a law student a task of researching the case (apparently this is quite common among Constitutional law rights type lawyers- they have students do all their bitch work- pay them peanuts- and bill big for doing nothing) and he wrote the basis of what would become my brief in the criminal case. However, I had 2 suits- the criminal charges which I had to beat- and the civil case which depended on winning the criminal. He didn’t do criminal.
Had to find a criminal lawyer. Asked Chuck Lowe (yes, the father of Rob and Chad Lowe) for a recommendation. Enter, Dana Cole who then worked for Chuck. Dana worked the hardest of all the attorneys I ended up paying, and got paid the least (yes, he based his brief on the student research, but, he still had to do prep for 2 days of depositions and be on his game for at least 8 hours in court- more on this shortly).
Dana is now a law professor at the University of Akron- so he’s not available now either. The city attorney, John Scaccia, who made an idiot of himself in court, first with his 50 page “briefs” (the limit was 30) and secondly- with his pompous manner in court (at one point the judge had to ask him to face the judge and address him- not the gallery or the TV cameras- at another, as he’s fumbling with his papers- he turned to the stenographer and asked to borrow a stapler) is available- but I wouldn’t recommend him unless I really didn’t like you.
Dana used to teach at the Jerry Spence ranch/lawyer summer school out West. Spence was known for his maverick winning ways. Dana was a smooth operator in court, checking off his wins on his neatly outlined questioning cues from his legal yellow pad. When he had then Mayor Mike Turner on the stand- his questions about how Turner claimed to “fear for his life and the safety of the people in the room” with this “masked terrorist” in the room- and then the rolling of the video tape of him snickering on the dais- and watching Turner twist and squirm on the stand made the entire case worth it.
It was after this performance that I was given 10 minutes to decide if I’d drop the right to sue in the civil case in exchange for the city dropping charges. I agreed in three. Scaccia took an hour, earning the wrath of Judge Dan Gehres and wouldn’t agree to let me go without me pleading guilty to one of their 4 bullshit fourth degree misdemeanor charges.
This was where the Cincinnati attorney showed he was lacking a spine and any faith in this case. Time to get another attorney for the civil case.
However, I would have had a lot of time to find one, thanks to Dan Gehres sitting on the case for almost 9 months, running out the time table I had to file the civil case. This is where I lost all respect for Dan Gehres and refuse to vote for him. After all that time- all his judgement was an added 2 lines to the end of Dana’s brief. He took nine months to write 2 sentences and decide the case. Unfortunately, this kind of bullshit happens all the time, and voters have no clue as to why or why not they should vote for a judge. Voting for judges is the ultimate perversion of our “democratic system” but, that too, is a rant for another day.
Enter Jeff Silverstein, who still doesn’t have a website. If it wasn’t for his assistant, Leisel, I wouldn’t have had a lawyer. He took the civil case, which involved writing a brief. Apparently, Jeff didn’t feel up to it without help- so we retained yet another lawyer (I’ve lost count) to help out.
We bring in Richard Saphire, the grand legal mind of the UD law school (click the link- unfortunately, back when this case was going, we didn’t have Google). Professors don’t typically take on cases or practice law, they hire on as consultants, make their students do the heavy lifting, then charge outrageously, which is exactly what Richard did. He worked the least, got paid the most. Jan Konya was the student who did the hard work. I have no idea on how to find her now. I don’t think I met her during the course of the case.
Jeff Silverstein, armed with a brief from Saphire, had to manage more than actual lawyer. There was only one other appearance in court, in the brand new courtroom at the UD law school. It was standing room only for an appeal of the city’s continued fight. Each side got 15 minutes, Dana was again doing the arguing against Scaccia. We won, with Saphire sitting next to me and not saying anything.
In retrospect, Jeff made a huge mistake in putting a dollar figure on the civil case, asking for a million dollars, when no figure was needed. It was a PR gaff, that had I known more about how this all worked I would have chosen not to attach any number at all.
In the end, the check came to me and Jeff Silverstein. It was a settlement for $100,000. Most of it went to the lawyers. I spent 2.5 years stuck in a legal case. I lost all my corporate work in Dayton and ended up labeled a gadfly, nutjob and who knows what else. It hurt my business and those who worked for me. Turner got off with a teflon coating- nothing stuck to him, even though he was the driving force in the city’s case according to all of my sources.
I won 5 times in court, but ultimately lost in the court of public opinion. No one in Dayton cared that the City Commission was meeting illegally. No one cared that they were discussing the end of citizens being able to speak at commission meetings. No one cared that this was one of the reasons their city was slipping into the shithole. No one cared except me.
The lawyers all got paid. This is why, no matter what you think you may win in a lawsuit, I can truly say is that you are kidding yourself, the only guaranteed winner is the lawyer- you are secondary, as are our rights and our laws in this game we call law.
So, if you need a lawyer to sue the city, don’t call me- call someone who cares- just good luck with this cast of characters. One day, I’ll tell you more about “electing judges”- but that’s not something that will help me sleep in on Sunday morning.
For the record- unless you’ve slept in my house, I’ve slept in your house, or you work with me, please, never call between 10pm and 9am.