Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ohio Supreme Court Michigan Lawyer: 'Fieger Go Home'

It’s a bit off our usual subject matter, but I feel it's worth mentioning that last week Michigan’s most disgraceful lawyer and one-time Democratic nominee for governor, Geoffrey Fieger, had another gigantic medical malpractice verdict thrown out: this time for $30 million, and this time by the Ohio Supreme Court. The verdict, which would have been Ohio’s largest-ever medical malpractice award, was tossed out because the Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge that the jury was unfairly influenced by Fieger’s antics in the courtroom.

Most Americans who recognize Fieger’s name do so because of his widely-publicized defense a few years ago of convicted murderer Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian. But pretending to be a criminal lawyer was just a sideline for Fieger, (and a hunt for publicity), because he made his fortune as a medical-malpractice trial lawyer.

He also kept himself in the public eye by doing things like referring on a radio appearance to an appellate panel that had overturned another of his verdicts as “three jackass court of appeals judges,” and “Nazis.” I forever lost what few shreds of respect I may have had for the Michigan Democratic Party when they nominated this clown to run against Governor John Engler in 1998. Engler stomped him in a 62% to 38% blow-out.

Then, this August Fieger was indicted “by a federal grand jury on criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, making illegal campaign contributions and causing false statements” related to exceeding limits on campaign contributions to John Edwards during the 2004 presidential campaign.

As trial lawyers, Edwarda and Fieger are two of a kind, and trial lawyers are just about their only conceivable constituency.

Both Edwards and Fieger have won verdicts in birth-trauma cases with their supernatural ability to channel fetal testimony directly into their closing arguments. Edwards established his reputation in 1985 by beating $6.5 out of an obstetrician in a cerebral palsy case by telling the jury the unborn child: “’ speaks to you through me,’ the lawyer went on in his closing argument. ‘And I have to tell you right now — I didn't plan to talk about this — right now I feel her. I feel her presence. She's inside me, and she's talking to you.’” (“In Trial Work, Edwards Left a Trademark”).

Fieger used the same type of theatrics in the Ohio case, assuming

“client Walter Hollins’ character in his mother’s womb, his brain deprived of oxygen as he waited to be delivered.

‘Doctors, nurses, I'm suffocating. Please help me to be born,’ Fieger told the jury. ‘I want to play baseball. I want to hug my mother. I want to tell her that I love her. Help me.’”
(“Ohio Supreme Court tosses out $30M verdict in Fieger case”).

For those of you who think the case may otherwise have merit, you can read the opinion for yourselves, here. You should also keep in mind that the overturned verdict was not a ruling on the merits of the case, but on the courtroom demerits of the trial lawyer, the Über-brat Geoff Fieger; in the hands of more competent counsel, plaintiffs may well have won a more reasonable award and been done with it.

The thing of it is, even before he ever gave his summation, Fieger had already been at work with his trademark tricks of crass discourtesy to the court and to opposing counsel and witnesses, misleading statements about the evidence, and a general disregard for the due-process rights of his opponents. The Ohio justices referred to Fieger’s “discourtesy, accusing witnesses of lying, and for his frequent interruptions of opposing lawyers. They cited Fieger for misstating evidence, wrongfully accusing defendants of covering up evidence and inappropriately injecting race and poverty into the trial.”

This is the way Fieger tries cases. As often as not, Michigan trial judges are too scared of him to admonish him, so he gets away with it. In this case, even the Ohio trial judge later admitted that he'd made errors in allowing Fieger to force inadmissible testimony to be heard by the jury. In the end, the Ohio Supreme Court didn’t even have to rely on Fieger’s phony impersonation of a pleading fetus to uphold the trial court’s ruling that the defendants deserved a new trial, citing instead his numerous other instances of unfair trial practices.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-1 against him. Fieger, naturally, has blamed the ruling on Republican “operatives.” (“Fetus-channeling case overturned by Ohio supreme court”). (He blamed his federal indictment for illegal campaign contributions on Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove).

But even the dissenting justice in the case, who would have denied a new trial, while reducing the award to $10 million, said that before there is a new trial, “it would be wise for the trial judge to deny any motion for admission pro hac vice filed on behalf of Mr. Fieger.”

In other words, "Don't come back." When a lawyer from one state wants to try a case in a state where he's not admitted to the bar, he asks permission of the trial court by filing a pro hac vice motion, a type of motion usually freely granted for the duration of the case. By advising the future Ohio trial court in advance to deny such a motion to Fieger, even the dissenting justice is essentially saying, “Geoff Fieger, we don't need your kind in Ohio.”


Leo said...

Nice to read after an evening trick or treating through lovely West Dearborn that I come home and am treated to reading that Fieger is getting the attention that he really deserves!

Thanks, made my day!

T.R. Clancy said...

Hi Leo

Yes, I'm in W. Dearborn, too. Maybe we're neighbors.