First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan, I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in Miami and South Florida for nearly three decades. The goal behind this broadcast is to bring in other lawyers in varying fields and experiences to kind of maybe one by one start to take them off that kill list. And, and we can prove Shakespeare wasn’t right in the 15th century, when he said it and everybody laughed about it. But my guest this morning, the only difficulty might be I think we can get him off the list. But he’s a guy I know who oftentimes wanted to kill many lawyers, generally opposing counsel, but this morning, I’m really happy to introduce a very close friend of mine. Excellent, excellent lawyer. Andy Haffa.
Thanks for having me on.
So yeah, we’re not going to ask you to take any lawyers off the list. Because I know, given you’re passionate about your practice, and I will get into that. There’s been times I’ve might have heard you out or a few things about killing other lawyers. So, we’re going to try to table that and keep this more on the civil side of things.
You and I’ve had many conversations about going back to trial by combat and how much better I would feel. And as badly as I would like to avoid being on anybody’s hit list. I unfortunately, I found my way too many. And so as hard as you’re going to work today, I don’t know how successful you’re going to be brother.
All right. Well, I’m up for the test. So, let’s see what we can do to get Andy off this list. Let’s go back first and just talk about so you’re a Miami native, correct?
Well, basically, I we I’ve been here ever since I’m two I was born. My dad was in medical school in Richmond. And he when he moved down here for training, that’s when I became a Florida native.
Got it. Okay. So now though, tell me because your dad comes down here, very, very prominent surgeon knows me. Well, he’s seen my insides. So, I got to give him credit for that as he took my appendix out, but Chief of Staff at Baptist I mean, many, many accolades, and just a top notch, top notch surgeon, great guy, and you go to law school. So where was where was that shift? And was there ever an interest in medical school?
There still is. I was I was teaching at the middle school Medical School last night, believe it or not, okay. I ended up going to law school because my dad, who as you said, as a surgeon told me, he wouldn’t do it again. And I took the L SATs and the MCAT. That’s the test to get into medical school within a month of each other. And still, to this day, I entertained dreams of being a doctor. That’s what I was always wanted to do. And I know I would have been a hell of a surgeon, that’s for sure.
No, no doubt about it. And but it’s interesting because you go into law, and then followed by both of your brothers, Sam and Greg go into law who both have thriving careers. And we might have to get them on here. It might be easier to get off the list and you but we’ll work on it. On those two so you get into the practice law. The other interesting thing about you so you and I go back three decades, because graduate, I always know how long you’ve been practicing. Because I got to figure out how long I have came out together, law clerk to different places together. But you’re a little bit of a rarity in that. You went to a firm right out of law school. Grossman, a Roth at the time now Grossman Roth, yeah, often Cohen. But you’ve stayed there, the duration, you know, lawyers tend to start here, get a little experience here, kind of move and move around. So talk about that journey, because I think it’s pretty fascinating that you’ve stayed there the whole time. And obviously, tremendous, tremendous firm. You know, nothing but great things to say about Stuart and Neil and everybody in that firm. And so you’re a great, great fit and a great asset to that firm. But how is it that you wound up staying in the same place for 30 years?
So I was blessed to have found Stuart and Neal, and they took a shot on me how and why I don’t know. But my goal when I started with them was to learn how the best firm I could find thought so I could go back and defend physicians. I lived through a couple of lawsuits that I felt were unjustified. And so I figured if I could learn from the best plaintiffs firms, I could then jump back to the defense and defend these dogs. And when I saw the cases that Stuart Neal had, it was mind blowing. And I would bring this stuff home and talk to my dad. And he was shocked at the horrific care that existed then and unfortunately continues to exist in South Florida. And so I found my niche and I think we’re able to make Florida a better place by hopefully forcing physicians to practice better and safer medicine. And so that’s really sort of overshadowed my entire journey at Grossman Roth, and I feel as though I’ve, you know, sacrificed blood, sweat and tears there for 30 years. And when I started, we were for lawyers, we’re now up to 12. And it’s amazing the cases we’ve seen, the people we’ve touched and the lives that we hopefully have changed for the better. Well, let’s
talk about that a little bit too, because I know and it had to be difficult for you, given that your dad was a physician and a prominent physician, there seems to be sort of, sometimes almost a public image that, well, they’re doctors, and they can’t make mistakes. And I talk to people all the time. And I say, well, listen, they’re professionals. Lawyers are professionals, contractors are professionals. You know, if you if you hire a guy to build your house, and half of it collapses, nobody ever has a hesitation, oh, I’m going to sue that guy. He did it wrong. But when doctors do that, everybody seems a little hesitant to venture into that. And so how was that sort of going back and forth with your dad. And obviously, I mean, I’ve fished with you many times with your dad and lots of other physician friends. And those were the circle friends. So how well was that sort of taken when you first started suing doctors as opposed to defending.
So I think I brought a bit of fresh air to these physicians that felt that way, because they knew, given my background, given my history, given my father, that I was not going to simply throw a cast net, no pun intended, over everybody that had contact with that patient. If you’re going to get sued, it’s because you deserve to get sued. And it was a breach of the standard of care. And they knew that I understood that not every mistake was medical malpractice that was actionable. Not every bad outcome was medical malpractice that was actionable. And so I truly believe then, and I know, I continue that now I bring, I bring an extra level of screening to these cases, and I make sure if I’m going to do it, they should be brought. And these cases are just and righteous. And these doctors deserve to get sued. If they don’t, I don’t want to be part of.
So, let’s talk about that a little bit. Because we both been doing medical malpractice for a long time, the screening process because again, you know, you tell people, if you got hit by a car, we could file a lawsuit today, you know, and be litigating this case, when it is a medical malpractice case, talk about the extent of that screening process and what it has to go through to ensure that it is a meritorious case, first off on your standards, and then the legal standards of what has to be done before you can file a suit.
So, there’s a movie out there, the girl next door that I use this line all the time, you got to make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze. Medical malpractice cases, obviously, are extremely expensive to be brought, you have to have them reviewed by experts in every specialty of the folks that you’re going to sue. So, it’s not uncommon. Before I even know that I have a case that I’ve spent 5060 $100,000 on these cases. So, you’ve got to be very selective in the case of your brand. Obviously, you got to make sure that the damages on the back end, okay, justify spending those kinds of monies on the front, because I will tell you, at the end of the year, firms like yours and mine, we end up spending hundreds of 1000s, if not more dollars, on cases you’ve evaluated, you’ve investigated, and then you determine that there was no breach of the standard of care. And then unfortunately, something bad happened to this patient. But these doctors and health care providers did everything they could to care for these patients and bad things happen. And they do happen in the absence of malpractice. This is this is what we bring to the practice that understanding. And a lot of patients/clients don’t understand just because something bad happened, why they don’t have a case. So I hope I answered your question there, Dave.
No, you did. You did. And I think that’s one of the hardest things sometimes because it does have to be viewed as a business and at times, you have to look at the extent of the damages and what it would cost to bring that forward because it became it can become cost prohibitive for case. And that’s a hard thing to explain to clients at times. But again, even harder sometimes because there is a bad outcome. That doesn’t mean anybody was at fault. Okay, and that’s not an easy decision to get to, nor a cheap one. So let’s shift gears a little bit because I know that’s one component of what you started. And I think really, back when you started Stuart Neil really emphasized in med mal, but that practice is really expanded. Now. While you still do med mal, there’s a lot of other things you’ve gotten into from products liability to other significant cases. So, let’s talk a little bit about what the overall practice had Grossman Roth, you and Cohen consists of now.
So, when people ask me what we do, I tell them that we will handle any significant case there is any type of significant catastrophic plane train automobile construction litigation, we’re involved in the surf side collapse. We were involved in the FIU Bridge collapse the Miami Dade Community College garage collapse, we’ve gotten involved in some very significant legal and accounting malpractice cases. We were involved in the citrus canker case, the bank overdraft cases. David’s amazing as society changes and science advances, the stuff that comes up that you could never have dreamed of when you and I graduated law school ancestry.com 23. And me, we’re now having cases that are coming up that you could not have even dreamed up kids that are 1617 years old that apply to these genetics’ companies. And they find out that they’re not they’re not the natural children of their parents, mommy and daddy are not good. They thought they were, you know, yes, they are. They loved them. They raised them, and they treated them as their own. But Mistakes were made way back when parents were having a hard time conceiving. And so, we’re now bringing those kinds of lawsuits against fertility specialists that made those kinds of mistakes. We’ve had other cases involving stem cell malpractice, for example, stem cells are cutting edge science. And they may well hold the cure for many illnesses for which there is no cure, but we’re not there yet. And there are spas and clinics and chiropractors selling this stuff. And right now, it’s no better than snake oil, and people are getting hurt. So, it’s a crazy time in our world. And the types of cases we’re seeing is limitless. And when you think you’ve seen it all, then something else comes walking in the door. Right? So it really is amazing.
It is and you see this transition now. And you see going into lots of different doctors, everybody’s going to rejuvenation medicine, you know, we all want to stay pretty and young and pain free. And you’re right it is there are a lot of things that are I think, good science and good medicine that are heading in that direction. But there’s a lot that there, there almost is no standard of care yet, because people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.
Yeah, it’s crazy. And the consumers need to be aware, they need to make sure they’re going to quality physicians that are truly engaging in quality standard of care medicine, as opposed to using off label non-FDA approved medications. I got a case now where a lady went in to have some fat, you know, she thought she was going to have some liposuction, and they convinced her into having an injection where they inject basically an enzyme that lives or digests the fat. Well, the stuff they injected her was tainted with bacteria. And basically, it ate away in the back of her arms. And she needed to have the backs of her arms, both amputated. She’s been through 25 different procedures. She has scarring, she basically has to take antibiotics for the rest of her life because she has what’s equivalent to leprosy. And the spa, that did this had an eye doctor as a medical director, and it’s an eye doctor injecting her arms with this stuff. So, it is the wild west right now. It’s just crazy.
And we get we get countless and it’s heartbreaking. The plastic surgery clinics, Miami seems to be sort of the bastion for that. And when you look at them, the formula is really easy. The online presence is amazing. Okay, and tremendous. And then you come down here, and it’s a storefront clinic somewhere, you know, and these people get horribly, horribly butchered, you know, they fly back to the state they’re from, and unfortunately, there’s no coverage on the clinic, there’s no coverage on the doctors and these poor people have just been totally, totally taken advantage of. And it’s a horrible thing to have to deal with. But we get calls almost weekly on those cases. Yeah. And
it’s not going to go away until the FDA and the other licensing bodies take control and they shut them down or somebody goes to jail. That’s not going to stop, you and I are going to continue to stay busy. And the one the one issue I continue to have that I cannot stress enough is how unfair the free kill law is as it relates to the medical malpractice world, right? Obviously, you need to recognize survivor if somebody dies by health care, fraud by a healthcare provider, and there’s no surviving spouse or no child under the age of 25. If that same person was killed in a plane, train or automobile, that family would have a cause of action. But in a malpractice setting by a healthcare provider, there’s nobody, there’s nothing that you can do for them. And they don’t understand why that life is worth less than the malpractice. I think that it is in the general liability setting. It’s not right and it’s not fair.
It’s not and it’s as you know, and I mean, it’s been challenged and it’s probably the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with clients when you get that situation is to say, Listen, there, there may be, you know, a cause of action there, this doctor may have killed your mom or your dad or whoever, but if there’s no spouse, and there’s no minor child, by law, they’ve carved that out and successfully. So, but let’s talk about that a little bit. Because I know I know you and your firm have done it. And it’s every pie lawyer that I know. You know, the goal is, obviously, you know, the first goal is win that case. Okay. But the bigger goal is to bring about change. And if you look, society wise, the change that has come about is often driven by personal injury lawyers. I mean, you look at and I always use an example, the sexual scandal within the Catholic Church. You know, when that first started, oh, it was an American thing. Oh, it was this it was. And it was trial lawyers that kept pushing that and pushing that, and now they pulled back the curtain. And you see what’s been exposed is absolutely horrific. But it’s only because of that change through civil courts, and lawyers to talk about some of the cases you’ve dealt with. I know agriculturally. You’ve been before Congress on things to talk about changes for migrant workers in the fields. Talk about that aspect of your practice and how satisfying that is.
So, the case you’re referencing is Carlito Kandel area. And that little boy now is 17 years old. When he was an infant, I was called out to a Mokulele to try and help this family. He was born to migrant parents that were smuggled into the United States from Mexico. They were basically indentured servants. And they were exposed to pesticides in the tomato fields that were known to cause birth defects. This poor lady gets pregnant, she’s ingesting and sprayed with these pesticides, and the baby’s born with no arms and no legs. And so, when I went out there and met this little boy, he was sitting in a bouncy seat in a trailer park. Living in a one-bedroom trailer, there were 16 people living in this one-bedroom trailer, there were little puppies that had been born in the trailer park that were nipping at this child and he was screaming, and obviously, he had no limbs he couldn’t fight back. And it was that scene, seeing him unable to do anything to defend himself, that made me commit to try and help him. So, I began to look long and hard about what I could do to try to help that child. And I knew I couldn’t sue on behalf of the parents because they were illegal, and immigration would be called. And they were called multiple times through that case, I had, I had to hide these people literally for two years. I couldn’t sue on behalf of the parents, you all said workers compensation laws and immunities that prevented doing something on their behalf. But they could not block the case on behalf of the child. And so that’s what I did, I bought a brought a straight premises liability claim against the owner and controller and operator of the farms to to represent that child as it relates to the pesticides that he was sprayed with through his mother while in utero. And really to get that case changed, we get the case resolved. But more importantly, we changed everything in terms of how these people were treated. Day for decades, we got to see it’s truly modern day slavery. It continues to this day, unfortunately. But they change the labeling, they change the type of pesticides that are being used. And I got to see this child, believe it or not, again, he’s now 17. Last week, he is a thriving junior in high school, he’s a straight A student, he’s got plans to go to college, he wants to be an engineer, we built in my house, we put a trust together. So, the monies will be there to take care of him for the rest of his life. This kid is going to do big things, I just can’t wait to see what he’s going to do. And but for our system, and the work of those of us that are on these kill lists, okay, he wouldn’t have a future and I was I was blessed to have been connected with him. He’s made me a better lawyer and a better person, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do.
Yeah, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing the results that you’ve done helping somebody thrive like that. And I’ve got a young girl now who again, nobody thought she’d ever walk talk there, we’re going to put her in a nursing home. She’s walking, she’s talking, she’s functioning, she’s communicating. And she’s getting better every day. And this is, you know, four years ago that this occurred. So, when you see those things, I mean, that to me is the greatest satisfaction is helping those clients that that didn’t have a voice and nobody was going to give them a voice until somebody like you comes along and helps. So, you can see, and I can hear the passion in your voice. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. What keeps you passionate about it, what continues to drive you every day.
When I see a child or a family that’s been wronged and is suffering and is in need. That’s truly what does it and the hope that we can make it safer and better and prevent these things from happening is what drives me. I will tell you, yes, the satisfaction that you and I get from seeing that little girl who’s now walking and talking, or this child who’s going to have a future. It’s so gratifying. But I will also tell you, Dave, and I know you do a lot of teaching, my efforts to get into the medical schools, is my back my back around my behind the scenes approach of trying to make those changes, I told these medical students last night, if I can educate you, and prevent and avoid these cases, from coming through my door, that I know I’ve made a significant change, I want you to think twice before you act, I want you to think twice about how it’s going to affect that patient, and ultimately, that family, and you’re going to be a better doctor, you’re going to avoid getting sued, and patients are not going to be harmed. So, I think it’s a twofold approach that we’re now taking, both in terms of exposing and fighting for those that have been injured. But on the prevention side, I’m getting in the backdoor through the medical schools trying to make it a safer place. And to make these guys, these guys and gals better doctors.
Well, and that’s tremendous. Because you’re right, those changes can have such a big impact. And one of the things I’ve talked to people in the medical profession and they’re terrified, I think sometimes of communication. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls, and there’s no malpractice or anything else. But people just wanted answers. Nobody’s talking to them. And again, if those med students and those people in the hospitals and risk management would have communication with these patients, before lawyers got involved, a lot of times that’s going to peace, they just want an answer to a mystery, it’s oftentimes same thing, you know, people come to us first time in a lawsuit, they’ve never been involved in a lawsuit, we’ve got to be able to explain to them, what’s going to happen, not just hey, just sit back, we’re going to take care of this, you’ll be fine. People want that information. And that’s what’s lacking often
can’t the candor be that old school medicine where the doctor would sit down and talk to the family and the patient, listen to what they’re saying. But more importantly, tell them the truth. This is what happened. This is why it happened. If you made a mistake, you come clean people can accept mistakes. Sure, what they can accept is if you make a mistake, and you try and sweep it under the rug, and then something bad happens, and then it becomes a mountain where you’re fighting over this thing. And once the truth comes out, there’s no defending that.
100%. So let’s shift gears a little bit more things. We’ve talked to everybody since we started this show. We’ve, I won’t say we’ve come through a pandemic, because I don’t think we’re there yet. But we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Talk about the impact that COVID has had on your practice, not only the volume and what you do in practice wise, but the nature of how you practice what your firm has done to become more adaptable, because I think there’s a lot of very positive things that have come out of this. To make us better lawyers, there’s been some negative things clearly to but to make us better lawyers, and to make us more efficient at what we do. So what is Grossman Roth, you often call and how did you guys deal with a pandemic and are dealing with it, I guess, still today.
So, I will tell you that the pandemic has made me a more efficient lawyer, if you will, prior to there was so much time wasted running to and from hearings and getting on airplanes to go to expert depositions, and things of that nature, we’re now able to do all of that by zoom like you and I are talking right now. And I don’t think a lot of that is ever going to go back to the way it was I think that’s a big positive. Some of the negatives are, I don’t think there’s any substitute for being in that room with my clients and being able to hug them and console them. When you’re in one of those emotional moments. And it’s going to happen by the nature of the cases we handle in the practices we have. I think that’s what makes you and I are so effective at what we do. We’re empathetic, we’re fathers, we’re husbands we appreciate. We’re humans. And when you see somebody suffering, there is no substitute for being able to give that person a hug, and console them and to stop it as opposed to trying to do that. From long distance. I don’t like that at all. When I’m taking an expert deposition, I also would much rather be in person as opposed to doing it by zoom. Obviously, the COVID has affected our trial practice. I’m desperate to get back into that courtroom. But if we’re doing our job right and thank God we have been the preparation is such that these cases have continued to resolve trials are starting to resume we’re getting trial dates and still keep are resolving, and I’m happy to see that. But I don’t have the control that I used to have, I used to be able to tell a client, when I met them, within 18 months, I’m going to be giving you a hug and wishing you well, your case is going to be over one way or the other. We can’t do that anymore, because everything is so backed up. And lastly, COVID has made me a better person, I think in terms of being around more for my wife and kids and being able to appreciate the hearing the now because prior to COVID, I was like you a million miles a minute airplanes, courtrooms, hearings, on the car, in the car driving to and from Naples constantly. Now I’m home and I’m president and I’m able to enjoy them. And I think that’s been a big plus for
And certainly, that’s a huge thing. And I got to give you props, because you go back and you look at the people you surround yourself with. You know, Mark Caron, I can’t partners were longtime friends, same class as you. But I look at Mark, again, still married to his first wife, you know, I’m still married to my first one, you’re still married your first wife, three kids. And I think those things having that continuity and stability in your life. And those values of what’s important, really do translate to being an excellent trial or because what people forget is, you know, it’s attorney slash counselor. And there’s a lot of counseling that goes on in these cases, just like you said, to be able to do it in person is a huge aspect of it. Because this is a, you know, the people that come see us, their lives have been totally disrupted. And they’re never going to be normal again. And we can only normalize them, to the extent that our system helps normalize it via you know, money, benefits and everything else and to change the quality of their life. But anyway, we’re running down on time, you’re a guy that I think we’ve now been able to take off the list because I think people see the passion, the compassion, the empathy, and the desire that you still have, it’s clear to see burns in you 30 years into this, you know, you’re still chomping at the bit to do the same thing every day. And so, Andy, pleasure, love catching up with that. We could do this for a long, long time. But I think I think generally other than opposing counsel, I’ve got you off all those lists. Okay. So, I appreciate it, my friend. Thank you for your efforts. And I hope you’re half right. If I get off one list. You’ve been successful today, brother. Thanks for having me on. There we go. My pleasure. My pleasure. Give my best to the family. That’s another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. We’ll be back next week. Thanks.
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan, and I’ve been practicing personal injury law here for 30 years in South Florida goal behind this show, and we named it after the Shakespeare quote, although a lot of people argued that that was a compliment to lawyers, but people still chuckled pretty loudly when it was. And when you talk to people today, they still think maybe not a bad idea to kill all the lawyers. So, goal here today is bring in other South Florida lawyers, different areas of law, kind of educate some people on it, maybe one by one, we can kind of take some people off the kill list. So, my guest this morning is a great, great friend been for the last 30 years. And a truly fantastic lawyer who does a lot of things that I know nothing about. So, this is definitely going to be entertaining, because I’m going to get to learn along but let me bring in Dan Newman, a partner Nelson Mullins. Dan, how are you?
Great today, and hopefully I’m going to get off that kill list by the end of this show.
Slowly, why did we get oh, yeah, the majority at least I don’t know, we get everybody off that list with you. But we can get the majority of so. So, Danny, let’s go back and talk. You went to George Washington, you studied finance? What was the path and why go to law school? Was that something that was always going to be done or had that come about?
So, when I went to college, I thought I was going to go into the investment field investment banking or something investment related. I was a finance majors you said, Bachelor of Business Administration, I took a business law class and in my business, curriculum and undergrad, and that really gave me a passion for the law. I had a great, great teacher and, and he taught us about contracts and about business deals and about litigation and how disputes arise and how there are different arguments and how to be an advocate. And that was fascinating to me. And so, after my junior year in college, I decided that I wanted to go to law school. And I wanted to be able to combine those two passions, the finance end, and the legal end, I knew I wanted to be a litigator, I knew that that was probably the best fit for my personality. And so that’s, that’s how it came about.
Alright, so that now at least gives me an explanation as to how you know about contracts, because you and I had the same contracts teacher at University of Miami law school. And I don’t think we learned a whole lot about contracts in that class. But we’ll leave that alone for now. We had a lot of laughs, though. So, we become friends in law school, you get out of law school, you take a job with the SEC, and I think oh my god, that’s fantastic. He’s working for college football. Wasn’t that sec. So, you go to New York for the Securities Exchange Commission. Let’s talk about that. Because I think that’s kind of fascinating.
It was great opportunity. It came about unexpectedly, there was there was the opportunity there. It was a bad time to during that period of time, it was the there was a banking crisis going on. And there was there was a little a downturn in the economy. And someone told me there was an opportunity to go work at the SEC. That was a passion of mine. It was finance, it was securities, I taken securities law in college, and learned about the securities laws learned about business and finance and tried to take courses fit for that in, in law school. And as well as the securities class of law school, went up to the SEC interviewed, extremely passionate about what they did, what they do and continue to do. There they are, you know, they essentially are the overseer of our financial markets in many different ways. And I went up and I worked for what’s called the enforcement division of the SEC. And our job was to enforce the securities laws. So, we would investigate potential violations and enforce those through legal actions, many cases settled or they go to trial. And, you know, in the process of that, I learned a tremendous amount, fascinating cases, everything from insider trading, which everyone hears a lot about financial filing fraud, where companies may file inaccurate information about what their numbers really look like, and people rely upon that and broker dealer, misconduct to I mean, anything that could be a fraud in connection with securities markets, we went out we would, that would be an aim of ours to investigate and potentially prosecute, enforce the laws.
Which, which again, I think is fascinating, because it’s something that we all sort of know a little about, you know, we hear the Bernie made offs and things like that, and the scams, but But little things like you’re talking about where information might intentionally be wrong, and that misleads investors and things like that. So I mean, just the scope of that enforcement, How broad is the SEC and how much, I guess, d a catch. I mean, you know, everybody is it’s sort of like the IRS, you know, how everybody cheats on their taxes. You know, but a lot of these companies do and how broad is that enforcement?
So, the enforcement is and I should say it’s civil enforcement, the the Department of Justice enforces criminally prosecutes, and a lot of times there are, they work together because the facts are the same. But it is, as you said, there’s a lot going on out there and the agency can’t go after everyone can catch everything that’s going on. So it tries to essentially go after cases that are going to have an impact on others. And they show the areas that are there, areas that they really want to make sure that people aren’t engaging in misconduct aren’t defrauding people. And that actually changes by each chairman of the SEC, you’ll see different areas where their focus may be. So, when I was there, because of the banking crisis, I go back to that a lot of the enforcement was directed to bank holding companies, they were public companies that held these banks, and all these banks held real estate on their books at levels that just wasn’t accurate. They were way over inflated. So, their financials look great, but it wasn’t really the case. And so that was a big, big pet peeve of the chairman of the of the SEC at that time. And also, insider trading was always big, you just come off of hearing about cases of Michael Milken and others like that there were a lot of insider trading cases out there. So those were big, and there was, you know, a lot of the enforcement, the enforcement division is not, it’s not huge, but it’s pretty substantial. And they’re enforcement attorneys throughout the country in different offices. And you see those big cases, and they’re meant to tell people look, the SEC is out there, they’re looking to enforce, don’t go sideways, you know, with the law don’t even try and go up to the edge.
I mean, look, you know, they can even ultimately, and I know it’s DOJ but you know, take down Martha Stewart. So, you know, I mean, you could do insider trading and Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart gets interesting.
Yeah, it’s a an insider trading, those are tough cases, the fascinating things about those from when no matter what side you’re on, but if you’re in the SEC, it’s like a puzzle, you try and put pieces of the puzzle together, you may see that there was a lot of trading before a big announcement and the stock the stock rose as a result of the announcement or the event, whatever it may have been, maybe there was announcement of a merger with another company. And then you take a look at okay, who you know, what was going on with the trading? Why was there all this trading the day before the announcement, and then you try and look at who is trading and then try and figure out how they may or may not have known something, you know, look at phone records, calendars, relationships. And so they are fascinating cases. And there, there are so many of them that just have amazing facts. I mean, fascinating fact patterns, really on how people may have gotten the information. I mean, the bottom line now is today, two things are so sophisticated. There are so many ways to determine how information flowed and where money’s flowed that and communications, that, that there are a lot of ways to catch folks.
So a little unrelated to that. But I mean, and I just read another article this morning. So you go back and, and Gamestop basically seems to get manipulated through social media and goes through the roof. And now apparently Bed Bath and Beyond as something similar that’s going on? How does that tie into things? And I mean, you know, without getting into a legal opinion, but that effect of social media sort of playing with the market? What are your thoughts on that?
It is, and it was actually in the SES study just came out recently on that. And, you know, the, what, what the SEC and others were looking for is Was this some type of, you know, group effort, some type of mass manipulation that was spearheaded and the group move. But you know, there what you have now, as you have a lot more retail investors in the market, because of, because of broker dealers like Robin Hood and others, you have people who never traded before in the market. And they’re also out there on these blogs talking about things and talking about concepts and they’re moving, they are moving the stocks. And but it’s not necessarily illegal, it could be if it’s an organized effort to do that, to manipulate the stock, but it’s difficult, it’s difficult to know whether that’s the case, but if it was, and if there were people that were at spearheading that, that would be illegal, if that could be shown that it was happening. The other concept you have you’re not to get too technical is you have what’s called a lot of short sellers out there on these stocks. And what happens is, if a stock price starts going up, there’s a short squeeze, which means that the short sell was the people who sold the stock and don’t own it are saying and their goal is to basically if you sell the stock short, you think the price is going down, you’re going to sell it high and then try and buy it back low. And that’s where your profit is. If the stock price is going up, you have to cover that that short sell. And that’s what happens. A lot of them start covering and that drives the price even higher and drives the momentum and the volume of the of the stock even higher.
They’re very interesting. So let’s, let’s take the wealth of what you learned from the SEC. And you come back now to South Florida. Talk about that transition. What brought you back here
So what ultimately brought me back here is, is my fiancee at the time and now wife was a Floridian and she, she really liked living in Florida. And I really liked Florida and I had great friends down here like yourself and just really liked the lifestyle down here. So, I came back down, I was looking for a firm that would give me the opportunity to do both business litigation, contracts, breach of contract tortious interference, breach of non compete, you know, business fraud, come while called commercial divorces, right to partners in a business don’t get along, and things like that, and allow me to do the securities work from the other side. And so that I came down. And I started working with a firm called at that time it was called to and Garcy Pedroza and it gave me the opportunity to do that and hold my litigations by Business Litigation skills, and learn construction litigation as well. So it was just a great opportunity for me to accomplish all that, you know, and have the access to be able to learn new areas of law, because I think you always want to keep learning.
Well, 100% and we have to give props to Stephanie, who is a badass prosecutor in her own right, who’s had a tremendous legal career, maybe we’ll have to get her on because it’d be very interesting to have a prosecutor on so you can tear up for that, because I’m going to call her I will. I will. Alright, so you come down now. Now what I’m fascinated about is so you come down and the firm you start with is not a huge firm. Now things have sort of evolved and you’ve kind of gone the gambit, because we’ll get to Nelson Mullins, but now you’re part of an 800 Lawyer firm with 25 locations throughout the country. But talk about that transition midsize firm, bigger firms, to a very, very large firm now what what’s the difference in the practice of law.
So the difference is in the when I went to what was tuned Garcy Pedro’s ultimately was to Cardenas, at the end, by the time I had left was what we call boutique litigation firm, it did very high end Business Litigation at a very sophisticated high end level. But you could you could represent you had a lot more flexibility on who your clients may or may not be right because as lawyers, we always have to check for conflicts that no one else in our firm represents the other side that we may be in litigation with. But it really gave me the opportunity what and what I still think was greatest thing is, you know, it puts your feet to the fire right away, you’re either you know, you pour the cement on the shoes, you’re going to sink or swim or learn, you run it the cases where lean and mean it was a partner and an associate, and you had to be familiar and know everything and you had to jump in and, and learn how to be a litigator, you know, right away and learn by doing which I still you know, there, there are different theories on that. But you know, you always want people that are overseeing you and mentoring you and teaching you but it’s great one at a young age, you have the opportunity to do things like that, that was great about the government, they gave me the opportunity to a lot more than a private firm would have when I first went out and this firm to tune Garcy Pedroza gave me the opportunity to do a lot of things early on, exposed me to a lot of things, and I had to learn, I had to become, you know, knowledgeable about and learn things I didn’t know about and forcing me into that situation was great for me personally.
And that’s one of the difficulties I think young lawyers face. And I talk to my students about that a lot. You know, it’s very difficult now, as a litigator, to get into the courtroom, to get cases where you’re actually going to be able to get in there. And why I tell a lot of them, much like you went to the government there, you know, if you can state attorney, the public defender, that’s a good way to get a practice of being in court, because part of the problem now is there’s less and less trials. And then clients want the big dog to try the case. They don’t want to handle it to some underling. And, and so it does get more and more difficult. So, you’re blessed in that regard to have really gotten that baptism of fire.
It was great, I got to work with terrific people. And in about 10 years after getting there I moved to a firm called Broughton Caselle, which was a Florida firm had been around for at that point in time, probably more than 60 years. And that was bigger firm was a Florida based firm, but we have offices all throughout the state. So going into a bigger organization. It didn’t necessarily change my practice area. And what I did accept it basically, the clients became a little bit bigger. And some of the cases that we may have dealt with at the old firm because of conflicts we could no longer do. And then in 2018 Brian Kursaal merged with Nelson Mullins and now Samoens is a national firm and it’s been a great merger very, you know, very similar corporate philosophies. You know, the way the way people look the the people have similar outlooks, they’re very entrepreneurial, but With a big firm, obviously, there’s, you know, there’s more administration. And there’s more potential for conflicts you always have, because other people are representing other, you know, other folks. And when you have 100, plus lawyers, there’s a potential that someone else is representing someone who may be adverse to your potential client. But the amazing thing is, in a big firm like this, and the resources, we have every practice area, I have people with expertise in everything. So, whenever I have questions, I have all kinds of people I can go to, to, you know, to talk about issues. And, you know, the greatest thing and one of the greatest things about practicing was talking to people and getting other ideas, even about cases and about facts and about the law. And when no matter what we do, there are other areas of law, that impact on the case, you know, you may be doing a contract case, but there may be healthcare issue in that contract, there may be a HIPAA issue, you know, on whether certain documents can be disclosed, and how they have to be protected. So, it’s great to have that, that wealth of knowledge to be able to go to or you may have a client that is a litigation client that wants to do a real estate transaction, and you have people that will handle that end of it. So, it’s been great, very calm, you know, complimentary, as far as the people that I work with, I’m really very lucky in that regard.
Fantastic. Well, yeah, Mark, Mark, and I have a very complex conflict check, I asked him, Hey, do you have a conflict with this, he asked me to have a conflict, that pretty much covers it. And then from there, but you bring up a great point, and, and, you know, with a pandemic, and a lot of people started working remotely. And I’ve talked to a lot of lawyers about this. And, you know, lawyers have the ability to function and working remotely. And we’ve seen that with a lot of firms. But what’s missing from that is, I think what you just alluded to, it’s the dialogue of being able to maybe walk down the hallway to talk to somebody else and bounce ideas off of them, or talk to somebody in a different field, that sort of is gone. I mean, it’s there, you can do it technologically. But I think a lot of that sort of natural organic things that happened a law firm, have been kind of taken away from the pandemic, and it’s going to be very interesting to see where things go. So what have you guys done? You know, Are you fully back into the office? Are you hybrid? Or what are you doing?
So we are, I would say, we’re a little bit of a hybrid, you know, technically the goal is to have people back in the offices, but you know, different people have different situations and different comfort levels. And so, and people may have a situation where they have someone at home that’s compromised, or they, you know, during the pandemic, they may have had childcare issues where kids weren’t in school. So it brought up a whole host of issues. So we are, we’re hybrid, mostly, most of our offices are out with most of the people in the office. But that’s not the case at all offices. And in some offices, we have most of the people working are a good number of people, I should say, working remotely. For me, personally, I’m a dinosaur, I always. So, I never stopped coming into the office. I like being in the office, I do better work in the office when I’m separated from being home. And I like to collaborate with people. So when the cases that I was working on the people I was working with, we were in the office, so we were having that collaboration, we were having that discussion, when an idea came up, I would go down the hall and I would talk to my colleague and say, look, what do you think about this? What about that? Here’s what I think we should do? Let’s try it or what do you think of this document I just found take a look at this, or, Hey, you know, the witnesses coming in for a case and I don’t think you can work with a witness unless they’re with you. For me, it’s much better than in front of me. So, you know, the way I would have witnesses always come in to talk with them. And you know, and meet with them. Because I like that, you know, that approach to me is the best way to do it. It’s hard to replicate that video. It’s not impossible, and some people are great at it. But for me, it just worked better with having that collaboration. I think we’re social creatures as especially as litigators, right. We like to be with people. We like to bounce ideas off. And that’s when we do our best work when we’re talking to other people.
100% And we were blessed in that regard in that with a small firm, and we had adequate space. We gave people the option, but yeah, pretty much from day one. I was able to go back in the office, I’m going to park my car, go up the elevator, bring my lunch with me. But there was something about sort of the mechanism of driving to the office, going to the office being in the office. And then yeah, the ability to kick things around because I don’t know about you I often find just verbalizing something. I’ll talk to Mark about it. I’ll be going back and forth. And when I hear it out loud, I either go oh, that’s going to work or Oh, that’s really dumb. Without even getting feedback, you kind of sorted out yourself but but yeah, alone sort of on your keyboard. That’s a lot harder to do.
It is tough. I mean it for me, it is tough when you can, when you can verbalize when you can bounce around ideas when you can, you know, sit with other people, and sometimes just thinking, you know, sometimes it happens at social conversation, you’re not even need to talk about the particular case, but then you have an idea and you’re like, you know, what do you think about this, and it makes a world of difference, I think, to be able to do that. And so the pandemic raised the, you know, a lot of a lot of interesting issues, though. And, you know, for it did cause the, you know, disruption in some regards, still has with, you know, anyways, and but I do think some great things came out of I mean, motion calendar for state court, non evidentiary hearings, motion calendars, probably the greatest thing to do on Zoom, it’s five minutes, you’re not going to the courthouse, it saves the clients money, it saves the attorneys time, it’s a win win for everybody. And, you know, we were allowed to come in at the beginning of the Panda, even though the courts, you know, have been remote. And although they’re getting back to, you know, having trials, because apparently some lawyer must have written the Dade County ordinance, it said the lawyers were essential personnel and could come into business, even during the shutdown.
So I’ll leave it to the lawyer to find the loophole to get everybody there in the midst of a pandemic, but, but we’ve talked about in the past, and I do give a lot of credit, really, the South Florida judiciary, but But I mean, a lot of the state court judges and what they did here in Dade County, they were on the, on the front of a lot of this. And so yeah, those zoom, the efficiency and use of time for the court and the lawyers and to the benefit of the client to have a motion calendar where everybody can be sitting at their office, you know, and knock out a five minute as opposed to going to the courthouse being down there. So it has been and I think you’re right, we’ll draw a lot of interesting things out of that. I want to ask you about something because again, another concept that I find fascinating with what you do. And again, I heard you were going to be receiving that, well, he’s not that tall. But you know, maybe he could make it in the league. And I know you’re a hockey player, but talk about the concept of a receivership. Because I know that’s part of what you’ve done. And you’ve done it in some literally hundreds of millions of dollar transactions that have gone on what is what is a receiver do and how does that come about.
So, a receiver basically comes in at the, at the order of a court generally in cases. So, there are many instances where many situations where it can come about. And actually in Florida, we have a statute called the Uniform Commercial Real Estate receivers act for property cases where a court can appoint a receiver, it had been equitable in nature. Before that, in a lot of ways in that the courts have the equal power to appoint a receiver, the receiver comes in in a very broad, high level receiver will come in, and the receiver will essentially be put in charge of a situation whether it’s a group of companies or a business. And the idea of the receiver basically, is to make the best decision for that, for that business or that or that property. In the Florida Statute. in federal court, many times, a federal judge will appoint a receiver, the SEC, or the FTC, or CFTC, will sue somebody for fraud, maybe they were maybe there was a Ponzi scheme that was going on. And they will say, Judge, we need to have the agency will say we need to have received or appointed. So the herd can marshal the assets is kind of one of the points that the phrases that’s used a lot, that means there’s a lot of people that have been defrauded here, let’s find out what assets are still there, because assets evaporate and those fraud cases, Marshal those assets, figure out how to recover additional monies for the benefit of the estate. And ultimately, hopefully, for those, you know, defrauded investors in that type of situation. In a property situation, it’s trying to figure out the best way to continue, you know, to run that property, collect the rents make and there are other parties involved, there may be a bank that has a mortgage in it. And then a lot of times it can come about by, you know, the bank action. So the receiver comes in in Florida and we have statutes that allow folks to recover monies for called fraudulent transfers. And that means if something has been at a very high level transferred without value to try and either defraud creditors or for you know without value at a time when the entity was insolvent, and the receivers a lot of times will bring what are called callback cases in these fraud case and say, You know what, you got paid out money, but you know, John Smith over here, didn’t get paid out money and they’re down that money, you got paid out more than you put in. So that money has to come back to the estate to be divvied out or I was receiver over a group of companies in the healthcare industry. At one point in time. We actually kept operating those companies and ultimately gave the defrauding shareholders interests in those companies, as well as pursuit litigation, recover additional monies to distribute out to those folks to try and make them as you know, get them as much money back as possible. ball or in this situation, like I said the property to keep the property running to put it back on its feet, make sure it’s been administered responsibly. And then the report to the court.
So you’re sort of appointed by the court and then work for the court, correct back and say, here’s how we sort of assess it. But it’s fascinating because it it gets to be I guess, so multi technical, because you talk about, you know, the drawbacks. Well, all of those sort of spun off into their own almost little litigation. Right.
Right. They are they are each their own separate litigation. I mean, you try and do without litigation. And but if you can’t, you will pretend it’s the appropriate case. And the facts of the law are on your side, you did some litigation and litigation may be for other things in addition to the drawbacks, you know, in connection with those cases, but the business background, at least for me, was a great asset in in serving as receiver and representing receivers. Because understanding how businesses work, even financial statements and an operations and having that law degree background of you know, of issue spotting was a great combination, because ever see everywhere, a lot of hats, you’re reporting, you’re appointed by the court, you report to the court, you’re essentially you know, working for the court, and trying to do the best you can to get money back for the investors or right to ship, if it’s some other type of receivership. But it is you wear a lot of hats here, you know, trying to litigate, you’re trying to potentially run a business and keep the business, if it’s a viable business, you want to keep that business running, and hopefully spin it off on the other side of the receivership. So, it can continue to be a viable business just because something bad happened, the business may be, it may still be a good idea. And there may be value to it. And you don’t want to, you want to try and protect as many people as you can, you know, employees and things like that also. So, you wear a lot of hats. And it’s a fascinating process.
Well, you’re also I would guess, a little bit of a King Solomon, and that you’re trying to sort of balance the fairness in that versus what you’re spending sort of scorched earth to go after everybody out there when, you know, yeah, I guess you’ve got to make a determination, what ultimately is recoverable, so that you’re not just wasting resources chasing something and not being able to recoup?
Now, great. It’s a great point. I mean, you have to make economic decisions the whole time, you may have a great case, but you may not be able to recover $1, you may get a piece of paper if you want, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. So you have to make economic decisions on what is, you know, going to be the best use of usually very limited resources that you have, and so that you’re constantly making those decisions. And that’s both on deciding whether to bring a case, whether it’s Bible, whether it’s collectible, and whether to settle a case, you know, and what levels make sense because of the same determinations.
So what do you find, and it may not, you may not be able to sort of tell me an average, but in cases that you’ve been involved in and have others, where there’s a receivership and a lot of people have been defrauded to us what sort of percentage do you see of recovery for the people that were defrauded? You know, is it a 30? Is it a 50? Is it a 10? You know, where does that sort of rank out?
It really depends. Each case is different on the cases that I’ve seen, or the cases that I’ve watched others be involved in, I mean, it, you know, unfortunately, there are some cases where there’s no money, the money is it is gone, it has been stolen, it has been sent offshore, and there may and it may be very limited on who you may be able to pursue to recover monies and it doesn’t you don’t have the resources or it doesn’t make economic sense, all the way to, you know, cases like in the in the made off litigation, there were significant dollars that were recovered for invest. Now, there was one very big recovery out of Florida, actually, that was in the multiple billions of dollars that, you know, helped that a lot. I’ve had a receivership where we’ve been north of you know, we’re north of 50%. You know, usually, so it runs the gamut. It can be it really it generally is never and very, very, very rarely ever anything close to 100, we usually see them trend somewhere between five cents to 25 cents in the area. That’s why we’re real proud of the one where we’re north of 50% on the dollar, and we’re still going at present, but each case depends on the facts on what assets may be there and what claims may be available and who you can bring those claims against them. How you know whether you can recover anything from those folks, so they collectible.
Well, Danny, listen, we could we could talk about this because I’m fascinated by it. Because again, something I know very little about. And so to kind of learn this and see the scope of what goes on is really fascinating. But unfortunately we’re running out of time but I think we’ve established enough, you know, given your expertise and you’re just a good guy to, you know, that we might be able to move you off the kill list. And so hopefully we’ll get the general consensus on that.
Well, I appreciate that. And I really thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. First of all, you know, I love speaking with you in general. So it’s always great to see you. And, you know, it’s great conversation this morning. So thanks for giving me the opportunity.
And anytime, and I will also point out to Danny is what’s your role now and in the alumni.
The income I will be I am the president elect. So next year, I will be the incoming president of the US law Alumni Association.
Fantastic. And I’m blessed along with Danny and others that we’ve got a core of people that got three decades hard, hard to believe, graduated from law school three decades ago, that still call each other friends, which is great, get together frequently. And more importantly, I’m able to pick up the phone and get some really good advice from you, which I rely on and often do. Now, same
here and the stories that our dinners keep getting better. Same story.
The lies, the lies get longer, the stories get better. Yeah, it is. It is it would be fun to chart it out, you know, the 10 and 2030. Because it is the same story. But it’s amazing how 30 years and now it’s a much better story than it was.
It is it is amazing.
We’ve got a cast of characters and I appreciate it. Danny really appreciate spending time today. Partner Nelson Mullins fantastic firm that seems to be growing and growing. And just good luck with all of that and we will definitely see you soon my friend.
Thank you very much. Thanks again. I’ll talk to you soon.
You got it. All right. That’s it for this week. Next week. We will continue on our quest not to kill all the lawyers. Have a great week and we’ll see you next time!
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. That phrase Shakespeare wrote back in the 15th century that was uttered by Dick the butcher to raucous laughter and applause, which today still people kind of go…. not a bad idea. Although one of the things I love about it now this show is getting a little bit of traction, I get all these calls from lawyers saying “you know, that was actually a flattering thing”. I think today, they still might laugh and thinking killing all lawyers is a good start. I’m David Heffernan and I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in South Florida for the past 30 years now, which is scary to think about.
The goal behind these shows, is to bring in lawyers from varying walks of life and fields of practice, and talk about different areas of law, get to know some of these lawyers a little bit and maybe one by one, we’ll just start checking a few of these people off of the kill list. And my guest this morning, and I’m just absolutely thrilled to have because we had dinner with a lot of our classmates last night from the 1991, graduating class at UVM Law School, which is where I met this gentleman. We’ve been friends for 30 years, one of my best friends, and one of the top maritime and Admiralty lawyers in the country. Chip Birthisel.
Thanks, Dave, that’s awfully nice stuff to say. And I wouldn’t come on before because I didn’t want to be killed.
Well, the goal here today is maybe we get you moved off that list, one at a time. So, one of the things that I think is fascinating about you, and I want to get into what maritime and Admiralty law is, and everything else, and again, that’s, we could spend a week talking about it. But one of the things I think is amazing about you is your story. And I and I want to go back, I want to go way back to a 17-year-old kid that wasn’t quite sure where he was going in life. Was he going to be a dropout surfer? What was he going to do and, and made a pretty critical decision? So, talk about the decision you made at 17. And then I want to talk about the benefits that came out of that.
Well, it’s kind of funny, I at 17, I was dropped out of high school. I didn’t see myself really going anywhere. My parents I was fifth generation Floridian my parents made the mistake to move me to Fort Worth, Texas, which was a long way from the coast that was a young surfer kid lived up in Cocoa Beach, Florida. So, we went out to Texas, I didn’t like it a whole lot, I figured the best way to get out of there would be to join the service. So, I joined the Coast Guard, which actually got me wide goal to go to California and surf and get around the country. Every place there was a coast and surf. And so that’s how I’ve gotten
out now at least we know the motivation was I’ll join somewhere where I can go surf. That was
part of it. The other part of it was that the drummer for my band that I had back then in Texas, we broke up, he went back to Florida because he had some family issues. And so, the band broke up and I had to go and get a real job.
All right, well, we’re going to look at a long-storied career with the Coast Guard. But one of the things I think is amazing is the way you took advantage of the opportunities. So, you’re a near high school dropout. But while you’re in the Coast Guard, you’re afforded the opportunity to get an undergraduate degree.
Yeah, you know, I got to tell you back then it was a, I joined I wanted to boot I went to boot camp in January of 1975. It’s a different world back then entirely. The military was a was a land of opportunity. I went in as a high school dropout made rate as fast as I possibly could move up, you know, enlisted ranks as fast as I possibly could. So, I started out as an E one. And then I retired 21 years later, as a lieutenant commander with a law degree. So, during that time that I was in, I was able to finish high school number one. Number two, went to University of San Francisco and got an undergraduate degree at night on the VA, then went to Johns Hopkins and got a master’s degree at night on the VA when I was stationed in Washington. And then the Coast Guard selected me for the law program, after I served on a fast patrol boat out of Miami. And, and I went to Miami and that’s where we met.
That’s where we met, and I can’t believe it’s 30 years ago. But was nice to have dinner with a bunch of the boys last night we are blessed to have a core of friends that go back that long. And I mean, we do it, you’re nice enough to come in from Tampa. But we have dinners every three months or so. And it’s just it’s amazing to see those guys.
It really is. It’s hard to believe it’s probably harder for you guys to believe 3030 years have passed than it is for me. I’m a bit I was the oldest guy out of the bunch. And so, I feel it a little more every morning. You guys do, but no, it is it is outstanding.
Alright, so let’s talk about that. So, the Coast Guard gives you an opportunity to get an incredible education. When you finish with law school, what was your commitment then? Because then you go to naval justice, right?
I did the commitment out of law school was five years. In fact, I had some people kind of fight me when I went in, that I didn’t have more time than that coming out of law school to serve in the Coast Guard. Because I only served the five-year commitment before I retired because I decided I wanted to retire at 38. So, I served in a capacity, as you knew, litigating and basically defending kids that were Why say kids, Coast Guard people, I was stationed with a Navy, I’ve defended Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps officers and then listed people at courts martial, a whole bunch of them, like hundreds over the years. I also prosecuted some of those. Then I went and I was the Coast Guard’s designated lawyer at justice at the Admiralty and aviation litigation section in Washington, which travelled around the country basically, on the east coast. There’s one on the West Coast as well, but traveled on the east coast and the Gulf Coast doing cases for the United States, typically, oil spill cases and defending the United States where they’re being sued for personal injury, wrongful death, that sort of thing. Usually, the Coast Guard would, you know, if somebody died in a rescue or whatever, they would sue us, right? So, you know, I did I did that for a couple years, and it was a perfect opportunity to go ahead and, and head out. So, I retired back in 19. I’ve been retired for 25 years now.
More importantly, during that time of prosecuting and defending Did you ever get a general on the stand and say, I want the truth? It’s not quite glamorous.
So tremendous opportunities, you retire a full commission Lieutenant Commander at the ripe old age of 38. And now set up and run your firm which you’re the one of the founding partners of Hamilton Miller and Bertha so let’s talk about now transitioning from sort of the military into now the real world and as I said in the intro, it’s maritime and Admiralty. So, what does that mean?
Admiralty is a body of law that deals with ships and shipping. Primarily, maritime is a broader concept it can also involve environmental and, and a variety of other things that just have to do with the water. So, by the time I retired from the Coast Guard between one of the things I didn’t mention in there is that when I was operational in the Coast Guard, you can’t just typically go be a lawyer, at least you couldn’t back then you can kind of now. But you had to transfer in and out of operational commands, which meant, in my day, since I wasn’t an aviator, that you had to drive ships, which is fun. I mean, so I got to drive ships for years. big ships, little ships, not aircraft carrier writings, but you know, the Atari 200 foot 200 plus and 373 178 foot destroyer, escort class vessels and that sort of thing. So, so I got to really, I grew up on boats as a kid. And then I did the Coast Guard thing for 21 years. So, it was almost like I was training my whole life to become if I was going to be a lawyer to become a maritime lawyer, right? And that’s kind of where I ended up. And it really has helped most of the people that I have associated with in my firm that I have had responsibility for hiring have had prior experience my friend, Jules Massey, who’s my partner over in Tampa, he was a fort Schuyler graduate at the maritime Academy in New York. Sail professionally for years. We’ve got you know, various licensed captains that work for us on pleasure craft, we got various my partner, Jennifer Siebold, has been on boats our whole life over in Cortez. So it kind of enabled me to form my own world of people that really knew the point in from the square into the round and if you will, and practice the law with a firm understanding in the Admiralty and maritime realm of what is going on the water.
Well and in in your practice, I mean, you do lots of consulting work and everything else. With shipping companies and you and I were kind of chatting coming over here. You know, other than then sort of the advancement of ships getting bigger and maybe faster and everything else, the world still relies on shipping to move everything around the world. We’re now in a position where supply chain has now become a household word, because people go, What can’t get anything? Oh, its supply chain, you know, what does that mean? Well, it means there’s 100 cargo ships, and we can’t get them unloaded and everything’s jam. So, talk about kind of just what that encompasses when you start working in that because it’s, you’re talking about countries around the world. I mean, you know, international trade back and forth with everything. So, what’s the type of work you do? And who are your clients?
Well, that’s funny, because I have a real general maritime practice, meaning I do a lot of work, defense work for marine insurers who assigned me to defend people, if you have an incident here on in Biscayne Bay, for instance, where somebody hurt or killed or whatever, or even just property damage, I’ll get hired by the insurance company, typically to represent the insured, which is the person who owns the boaters involved in the accident typically, and, and help them you know, defend them in court. And whatever the lawsuit is. The maritime world as part of that also encompasses because marine insurance deals with Surface Transportation as well. All the goods moving across this country by truck, all are insured by inland marine policies of some sort. I didn’t know that. So basically, everything that moves in this country or into this country and around this country, is if it’s insured is insured by some form of marine insurance policy. Even some of the aviation insurance is marine insurance. So, it’s a broad, it’s a broad, overall transportation perspective. This whole supply chain thing that we’re dealing with these days really is I think it really opened people’s eyes when the Suez Canal thing happened, right? And it’s like, well, you know, how can this one ship stuff? Well, first of all, how can you get you’re
going to get stuck? I mean, the layman sitting there going, are you driving the ship, and then I see a picture and it’s jammed into the bank. I’m like, that’s the drunk guy, you know, trying to dock his boat at Matheson not the professional Captain crossing the Suez Canal.
Well, you would think that and its but you know, stuff happens. Things like the Concordia, for instance, when that kind of stuff where you’re just kind of messing around, apparently, and not paying attention. It can happen just like you’re driving down Dixie Highway and not paying attention. Anything can happen. So, but I think everybody saw the importance of that, but it the Suez of transportation in the Suez Canal, particularly transportation by water, one ship stuck in the Suez Canal, can affect shipping worldwide for months, maybe even years, right. The backup in Long Beach right now and the other ports throughout the United States is an issue. The reason why that’s an issue too, is because we you know, in order to get the ship around here, economically, you got to go through a canal. Well, you know, shippers want to build bigger ships, and you can’t build bigger ships, unless you have big enough canals to get them through my site. It’s like you can’t get an 18 Wheeler across this country unless you have an interstate or decent size highway to get the thing across. So, it’s exacerbated not only by the fact that the ships are tied up in in or anchored off of Long Beach trying to get in. And it’s the problem that they’re having out there, I believe is primarily a labor problem, they can’t get enough or labor in space problem, they can’t get enough people in to offload those containers, right. And they got no place to put them once they offload them. Because if they’re not going to keep them on the on the port, there going to be have to go be dragged somewhere else to dredge which takes trucks, right so you got to have truck drivers to do that. And then once they get there, the Amazon guys got to hook up to that chassis and take it across the country wherever it’s got to go. And we all know that that’s there’s a huge shortage there. I’m in the I’m in the scope right now of are in the throes of trial. I just bought a new house few months ago when a new house it’s an old new house and I’m trying to get things fixed and repaired and you can’t get you can’t know anything to do it. I mean, it took me six months to get grass in my front yard. They almost threw me out of the neighborhood. So, everything that we do including aviation cargo relies on that aviation cargo is limited Of course by size, and weight. Things that move into this this town every single day by aviation modes are basic like flowers, fresh flowers get flown in every single day, right cruise lines and hotels and Disney and all that kind of stuff. But Everything else is moving my ships somewhere some form.
Alright. One of the things that fascinates me about Admiralty law is the ability to arrest the vessel. And I know you’ve been involved in that. And we always joke, you know how to get handcuffs big enough and everything else. But talk about that process because again, I think that that when people look at an Admiralty law, it’s so critical to have somebody with your expertise on it not only expertise, but connections as well, because it’s me it’s an archaic system. And that if you don’t understand the nuances of it, and you know, I mean, even on simple maritime things, the cases I’ve handled, and I’ve had plenty over the years, I’ll generally affiliate with a maritime council just to make sure we’re doing the right things. And we’re position because I want to do the service to my client that way, and I’m just talking about, you know, small boat cases or deaths or cruise line. But when you talk about the Admiralty law talking about arresting vehicles, how does that come about?
Well, that’s one thing about the maritime law is that it is archaic, and it’s, it’s, it’s got its roots. Back in the laws of old around, which is, you know, ancient laws. The laws are, frankly, somewhat consistent throughout the world with things like vessel arrests, and then so forth. Because we’re one big shipping world vessel arrest came about or the ability to arrest a vessel, the maritime law sees a vessel as an entity as a thing as a person, right. So that person can commit a tort, it can, it can be negligent, it can be, it can, it can purchase fuel, and not pay for it, and have to ultimately be arrested to pay for the fuel. So, what happens in vessel arrest, which is typically which is typically a primarily an only actually a federal court process and right entry, is you. Let’s say you chip shipped and pay for its fuel, you go down to the federal courthouse, you file a complaint against the vessel, you have the marshals mount up and ride down there and do what they call stickering. The vessel, they tie it up wherever it is, you put a custodian on board, and they take care of the vessel. And then the litigation begins over what is going to become of it who owes who owes what. And ultimately, the vessel because it’s like a person is ultimately responsible and can be sold at a marshal sale to pay the debt. Okay. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s about money. It’s about pain. Same thing in a personal injury case you can there a seaman, for instance, can arrest a vessel, it rarely happens, right? typically what happens is the threat of arrest allows the vessel owning company and or its insurer to step up and post either a letter of undertaking or a bond, which is just you know, as good cash. It’s like this, and we’re good for this and allow the vessel to sail because the vessel not sailing. Yeah. is huge money.
Yeah, I imagine you get the owners or the companies attention pretty quickly. When that vehicle now season, there’s marshals and they can’t move it anymore.
So as part of the maritime thought process, you always have to be thinking about what kind of exposures there are under old maritime principles like a rest that you typically don’t have to think about. And so, it is good to ask your maritime buddy a question if you got one. Absolutely. And an affiliate, because it’s, there are lots of little traps out there.
Well, one of the other things that that you see in maritime law, and again, the significance of it, is much like you see a lot of times with trucking cases and everything else. When things go bad. They go really bad. Okay. I mean, you know, they’re generally not little fender benders between two tankers. So talk about the scope of that. And I mean, you can talk a little bit of your own experience. I mean, I know you handled, and we’re a key part of the team, and so far, oh, you know, horrible, horrible case where that ship goes down and you’ve got deaths and all of that. How does that get orchestrated and done because you guys were able to resolve all of those claims, right?
We were and including the cargo claims, because you know, it’s not just the the horrible fact of losing crew members and family members. And that was a horrible thing. It was it was, I was proud to have been part of that, and allowed to be part of it was on the liability side for the company. There was a team of lawyers that was that was affiliated with that. And they were all run by the mike Holt, who was the head of tow At the time, the head legal guy at Toad at the time and he just did a super job of just keeping everybody in their lane keeping that many lawyers in their own room in a case like herding cats It really is. And he did a remarkable job at doing that. And you know, it’s funny sometimes the bigger cases are almost easier because there’s so many eyes on it that it must be watched carefully. I always tell my people when I do train with them and whatnot, and teach is that is that little case in the corner that little nothing $6,000 cargo case that’s just you don’t pay attention to right that’s the one that’s going to bite you.
Yeah, that’s the one because he’s not getting eyes at the top level yet. I mean, you get you get a disastrous event. You’re getting the people that need to be looking at it. Not the people down here that Yeah, yeah, we’ll deal with it. And I’ve been
really fortunate throughout my career when I was in the Coast Guard at justice. I was the lead counsel on the Tampa Bay oil spill case, which was huge and kind of allowed me ultimately way down the road to find my way back to Tampa. And as my justice job got me around the country and got to know all the other defense lawyers and a lot of the plaintiffs’ lawyers around the country in Admiralty so that the Coast Guard was just an absolute I know this is recruiting commentary for the Coast Guard Oh, no,
no, it’s just a bit but I like to look at it and I tell a lot of people your story just because I go listen in this is a kid truly at the crossroads that took advantage now don’t get me wrong, Coast Guard got what 28 years out of here, whatever. So, it’s not a matter of taking advantage like you won something from them. So pretty fair trade. But the fact that you were able to go undergraduate graduate law school, and then retire at a young age a fully commissioned lieutenant commander is an impressive story
with a pension 100% Well, you know, the cool thing I didn’t healthcare benefits, well, that’s, you know, you don’t really trust me, when you’re when you’re when you’re when you’re 20. Right. You don’t realize how important those health benefits are. When you
write and premiums are made for my firm, you realize how important
Me too, so it really is significant. And I was I was commenting the other day about how lucky I’ve been to be involved in certain things I was involved in now farro I was involved in most of the post open 90 big cases that came about after that legislation was written and passed. So, I did a whole bunch of oil spill stuff and then go off go figure once all this oil spill legislation was passed, and things were put in place that were much better than the Clean Water Act and that kind of stuff. The pollution incident stop course I’m speaking a little bit out of term because of what just happened.
I was going to say, have you read what happened in California? Yeah,
but it’s I’ve been fortunate enough. I was talking to my partner, Jules, who I mentioned earlier. And I remember when I persuaded Jules 16 years ago to come to work when I left a large firm and formed my own firm with Jerry and open the Tampa office. I talked to Jules about coming with me. So he and I were having, I know you’re going to find this hard to believe a beer few months ago, and I said, Well, since
you said, it’s singular. Yeah, I find it hard to believe. I said,
I said, Jules, did you ever think when you accepted my offer to come to work with me, instead of taking the offer from the bigger firms because he had all kinds of opportunities? I said, did you ever think that you would have had the opportunity to be involved in the Alfaro? Did you ever think that you know, which is probably the single largest, you know, maritime disaster in the past 100 years, right? I said, did you think that you’d ever go to the Supreme Court of the United States, which we did, about almost 10 years ago now, I got to tell you sitting in that room, and with the nine justices on a table on the other side, is an impressive play, I would imagine. So, I never figured I’d be doing that. But those kinds of things. arcs are exciting, and I’ve had an opportunity to do those even in addition to just meeting a lot of the work that I do nowadays, as I get older is yachts. I do a lot of mega yacht and superyacht sales and transactions and forming corporations and doing that kind of stuff in the Caymans. That’s exciting stuff because it gets to it takes me to places that are cool, I mean, I get to go to London a lot I get to go to Monaco I get to go to places where you know yachts are and that’s fun. So, it’s not just cargo, and personal injury and death and there’s a lot of fun sexy stuff to it too. And that my practice fortunately I’ve been able to do all of that
was talk a little bit about your firm Hamilton, Hamilton Miller and Bertha sell. I know all you guys well. ton of respect for the firm. Kind of talking about the formation of that and what you own. We’ve kind of talked about what you do, and I know Tampa is more specified to that. But what does the firm do in general?
The firm is a general litigation firm. It didn’t begin that way. Jerry, and Jen, Jerry Hamilton and Jen Miller, my primary partners from Tampa, I mean, I’m sorry, from Miami. I met them when we were all at a other maritime firm back in the mid 90s. color and how, in Miami, I went my way, I was one of the first people to head to a different place for that firm when it was when I was breaking up. And Jerry ended up kind of staying with that until we formed Hamilton, Miller and Bertha. So back in September, I got word from actually from mark out from Colin out that that Jerry was going to be leaving and they were going to be doing something else. So, I called Jerry said, you know, we should get together and do something. So we did Jerry has traditionally, he’s, first of all, just a great litigator, and a trial lawyer, and but he was doing a lot of cruise ship stuff because of the Miami right a lot of cruise ship stuff, a lot of Disney stuff, a lot of if you read about a case over in Jamaica, Jerry’s Jamaican, if you read about a case over in the islands somewhere where something went horribly wrong, and there were people, you know, flying down a mountainside on a little train or something like that, Jerry was usually right in the middle of that not driving the train. Well, I
met Jerry years ago, handling a cruise line case. And it was funny because somebody dug up the transcript of a deposition, we had find a captain or whatnot, and it had to be taken on a Saturday or whatnot. And let’s just say, Jerry, and I might have been a little contentious with a surprise during the scope of that deposition. But I got to know Jerry through that, and again, got to see and appreciate what a good litigation litigator he is, you know, and we went at it head to head and ultimately came to a resolution on it, but it was one of those, you walked away where you’re kind of like, I hate that guy. And then you go, but I really respected you know, that. And that’s kind of in the relationship with with Jerry and, and and Jen. So that firm, thriving and doing very, very well, what he kind of looking back, and I know we’re not at the end of this career by any stretch. But what do you look back that gives you great sense of satisfaction or pride when you look at what you’ve done as a lawyer.
You know, I think that, to be honest with you probably the most, the most satisfying work I did was in the Coast Guard getting kids out of trouble, right? When I was in the Coast Guard, doing that defense work, because kids make mistakes they do. And I made a mistake or two and, and but for the forgiveness that was inherent in the system now or then, which may not be as inherent in the system. Now. I was allowed to continue on and have a very successful career. I think everybody deserves that opportunity. I had a kid that I got out of some real trouble. And I won’t go into the details. But he was facing serious jail time. And I won his case. And it was a full-blown trial before a jury in Puerto Rico. I got a Christmas card from that kid for 10 years. Yeah, after that. And you know that those are the ones that are really the satisfying ones. I mean, the I in fact, I think I mentioned this to you last night, what I would really like to do in the last 10 years. And of course, the problem with being my age is that 10 the last 10 years is creeping up on you pretty quick. But I’d like to spend the more
generous, I’ll just say you’re on the back nine. I’ll give you a whole my last night.
I appreciate it. Because, you know, it’s probably more like the perhaps the last quarter Yeah, well, I don’t want to make this two more. But what I’d really like to be able to do and what I feel like I’ve since I’ve had such good opportunities and blessings, as I like to spend the last 10 years of my life working with some organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and people like that, to try and help clean up some of the plastics in the ocean. We got to that’s something we got to do something about. And, you know, I have lots of clients out there that have probably, you know, been part of the prospect as as the as the military, right dumping stuff at sea and, and I’d like to in the last part of my career be part of the solution. And that’d be my legacy, rather than just moving money from one side of the desk to the other.
It is nice to see that that the world is sort of waking up to the fact that we can’t just throw things in the ocean. Like that’s not the dumping ground and it’s while it covers two thirds of the world, it’s still limited to what we’re at and it has a huge impact so
they can’t find they’re not finding any fish that comes out of the ocean these days without microplastics in their, in their, in their gut somewhere and it’s just, it’s just horrible. We’re killing we’re killing our planet. Yes, we
are slowly but guys, that’s the only hug I’m going to do on the tree today. Guys, guys, like you hopefully can start to save that planet a little bit. But listen, I really enjoy spending time with you. This is always easy. We do this whether there’s a camera or microphone or not anyway, but I appreciate you coming in childbirth, the cell again, one of the top maritime and Admiralty guys in the country. And I know that firsthand, because I’ve watched it. And I’ve watched the ability of this guy to be able to pick up the phone and talk to guys with lots of stars on their shoulders, that a lot of people don’t have that connection to and so been a pleasure. Hopefully here’s one we can sort of just take them off the list, you know, put them into the good guy category. And we won’t kill all the lawyers. We’ll save this one. I’m David Heffernan. We’ll see you next week. Thanks, Dave.
Welcome back to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan, I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in South Florida for nearly three decades. And the thought behind this show is that quoted Shakespeare line from the 15th century, which drew a lot of chuckles when it was issued, still rubs true today, sometimes you bring it up, and people have got their images of lawyers and whatnot. And so, goal here is to talk to Donald has been local lawyers, we’re going to have a little fun today we’re branching out beyond South Florida. But to bring you a fantastic lawyer, a very good friend of mine, and probably just a better human being. But clearly one we’re going to be able to take off the kill list was all when all is said and done. Let me bring in Martin Rubenstein, who is the managing partner of Levy, Balldante Finney & Rubenstein in Philadelphia.
Good morning, great catching up with you, brother, you know that it’s, it’s always fun. So, if this is an excuse to catch up, we’re going to do it. So, let’s talk a little bit about first just out of curiosity, you going to law school? What was behind that? Was this a family thing? Was this something you always wanted to do? What drew you into the law?
So, I actually, I had always thought about the law. I think that my father who passed away last year, had a gift of subtly delivering messages to his kids. And he did that with me. So, I’ll give him a lot of credit for that. And then when I was in high school, I was at best a mediocre student, mainly, I just had an interest in other things. I think we all know about that stage of life. You know, on the preset. I was a senior, and I had a homeroom teacher, which means that’s the person who just makes sure you’re showing up, right? She was cut truthfully, she was kind of a kind of a floozy, everybody knew it, that that’s the way she was. She came up to me one day in class and said, hey, guess what? You’re on my speech and debate team. I said, really, like since when she said, since right now I just looked at your grades, you need it. So, she immediately you know, guilted, me intimidated me. And the first thing that she asked me to do was to write a persuasive paper. This is 1974, okay. And it was about the Arab Israeli conflict. She gave me a book, and she and this is on the heels of the Six Day War from that lady. She gives me a book and she says, and by the way, you know, I’m Jewish, she says, you’ll take the Arab side. And, you know, I really, like what are you kidding me, and she said, in her comment was the other side’s too easy, you’re going to take the Arab side, so kind of forced me to be an advocate for something, maybe I didn’t believe it. And I really felt that was like a major moment for me, like, going through that. And I stayed with her. And I was not a particularly good speaker at that point in my life and she had me going to these speech tournament’s, we’d have to speak for 15 minutes in front of these judges. So it was a wonderful experience, and coupled with my, you know, my father’s not so subtle, you know, suggestions to me, that’s kind of what led to it, I always want to, unlike you, Dave, and I know this about you, because you and I’ve done this together for 17 years, you and I always have tried to help those who need it. Usually, it’s the end, it’s always the individuals, it’s the little guys, and, and taking on the bigger people has always just made it more fun,
hotter percent, and we’re going to leave into that. So. So you’ve been doing that taking on the big guy and representing that individual for close to 40 years in Philadelphia, and Mass Torts and nationwide. So, let’s talk a little bit about your practice. Because I’d like to talk today about mass torts. And I know that’s been a big emphasis, your practice is what draw it got you and I connected. And, and the beauty of that is, you know, you make these relationships through litigation, and then you look at, you know, 17 years or whatever it’s been, you know, still very close friends. As a result of that, so, so let’s go back a little bit, um, mass torts. A lot of people, you know, they think, Oh, well, it’s class action. Well, it’s it’s a separate animal. So what is a mass tort?
So basically, there are many situations that occur, where there’s one particular problem or one particular defect or one particular type of behavior that injures 1000s and 1000s of people. I mean, just for current examples, a medication or a medical device that was just recalled two months ago, made by Philips called the C pap machines. Well, they recalled all these machines dating back 2009 particularly Models because they contain a certain plastic that can be carcinogenic. So, all these people who’ve been using it now we’re now looking at their medical histories and realizing Well, I have some of that is that related? Well, there’s 1000s and 1000s of people who purchased it. So, two things will happen. One is, many of those people will come and hire you or me or lawyers like us. And we represent those people individually. We are part of a mass tort, meaning there may be hundreds of lawyers around the country who represent these people. But each of these people have an individual lawyer. class action, which is also taking place with Phillips is that a group of lawyers will try to take the lead and say, well, there’s a lot of issues that will come up and every single one of these cases, we’re going to take the lead and file a class action and ask the court to say that we can represent everybody in the country. So, there’s somewhat of a conflict there, do these few lawyers get to represent everybody? Or do these other guys like Dave Heffernan and Marty Rubenstein get to represent everybody. And as it works out, there’s usually a combination, we work together, there’s benefits to the class action, and there’s bet and there’s the need for people to be represented individually attained at the supreme court does not like class action settlements, where people have been injured, because they worried that if they approve a class action settlement, and people continue to be injured, or the money will be gone, and later victims whenever we get, you know, never get compensated.
Well, and that’s, that’s one of the criticisms I think that you hear, particularly with class actions. Because so many times there’s class actions that are really lawyer driven. And at the end of the day, what you see is lawyers making a whole bunch of money, and the relief that goes to the quote unquote victims is a coupon or something here. So, you know, one of the things with mass torts and and you’re, you’re generally dealing with pretty significant injuries, okay. And, and you and I went back, and that’s how we met. And there’s a lot that goes on in Philadelphia, because you got a lot of pharmaceutical companies there. So, you got to you got to reach out and connect with a Philadelphia lawyer, which, which we did back then. And so let’s just kind of talk about how that works from the pharmaceutical and how would a mass tort start? And how does that work out where, you know, again, lawyers can level the playing field because of one on one, if we want to take on, you know, a major pharmaceutical company, it’s nearly impossible?
Well, I think you have to start with two pieces. One is financial, the cost of litigating against pharmaceutical companies. And then second are that along with that are the resources to people. So just as an example, the last case that was tried, and I’ll say round up, the legal cost of trying that case was not in the hundreds of 1000s of dollars, it was over a million dollars, right. And, as we both know, personal injury litigation, we represent people who’ve been injured, if it’s a serious case, they’re not working, they may have no income, they may have no assets. You know, though, when people are injured, it can be anybody from any walk of life. So lawyers like you and I, and our firms, we need to we need to finance those cases, we literally need to underwrite the substantial costs of it. Well, no matter how successful you know we are, we’re not going to quite match up with the trillion dollar pharmaceutical company like not we’re on our way but when hundreds of firms around the country a lie together, we share that common expense of putting the case together. And there’s two levels to it. One is fake, you know, when there’s a product that’s been recalled off the market, we still have to prove what’s wrong with that product, the laws in each state are a little different, we have to prove it’s defective either and the way it’s made, the way it’s designed or the warnings about it, so that you know the doctors can’t necessarily prescribe it safely. And then there’s of course, the individuals, each individual has his own his or her own story about how they’ve been injured, what they’ve gone through, and they need individual attention. So, when we combine together, all of a sudden it’s not David and Goliath. You know, it’s the pharmaceutical companies would like you to believe that groups like us are bigger than that, which is a miracle. But um, but it does level it. It we have, we certainly have enough resources and talent around the country. And we work together so that we can put together a very strong case where it where it needs to be, needs to be advanced for these people. And we do it all the time.
And then and that resource. I mean, it’s also not just the financial. But again, the resources because what you’re talking about in pharmaceutical litigation is millions upon millions of pages of documents. And so to be able to create depositories to share paralegals that are reviewing and collating all of that, so that it’s workable for the lawyers is critical as well. I mean, firms have to be able to work together to do this. No
question. One of the interesting things for me, and it’s kind of a good segue for how you and I met, is that in these mass torts, there may be 1000s of claims, I mean, I could rip off some of the drug names and 100,000 90,020 35,000 within that, those 1000s of claims, vetting it down to figure out well, whose case really fits what the problem is, with this drug. A lot of people may take a drug and have a problem. But it might not be the problem. That’s really, the reason for the recall, could be something totally unrelated. But most people might not understand that. But once the lawyers get involved in the case, as we have we, we have to learn the science, we have to learn what really are the criteria to figure out who is most likely to have proof that they used the medication, that they were injured, and by that medication in the way that the problem with the medication likely had caused. So if you don’t mind, I just wanted to digress. But even that confused us. So you know, you look you and I met in the early 2000s. mass tort was the big pharmaceutical, I’m not going to mention a name because I think our settlement was confidential.
I think so too. So, let’s, let’s not breach,
nervous to get sued right now. So, we’ll bring in, you know, trial lawyer from Florida already was handling a case on behalf of this very compelling woman married to a Vietnam War vet, she was in Missouri, in St. Louis. And unfortunately, she had used a cold remedy. And the next morning, that cold remedy, she took it with a coke. And the combination of that cold remedy that had a stimulant in it Plus, the caffeine in her coke had an effect, that she ended up suffering what’s called a hemorrhagic stroke, she had a bleed in her brain, and in her case, caused her to go blind. She was paralyzed on one side of her body. And she suffered some, you know, she suffered some brain injury on top of that. So, it was really a horrendous situation. And Dave was representing her case was perfectly put together. The manufacturer was a Pennsylvania based Corporation, and then other law firm connected, you know, David and I. So that’s how we met, you know, two people from different states never met each other. And then we’re suddenly, intimately involved with this with this woman and her husband. And we both learned a lot about mass tort in that case, because there were 1000s and 1000s of those cases. But the case that was perceived to be one of the strongest in the country was the case Dave, and I was hand were handling. And it was on a fast track in Philadelphia. So, we got that case together. But the big issue is this swimming, Use this medication. And our opening that we were preparing forever was she was sitting in a chair by a window that she could never look through, because of her blindness. And she was listening to a television show with an advertisement about a law firm that was handling these cases. And she realized the medication she taken was upstairs in her bathroom. And a pantry that case like 16 years ago, it’s like it was yesterday. And they produce the evidence today Dave came up to Philadelphia, we met with defense lawyers from all over the country, in litigating the case, client was terrific. Now it’s getting closer and closer to trial. we’re negotiating with defense lawyers. And I’d say it was a good relationship. And then as what sometimes happens in litigation, kind of the boom drops. This woman had banked everything on the fact that she had the medication that she had taken. And his work death and medication when it was tested in terms of the information on the label. That medication was manufactured maybe a year after her injury. So, all of a sudden, now we have this huge credibility issue. You know, well, if she wasn’t telling that she’s not telling the truth is simply a mistake. And I think because of the way Dave and I had worked together and interacted with the defense lawyers, they really could have taken that case to trial and good opportunity for a defense verdict. But rather than do that they were smart enough to say, Well, our bargaining position just improved. But there’s still risks these guys may pull it off. So rather than go to try with us in Philadelphia, which is a good venue for victims in these cases, they did come back with a Under the circumstances, a pretty generous settlement that surprised both of us. And our client was able to move forward. But we learned again, there was a mass tort, there were class actions file, but this was going to be a lead case. And David, I got a chance to work together. You learn a lot about each other, we learned a lot about similarity and values, what what’s important to both of us outside the law, certainly that way, the way we talk about our families and relationships, of course, sports. And we’ve had the, I’ve had the privilege of working with you for the past 16 years. So I’m, and I’m not, we’re not done. We’ve talked about that. Also.
That’s true. We’re not done. And yeah, that was a, you know, you go back and you look, and that’s truly the sort of the highs and lows of litigation and what you go through. But the byproduct of that is such a nice thing. One, yes, jointly, we got a very nice result, all things considered for a client who desperately needed help, but to their relationships. I mean, you know, you get educated on things, and the relationships you create are things that are going to last forever, you know, you’ve been kind enough, you know, you have Florida cases that come down here, you know, somebody is hurt in an auto accident, or else, it’s from Philly, you know, you’re kind enough always to reach out to me. And vice versa, we just have more people come from Philly down here than we have
over a day. So
that’s it. That’s it? Well, we’re trying but let’s shift gears a little bit only because I know it’s something that you’ve become very actively involved in. And I mean, we could, we could talk about a lot of things because I know you did some of the NFL concussion and that’s going on. But tragically, and that it’s elevated to the level of a mass tort is the sexual abuse cases because the curtains just getting peeled back. And, and the horrors of what have occurred over so many, so many years, are now coming forward. And fortunately, there’s lawyers like you, that are helping these victims of sexual abuse that may have occurred a long, long time ago. But that impact on these victims certainly doesn’t go away. So talk a little bit about how that whole arena of sexual assault has now evolved.
So for me, it kind of started this way. a paralegal came into my office, who had a son 10 years old, shut the door, and said, Listen, my son’s on the soccer team. And his coach needs some help. I said, Well, what happened? And he said, Well, his coach is being accused of sexually abusing another player. So I don’t do criminal defense work. But I immediately reached out to somebody I trust up here and got them representation. And then, two weeks later, that same paralegal walked into my office and said, Well, I got some other news. I just learned my son was one of the victims. So the reason I share that is sexual abuse, starts out with people in positions of trust, whether they’re teachers, whether they’re coaches, whether they’re religious, you know, I mean, the Catholic Church has come under a lot of fire, but it’s not limited to the Catholic Church, right? Every religion has their has their piece here. And what’s really most trivially disgusting about it, is that young people who are in need frequently people and families, maybe that are dysfunctional, young person who needs somebody to be that mentor, you know, somebody they can trust is reached out to by somebody who creates that relationship of trust, and then exposes the youngster to physical abuse. Certainly the clergy abuse the stories are just, you can’t even really describe them. In fact, when I bring people into the firm to hire them, and we kind of indoctrinate them as to what they’re going to be talking about. It’s just hard to believe, but the bottom line is that this has been going on for Well, some would argue centuries, but certainly 5060 years and what when I was asked to get involved, I kind of assumed, you know, maybe a couple dozen cases that was a big scandal at Penn State involving a defensive coach who had abused some youngsters from a foundation. But this has been an epidemic that’s almost at the same level as the pharmaceutical. I mean, one of the cases the big one right now is Boy Scouts of America, right 90,000 youngsters through counsel filed claims of the 90,000 at least two thirds have been kind of validated as potentially true. It’s an over you know, six 1000 people, you know, kids, we know how do you even settle cases like that those are cases that get settled for billions of dollars. And when it’s all said and done, they’re still mean, there’s still not going to be enough money to really, individually compensate these people. So, in sexual abuse arena we represent. As an example, we represent hundreds of people in New Jersey, who have been abused by different clergy. And in Pennsylvania, in addition to that we represent, we were asked to represent 3000 individuals who are allegedly physically and sexually abused at a juvenile reform school that was closed. I mean, remember the movie Shawshank Redemption? Sure, this was like a juvenile Shawshank Redemption type situation. So we’re heavily involved in that the same issues come up, we represent a lot of people like you and I started we only represented one person at a time. And we were able to develop relationships with that person that we never forgot, like, the pharmaceutical case we discussed more towards, you know, everybody, but it’s a different relationship is system impossible to cultivate with every single person, the same, you know, depth of that relationship, and you’re worried that this becomes a spreadsheet, eventually, and that these cases only get resolved in a very cold fashion like that, you know, we do our best to individualize it, we put a lot of time into it. We make sure everybody’s, everybody’s story is heard. And one of the most difficult parts, this is learning for me. I’ve been retained in these cases by a former classmate from my law school class, I thought he was only up to refer me yet another case. And there’s that long pause. And then somebody says, well, the clients me.
And then many of these people don’t tell you the whole story. You know, in personal injury cases, the problem reportedly is the victims exaggerate their injuries, right? Next abuse, they don’t tell you the whole story. And you have to keep kind of probing until you finally they finally do it. It’s like this, this space. And it’s very sensitive to touch it. We’ve had people in our office and they, you know, acknowledge what we suspected, we’ve, we’ve now done enough of this where we know when somebody is holding out on us. People feel guilt, one of the people that were presented, I’m not going to I’m not going to identify the sport. But it is I’ll say it see that the NBA Major League Baseball or pro football, it was and is what’s the referee, who was on the field during one of these championships. And his family was very active involved in his in his church, but he wouldn’t even tell me his name, took me five months to get his name, he kept writing, because he wanted to share it. And eventually, you know, he kind of mustered up the courage and comfort to do it. So it’s really kind of consumed us. It’s different than anything we’ve handled. And but it’s got all the features of these other mass torts, where the only way to get it resolved, is to kind of bundle everybody together. And I kind of shared with you before we got on, I’m involved in a case where the attorney who brought me in, this is the other issue. He is hell bent on making the biggest recovery in the history of our country for his clients. I’m not even going to say where this case is. And he’s doing a phenomenal job. Some of the lawyer and he did is phenomenal. I’m not going to talk about it, because some of it’s been in the news. But there’s an ego issue. And his need to have the greatest settlement in the history of our country, I’m concerned may jeopardize the rights and best interests of his clients who have number of those cases have legal defenses that could result in a dismissal. So we have to always be cognizant of what’s in our clients best interest. We want to do our best as we always do, we did it in another case, and we’ve done it You and I have handled a number of cases together. I think because of the first case so you know, family member was pretty seriously injured in Florida. I don’t think twice at a two second thought they will they’ve had friends, I know you’re not only going to be proficient at handling the case. I know that your interests will always be focused on what’s best for that client. And that’s not a gimme in every situation. So no
and it’s it is a problem when a lawyers ego is driving it, and it’s no longer in the best interest of the client because, you know, you’re jeopardizing a lot of things. And we talk about, you know, the sexual assault cases and, and again, it’s something I think it’s just more and more people are starting to come out because they have been quiet for so long, but you’re seeing things like women’s gymnastics, the US women’s gymnastics, you know, being able to testify in Congress, and Those are nauseating stories as to how could that have gone on? And everybody turns such a blind eye but you pegged it. And years ago, I had a case with a police officer in Georgia that was a pedophile in a small little town. But yeah, they target. It was young kids with single moms it was you know, that didn’t have sort of that figure and they create that persona to put themselves in a position of trust, and then abuse it in the worst way possible.
It’s horrible. It’s just, I mean, it’s just the idea of it is just, you know, anybody who’s, who has family or who has friends or who you know, understands children or, and how it affects these people. I mean, the first gentleman I interviewed was a guy about my age and I remember sitting across from him and he told me what had occurred and basically this particular clergy had taken him under his wing and he described his own family situation which is pretty unfortunate. And he really, really admired this gentleman who you know, this clergy would take him under his wing and then at some point when he was about 11, and it’s horrific, you know, all of a sudden, he would touch them kind of outside his clothes and you know, just comfort them and then it moved inside under his pants and then eventually rent to the level of where the clergy masturbate at this 11 year old male and 11 year old boy and I when this gentleman’s now 58 telling me the story he looked at me and said, You know when I trusted him so I was confused, I mean, he wouldn’t be doing anything bad and he said I was 11 years old, I’d never had any type of sexual experience right? This happens and it was with a man you know with a man and then he looked at me and said, and I didn’t know you know, was I supposed to enjoy it? And and if I do, does that mean that I’m but I’m gay. I mean, the confusion from it. Now this particular gentleman was incredibly level headed. And I really admired him for his maturity and the way he discussed it with me, but we have situations that was kind of eye opening about some of the things but we have situations involving just Shawshank Redemption type behavior, right? heatedly by people in the highest levels of different places teachers taking advantage of situations coaches what Michigan State Dr. Nasser and your question How could so many people turn a blind eye to it? Well, that was actually what was done for decades. It’s not going to happen anymore. But that’s what was happening for decades.
Well and that’s certainly one of the reasons that I take great pride I know you take great pride in representing people like this because this is how and you know, we can bash lawyers and first of all we can kill all the lawyers but the reality is lawyers pushing these issues and bringing them to the to the forefront and shining light on this darkness is really what does bring about change and I think we’re seeing it radically now in the arena of sexual assault and murder you and I could talk for hours and hours okay. And we will off of this and catch up again. But certainly, I really appreciate you coming in. We’ve sort of broadened our reach beyond South Florida now. Now we’ve got a lawyer in Philadelphia that we can take off the kill list. Marty it’s been great catching up. And again, Marty Rubenstein managing partner of Levy, while Dante Finney and Rubenstein in Philadelphia, great lawyer, better human being.
I’m proud to be your friend and your colleague, my best to you and whoever’s any of your viewers or listeners and of course to your family.
Thanks, Marty. Same to you and we’ll talk soon. Take all right, that wraps this one up. We’ll be back next week for another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers.
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan. I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in Miami in South Florida for nearly three decades. The phrase, first off, let’s kill all the lawyers is from 15th century Shakespeare play, drew a lot of laughs at the time, it’s debatable on what it was actually supposed to mean. But the thought behind this show was, maybe let’s not kill all of them. Let’s take some South Florida lawyers, let’s shine some spotlights on them. Let’s talk about some trending topics in law. And maybe one by one, we can take them off the list. My guest this morning should be very easy to get off the list. When I say new member of the Florida Bar, we’re talking about in the last 72 hours.
Yeah, as of Monday at 11:30am. Alright, but who’s keeping score? What happened on Monday is this young man, who is my law partners son, passed the Florida Bar and got those results just 72 hours ago. We’re going to talk about that, because it’s no small feat. But first off, congratulations, and welcome to the bar.
No, thank you. I really appreciate it. And thank you for having me on here today, of course,
And you’re going to realize now you get into the practice of law that Yeah, most people do want to kill all the lawyers. So, we’re going to see what we can do to dispel some of that, but, but let’s talk about passing the bar, we’ll talk about present and then we’ll work backwards and kind of go forward, passing the bar, because it’s pretty surprising. Of 3343 people that sat for the bar back in July 27 2014 – 183, passed a 44% pass rate. So, no small feat in in in passing the bar, How’s that feel?
It feels great. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work, a rough summer, but after everything’s, you know, fell through it all worked out in the end.
Excellent, excellent. So, while it’s a gruesome rate, I will put this out there that the University of Miami School of Law, the Dean went and I’m an adjunct faculty did have an 82% pass rate, which actually was up significantly. So, talk a little bit about Dean, we’re going to talk about what you did in law school, but this was now totally online. I mean, it’s a thing, you know, annually, people hit the convention center in Tampa, big thing, what were the thoughts of, of taking it online.
So, my initial concerns, and I think a lot of my peers also had that same concern of when you’re taking it in the Tampa test center, from what you hear, there’s not a lot of things that are outside of your own control. So, if you’re in the Tampa test center, and someone’s rattling their pen, or clicking their pen or pencil, you’re hearing all of that, but so is everybody else in the room. Now, when you’re taking it online, depending on where you take it, you could be taken up by a busy intersection with fire trucks coming back and forth. Your fire alarm in your building can go off. And I know that’s what actually happened at the NYU School of Law. They rented out rooms, right? Yeah, they rented out rooms to all their test takers who didn’t have a place to take it, and they had a fire alarm go off in the middle of the exam. So, I feel like taking it online, that was a lot of nervous. nerve racking for a lot of different people just because there were so many factors that were probably outside of your own control.
Yeah, it’s interesting and I think they’ll probably delve into that. And hopefully we’re, we’re moving past things that we get back to take it into person, but I talked briefly to my daughter about this because she’s working on her master’s. And she goes, the odd thing is you’re sitting taking the test and you’ve got yourself in the screen up there. You know, somebody is watching you the whole time, right? It’s not like a teacher just wandering up and down the hallway. So she goes, it’s kind of an odd feeling. But let’s go back a little bit. Okay. Obviously, your dad’s a lawyer. Yeah, we’ll say nice things about him. Your dad and I are law partners. I love practicing with your dad. I think he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal lawyer. What is it, that got you into thinking about going to law school?
So, like every kid growing up, loved sports, and wanted to find a way to be involved in sports. So, growing up, I was like, I’m definitely not good enough to play any sports. So let me try to find the next best thing, which was a sports agent. So that was my dream, kind of when I initially started on this path, that’s obviously changed later on. But when I started this path, my whole dream was to be a sports agent. So, I went to the University of Texas, I got my degree in sport management. And then I realized probably after my first year at Texas that going down this path is not really one that is all as glamorous as it turns out to be. Obviously there are a ton of successful people in the industry and in that specific field, but I realized that wasn’t really where I wanted to dedicate myself and go down this path. So I knew at that point, that I still wanted to be a lawyer and go to law school and get my law degree but find a different path and it wasn’t really until I started working in law school figuring out where that path exactly was going to take me. That’s interesting and it was funny because you know when I got out of you I’m and then I bounced around the NFL went to law school people like, oh, you’re going to be an agent, this and that. And, and I think, and we’ll get off on a tangent just quickly. The whole concept of agent makes no sense to me. Why everything structured in the NFL, right? Why are you automatically getting a percentage of money of something that that guy could walk in and say, look, I’m the fourth pick the fifth round, I want what the fourth peg in the fifth round got last year, and they would go here. So I’ve never figured out and you know, to me, athletes should just go hire a lawyer and negotiate that first contract, hire a PR person hire somebody else that aren’t all related to each other but that’s a whole different issue on agents. So you get shifted and what shifts in law school what all of a sudden piqued your interest.
I actually clerked with you guys for a few months prior to the pandemic. And that’s when I kind of got into working more plaintiffs work for personal injury and medical malpractice with you guys and I really just enjoyed that field more than a lot of the other ones I had done some insurance defense work prior to that and I thought just being on the plaintiff side was a lot more engaging, a lot more rewarding and being able to communicate with your clients a lot more and one on one and really going out of your way to try to help people so to me that’s what made that that shift to want to stay on the plaintiff side and continue working plaintiffs side
Alright, excellent. We’re going to talk about that but let’s talk about law school because you go from UT in one of my favorite cities, and you come to Miami and when you start in law school, the world still normal, right? Right. So when did you start and then just talk a little bit about that shift and kind of how you other students schools had to adapt I mean it’s a whole different universe, you know, your university setting you’re going in, you’re with colleagues, you know, there’s always brainstorming before and after classes and now all of a sudden, you guys are in your bedroom somewhere in your kitchen, going to school.
Right? Absolutely. So fortunately I was able to be there for a year and a half before the pandemic hit so that first year and a year and a half I guess was really beneficial because as we’ll get into a little bit later learning and trying to do law school online is pretty difficult and fortunately my first year I was able to have that in person experience and that first year is so huge on trying to learn all the concepts and figuring out your best way to study and collaborative efforts like you said so I was lucky enough to have that my first year and then right we were on spring break in the middle of my two year and we start seeing all this COVID stuff start to pop up and my friends and I are talking being like there’s no way we’re going to you know go back to school u M was one of the later schools to announce it a lot of other schools in the country have already said you know, two weeks off don’t come back from spring break and then all of a sudden with two or three days left on spring break we get an email saying you know we’re going to delay coming back two more weeks until this COVID stuff dies down. So we’ll be online for two weeks and then be prepared to come back in person and obviously as we all know that didn’t end up happening at all we’re getting right so we were forced to be online that remaining semester and then it was just a completely different experience you really don’t get that same feel for being in an environment I think a lot of the professor’s were also you know, understanding of the circumstances so you lose the whole element of being cold called and you know, having to make sure all your cases were read to a tee before class so you don’t get embarrassed and you went from being in the classroom and speaking every day and being cold call to now you could just as easily have your camera off in a lecture and you know, be walking around your house doing nothing with the camera playing in the background, and then just two weeks before the final cram and, and do what needs to be done.
So how did how did you and others if you’ve talked others, sort of find the way to be able to kind of refocus, because you’re right. I mean, you know, if you may not want to go to class, but you stumble into an 830 class or lecture or whatnot. You know, you better be ready. I mean, that’s part of the whole Socratic method of being able to do that. And I mean, we went you know, in litigation skills went to online and it’s just it’s different. I mean, it’s a little easier for me because I only had eight students at a time, but it’s still hard to engage. You don’t know you’re not making eye contact necessarily with that person. You’re looking at your own little camera. So, what was it that changed and how were you able to sort of stay refocused to say, now I got a year and a half of an alternate universe that I got to get through. Right. So, for the litigation skills class, for instance, I think there were certain classes that throughout law school, you always wanted to prioritize More so than others. So, for me, if I was taking litigation skills, even if it was online, I knew I wanted to be involved in litigation somehow down the road. So, there was no point in me for trying to figure out a work around the system. I know others would, you know, were practicing opens opening statements today, and they would have their Microsoft Word pulled up right in front of their camera and just read down the line. And, to me, I figure, you know, if I’m going to be going into litigation, there’s no reason to try to cut corners and go around, and if all this stuff is going to be beneficial to me later down the road. And I mean, even though it didn’t get switched online, and the trials were different than what we’ll be doing trial wise, we now are seeing a lot of the court system switching to zoom and likely staying on zoom for a lot of the hearings and motion calendar. So, we were kind of the first class to be able to be taught like that. So, there’s really no way and trying to cheat the system, if later down the road that you’re going to have to be doing the same exact things without any cheats to it. So to me, I prioritize those types of classes and the ones that I’d be focused on, and just really try to cut any corners and really tried to get whatever the university was trying to offer me.
Well, it’s excellent. And, and obviously, it paid off because you’re now a proud member of the Florida Bar Exam, we’ll talk about that skill set. So you learned all of a sudden to have to go online and do these things. And now, as you said, I mean, pretty much universally, at least motion counter and everything else is all zoom depositions are all being taken via zoom and these platforms. So how did that help you transition now into what you’re doing?
Yeah, so I haven’t had any, you know, as, like I said, just passed the bar Monday, so I haven’t really had to been thrown into the fire yet.
We got to get you to work. Exactly.
So haven’t had to take any depositions and hearings yet. But I feel now I know some people can be a little bit uncomfortable when they’re in front of the camera, and they see their face and see themselves talking and it throws some people off at least. So, I guess having had that experience being in law school and being familiar with technology a little bit more, and having that, you know, skill set acquired through these lips skills, I took one and two as well. So being able to have that structure and understanding of how it works. It’s going to play a big role in my success later down the road.
Well, it is important, and I mean, it’s nice, you’ve got a nice background here and everything else. You know, one of the things I work with my students and it’s amazing that you’ve got professionals, but you get into these hearings sometimes and you know, I mean people are in a collared shirt, I’m like, you got to treat it like a court appearance still. Okay, I mean, you know, and judges looking at you, you know, so set it up. So at least you know that there’s light and you can be seen, because it really is sort of what you see sometimes in some of these hearings, it just it’s mind boggling to me.
No, absolutely. And you know, I’ve been fortunate to sit in some hearings, and you can really tell the way the judge views someone who’s you know, making a call from their car for a motion calendar versus an attorney with sitting in their office prepared, dressed nicely. So, I really think those type of things make the difference and will make the difference later down the road.
All right, you talked a little bit about why you were in law school, you clerked for us. I also know you clerked for judge Venza and did some other things talk about the work experience you had while in law school, because to me, I think that’s so integral, you know, once you get that first year out of the way, which really is probably impossible to try to work and do that. But I think it’s integral to be able if you’ve got the means to be able to go out and work and do some things to get some exposure. So, talk a little bit about the experience, clerking for us and then clerking for a judge and what that was like,
absolutely, yes, I was fortunate enough to be able to work throughout all two of my back-end semester, or back two years at University of Miami. So, I worked at different jobs, those summers as well as during the semester and tried to really expose myself to as many different fields as possible so that when I was coming out of law school, and hopefully passed the bar at that time, I would kind of have an idea of where I wanted to end up. So, I clerked for Judge Denzer after my first summer in law school at the Criminal Division down in Miami, and I was able to observe courtroom hearings and proceedings and some trials. And that really was the first time I was getting firsthand experience. You know, I think I still in the courthouse was open, still in the courthouse was open, it was after my first year of law school. So, the year before the pandemic had happened. So that was my first real experience, being able to see litigators in person and watching trials and watching motion calendar and seeing their composure the way they speak. And I was able to experience that and obviously on the criminal side, you’re seeing, you know, very sad but interesting cases and a lot more interesting facts to the cases. So, it was interesting to see all that and then obviously came declared for you guys after that and was able to do a lot more client relations and speaking with clients and working on Discovery myself. So just being able to be exposed to all these different practice areas. Throughout my time in law school, I was a lot more beneficial than sometimes sitting in a classroom, you know, learning the rules, whereas in practice, you’re using those exact rules and putting them to work.
It’s amazing, you know, law school, they teach you all that, here’s the here’s the rules of evidence. But until you actually start to apply them, you know, when people give an answer, oh, let’s do within 20 days, 20 days of what? Oh, well, that, you know, you got to figure out a story somewhere. So now and then you went over, you’re now with Edwards, Pottenger. In in Fort Lauderdale. Yeah. Tell me how that came about. And then let’s talk about that firm and the type of work you’re doing.
Right. So I was fortunate enough in my lead skills classes at USM, one of my moderators for my final trial, spoke very highly of myself and my other trial partner and our adversaries in that trial, and had mentioned when we were graduating law school, and we were looking for a job, he’d be happy to put us in touch with some people. He was super, you know, thought we’d all be great with the Gators. So, he was very happy to make any connection he possibly could. So, when I was working, in my third year, I had reached out to him and said, you know, I’m graduating, this coming, may I plan on taking the bar in July. If your firm has any openings, if you know of anybody, I’d love to maybe talk and catch up and see if you know anything. So, we’ve got on the phone, and he was friendly with my pet attorney here, Brad Edwards. And he put me in touch with Mr. Edwards. And we spoke on the phone seemed to be a very good connection. And came here I clerked here for it was very, very last minute. So, I was working on an insurance defense firm in Fort Lauderdale at the time. And then Brad had said that I could come work for him for two weeks before I started setting for the bar to see if it would be a good fit. So I immediately as soon as I could put my two weeks notice came to work for Brad for about two weeks, and then was fortunate enough to be offered a position after passing the bar. Excellent.
So, you got to put the black hat on briefly take it off, put the white hat back on, and go and go to the good side.
Let’s talk about because it’s a very interesting firm. You know, obviously, very successful firms. So congratulations on the hiring there. Because I think that’s tremendous thing. Talk a little bit about what they do, because I know that they’ve sort of specialized in some areas and had a lot of national recognition for it. And it’s unfortunately, an area that we’re seeing more and more problems.
Right. So primarily, the firm is a plaintiff’s firm that specializes in crime victims and survivors of sexual abuse. So that’s what we focus on here. That’s a lot what I’ve been focused on in my short time here as well. So, working on those types of cases, and doing everything we can to help those victims and survivors is primarily what the firm focuses on.
Which, again, fascinating and, and, and difficult because I think, you know, the empathy and sympathy you feel sometimes in these circumstances and you know, of trying to find ways, how do we figure out where there’s potential compensation? And how do we try to restore people that in essence had been pretty severely broken?
Right, absolutely. And I think, given the fact that a lot of the cases that I’ve seen so far come across my desk, and obviously I’ve known what the firm has done in the past as well, when you see these types of fact patterns and these types of cases and the people who have been so severely hurt, it means a lot more to try to actually do everything you can in your power, to find a way to make these cases work and to find a way to be able to represent these victims to the best of your ability and you’re willing to go, at least I’ve seen so far and everyone in the firm here as well kind of has that same mentality that you’re willing to go that extra mile, even if it’s, you know, after traditional working hours or doing anything, you can’t figure out a way to make this case work to get into a courtroom and to be able to help these people any way you can.
Well, and i think that’s important, and you sort of hit on it, it really does. I think when you’re on the plaintiff side of things, and you see people that have been devastated by physical or emotional or mental injuries, it becomes a personal thing to you, you know, as the lawyer you’re like, I want to help this person and how can I and you know, it’s not just a matter of, Okay, I got X amount of hours in and I did this and, you know, it becomes a personal issue for you to say, you know, we’re taking you on as part of our firm with this, and what can we do to help?
No, absolutely, like you said that perfectly. It’s, it really does make a difference when you can do something to help these people who have been so hurt and they’re relying on you to help them and change their life and put them on a new path. And when you kind of have that understanding it really puts things into a different perspective. So you kind of throw out the nine to five and are willing to be here you know, early and late and a second phone call whenever you need to try to help these people.
So, how’s the experience been? You had a couple weeks before and now you’re just you know you got your time. I’m in here and did you go back to work before you got the bar results.
Yes so, I went back to work pretty shortly after actually I was willing I wanted to start earning dive in as fast as I can. So I came back I took about a week and a half after I finished the bar and then started that following Monday and I’ve been here now for about a month or a month and a half since Pat since taking the bar and obviously it’s my first week now being an attorney here so I’ve been able to be doing some work as a clerk for them for the last month or so and really figuring out the cases I’ll be working on once I become an attorney and now am an attorney so figuring out the case they’ll be working on and getting a pretty good understanding so really spent this last month and a half obviously working on assignments given to me but also diving into the cases that I knew I’d be working on once I’m an attorney and reading all the facts reading all the pleadings, reading all the deposition transcripts so I can get a better understanding of everything that’s taken place to this point and everything that needs to be done moving forward that can help on
that’s fantastic and where do you see your career going? I mean, obviously it sounds like you want to stay on the plaintiff side of things but what do you envision
right i mean for the time being I envision being here and staying here it’s you know, a great working environment here um, you know, all the co workers here are great, the other attorneys in the firm are fantastic. Everyone in the firm really works together super well. And it’s just a great working environment and like I say everyone kind of has those same feelings I do about doing everything they can to help people and their power and then trying to you know, save these people’s lives essentially. So for the time being, you know, I love to hear and plan on staying here for the foreseeable future.
And that’s Edwards Pottenger in in Fort Lauderdale again fantastic firm I mean you look at you look at the caliber the lawyer so I think great environment for you to be able to be around that because again, when you surround yourself with quality people, you know, that’s where your success is going to come from and hopefully you’re clogging with the you know, when you clerked with your dad and I we didn’t bring it down too much you know, Mike might learn something along the way Absolutely.
So, take out the crystal ball best you can because I know none of us can but where do the courts go I mean obviously we’re opening up and I think you know general consensus is a jury trials are going to have to be in person I mean, you know, both criminal and civil you just there’s no way to do that virtually you know, trying to look at jurors and everything else but what about other aspects Do you think things are going to stay virtual for hearings and things like that? Or where do you see it going? And where are you going to sort of focus the technology end of your career?
Right so like you said, I think trials need to be in person I think that’s going to be the most important thing and the first things and you see it not with the courts that they’re trying to get back in person. Like I said, I was in the litigation skills courses. So, both my trials which I took were supposed to be in the courthouse when the programs were initially designed but those are relegated to zoom and granted Those are my only two trial experiences I’ve had and they’re not even real ones. But when you try to make that connection with the jurors and you try to explain to them the law and empathize with them and try to really make that connection that can make or break the trial itself you really are missing that aspect of being in person and being able to truly resonate with the jury so I think first and most importantly it’s going to be jury trials have to be back in person which you know, we’re already starting to see now but I do think the hearings and the motion calendars and a lot of stuff that’s primarily just between the council and judges. I see no reason for that to have to be back in a courtroom anytime soon I think the zoom has been a great feature and super beneficial to saving time I mean you’re saving time you used to be out in the courtroom super early wait for your you know time to be called speak with the judge for it could be a matter for a few minutes and then you’re out and wasted two hours of your morning that you could have been putting you know your time elsewhere to us so I think the motions and the hearing calendars are here to stay for zoom particularly and I think that’s super beneficial but trials I think need to begin and start being in person
yeah and I think it’s general consensus and we’ve talked about it some on the show before I really do give I mean all of the South Florida judges but I really think the Miami Dade judges were cutting edge on a lot of this and Broward they all work together to be able to continue to move cases via zoom and all that I think Yeah, we’re going to cherry pick those things out and say, Okay, this was the oddest thing in the world. You know, all of a sudden we have to do this but look how efficient This is to be able to do this on emotion calendar and you know, outside of evidentiary hearings where you’re taking testimony. I think a lot of that should stay with the way it goes. And, you know, we’ve got other issues in Miami with our building itself, whether it’s safe or not, but you know, minor details. Beautiful courthouse down there.
So having now graduated and pass the bar, what advice would you give for younger people that are thinking that are either in school or thinking maybe I want to go to law school? You know, is it a journey they should undertake?
Absolutely, I think so. I mean, it’s super rewarding, if not anything. So being able to go through this journey, I think, make sure it’s something that you’re interested in obviously, before you would even embark on this, and you kind of have to be if you’re going to sit through the L sat and prep for all that. So super rewarding once you get through it. And then like I said, I mean it’s, it’s tough to be able to come out of college, and then, you know, you see all your friends, all my friends, I was the only one to pursue a degree after undergrad. So, I was sitting back seats, all my friends who were, you know, in real jobs and starting to make money. And here I was, you know, in law school, three more years, before I can actually enter the workforce and do all you know, same things that my friends were able to do. But at the end of the day, it’s super rewarding paid off and we used to treat it like a job treat it every day. Like it’s like it is your job and you know, do everything you can in your power to succeed in doing so. So absolutely, I would recommend it. And, you know, I’m happy to talk to anybody who’s interested in being coming along or sitting for the bar or currently in law school and give them any advice I can.
Excellent. Well, I know it’s music, your dad’s ears. When you say and now that you can start to make money, you know, off the pair. Well, no, I know your dad’s extraordinarily proud of you as as him I, you know, I got to see you. You know, you did a lot of grinding at our office, getting ready for this thing, and I knew you were putting the work in. So, congratulations. Welcome to the Florida Bar. A brand new young lawyer Dean care working at Edwards Pottenger up in Fort Lauderdale. Dean, I think you’ve got a stellar career ahead of you. It’s going to be fun to sit back and watch and, and I think now even though you’ve only been on the list for a few days as a lawyer, hopefully we can take you off that list.
Now Thank you so much. I appreciate it. David. All right.
Enjoy it. All right. That’s one more hopefully we can take it off the list not to kill Dean care because bright young lawyer I think has a bright young future ahead of him. And I think you know, is typical of what we’ve had to see as these students have evolved starting law school when it’s normal, going to COVID and now in the hybrid practice of law, a lot of fun to see. So, have a great week. We’ll see you next week.
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. That phrase was written by Shakespeare back in the 15th century that drew raucous applause and laughter when it was uttered. And even today still does. As people contemplate, it’s not a bad idea to kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan, I’ve been practicing law here in South Florida for about three decades. The goal behind these broadcasts is quite simple. Bring in local lawyers in varying aspects of law, get to know a little bit about them, why they got into law, what they did, and maybe just maybe, by the end of the show, we can take one off the list to save that lawyer. This morning, I have the pleasure of having not only a really good lawyer, but a good friend and possibly one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known. Jeff Rubin joins me and, Jeff, you’ve been doing this a long time local guy, we got a lot to talk about. But let’s just start off with how did you wind up becoming a lawyer?
It’s probably a family thing. The name of the law firm is Talianoff Rubin and Rubin. Talianoff is my maternal grandfather. And my maternal grandfather and my father actually practice law together back in the 60s and 70s. Having the family aspect of it, and then, you know, so sort of predestined that I would become a lawyer, enjoyed law school and went to Miami, loved it back in the back in the 80s, and graduated in 89. And then soon after that, my grandfather was thinking about retiring, so it was an opportunity to join the firm. And then eventually, the firm name became Talianoff, Rubin and Rubin. So, it’s a family tradition. For about three years, we actually had three generations walking in the office.
Let’s talk about what they founded and then what type of law were they doing when they first started?
My grandfather was really in the collection business, he did a lot of retail and commercial collection was very involved in local community organizations and collection agencies throughout the country. And he started something called the commercial law League of America. And that was the aspects of his types of law, he did lead to some probate and some wills and things like that. And then my father was a worker’s compensation lawyer. So needless to say, I learned a lot from them, and, and became a collection lawyer and also a workers compensation lawyer, as well as some general practice.
All right, and we’re going to delve into that sort of pressure that that’s the family lineage, was there ever a thought of doing something else?
Gosh, I guess I look back, I would have probably been like a sailing coach or doing another passion or, or something like that. But, you know, when we went to law school, we went to undergraduate school, David, you know, it was you go to undergraduate school, and then you go right into a profession, but that is, are you going to get your masters you get a professional degree? And that really is not the way it works? I think today, right? I’m finding at least with my son, he went, got an undergraduate degree, worked for a while, and then realize what he needed to get a master’s. So I think, for me, it was just something that I thought was a good thing to do. I wasn’t interested in the other professions, there were really no business aspects in my family of things that I got turned on to. So it was sort of a natural fit. Well, and you’re right, I do see that now. My daughter, for example, has been out in the workforce for a while graduated from Florida State is now going back to get her master’s. Yeah. And I think it actually makes more sense unless you really know what you want to do. I think having some real-world experience, and then going back and go, Okay, how will this benefit me? Because I think a lot of times you got to analyze now, okay, does this further education, and I’m very pro-education. But sometimes I think, you know, people would go from undergrad to some sort of graduate program, just because to continue to become a student. Yeah, that’s not necessary. Okay. This MBA may not help me in what I’m ultimately going to do.
My son and I had the same conversation. He’s now worked for four years now to get his master’s in securities and technology and securities up at Georgetown. And he did not he would have never gone into that program without the four years of experience that he has, right working. Well, I had a gap in there. I did. I got drafted in the NFL. Yeah, I bounced around and played hard knocks before they actually videoed it. You know, I got a lot of hate coach once you bring your playbook multiple times as I bounced around and actually my undergraduate degree was in communications. And so I came back and I was going to, it’s going to work and television and radio and all that until the reality sort of set in that to stay in a TV market. And I’d spent the last four and a half years packing my cart moving from NFL city to NFL city. And I said, Yeah, I don’t want to do it. And so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I went to law school. And then much like you, I actually enjoyed law school and have been out of school for a while, and now really applying myself found it fascinating and then got into litigation, and there are so many parallels, right, you know, between athletics and history. That’s right. So, well, let’s talk about worker’s compensation because it’s a thing that happens so much, but I don’t think people really understand it. And so, you know, it’s a legislative scheme. That’s sort of a tradeoff to say, Alright, you can’t sue your employer for negligence unless literally, they damn near murder you. Right, because it’s a hard exception to get by. But talk about what workers comp means when somebody gets hurt. Are they entitled to and how does that work?
Well, I tell clients, it comes down to two different parts, and you break it up into two aspects. You’re right if you are hurt while working. And even if your employer or a co-employee was negligent, causing your injury, you cannot sue your employer, right? That’s the exception. And that’s for the for your ability to receive Workers Compensation benefits. So, it’s a no-fault law. So even if you’re a chef, and you cut off your own finger, while cutting some potatoes, you’re going to receive Workers Compensation benefits. So it’s two aspects, you have the medical aspect, you have the right to receive medical care, while you’re, you know, treating and recovering and trying to get better. And as long as the doctor is treating you when you have not reached what we call maximum medical improvement, you’re getting better, right? You would get that treatment, but you’d also have a right to receive Workers Compensation benefits, workers compensation benefits would pay you roughly two thirds, or let’s say, 60% of your average weekly earnings, while you’re recovering, while you’re getting better, so that you have a chance to get better get treatment, and at the same time receive payments, at least some income coming in. So because you’re not able to work during that time period. All right, and how long can that go on? Great question, you know, you know, in a perfect world, I would not have a job and workers compensation insurance company would be doing everything right.
Where you’re telling the insurance company, don’t do the right thing. There’s a shocking revelation here today that sometimes the insurance companies don’t do the right. That’s why he called me on the show because you wanted me to teach you something I did. Because, frankly, you know, in all my personal injury cases, yeah, the insurance companies are always fair. And you know, they just do the right thing. It’s not like we ever have to file suit and take them to the courthouse or anything like that.
No, not at all. So you know, they’re obviously, very adjusters are very overwhelmed, and things get missed, but they take certain positions. And so in that case, I have a job because my responsibility is to make sure that those medical benefits come in, make sure that they’re paying them the right amount of money, and they’re receiving all of the other benefits under the worker’s compensation, law, mileage, transportation, medication, a wheelchair, whatever, they may need anything from any medical the aspect that they would need. And then, of course, that those benefits last, in most cases, until the employee reaches maximum medical improvement, that’s a medical legal term, when there’s no reasonable chance that you’re going to get any better you sort of plateau in your care, right? At that point, the medical bent, I’m sorry, the medical benefits would continue on a PRN or as the needed basis, but the workers comp benefits for that, you know, not so catastrophic injury would stop. Now, if you have a catastrophic injury, then benefits perhaps could continue beyond that, if you prove what the employees what they call permanently and totally disabled.
And that’s what I was going to ask so you get to MMI maximum medical improvement. Yep. But what if you can’t go back to do what you were doing? In other words, MMI, as you just point out, doesn’t mean you’re back to where you were, it just means you’re kind of as good as you’re going to get based on that injury. And oftentimes, that leaves people in a lesser position with lesser ability. And so what do they do, then? Well,
you know, there’s a, there’s a tough line, you have to draw, and when somebody is personally totally disabled, they have to be pretty catastrophic, because that’s, you know, basically, I can’t work for the rest of my life. And shorts, companies have a very, employees actually have a very strict standard they would have to prove, you’d have to prove you have the inability to get a job within a 50 mile radius of your, of your, of where you live. And you have to have a, you know, job search, unsuccessful job search for a very significant amount of time. And you have to really be able to show to the judge, that you would not be able to work during that entire, you know, there’s no chance that you’re going to be able to get a job under that strict standard. But then you have those employees that you know, hurt their back construction worker. And now they’re never the same person because of that bad back. But they have the ability to do other things. So, it is very, very difficult for cases and those situations to prove that you’re permanently disabled. And unfortunately, you know, you reach maximum medical improvement, your benefits really would stop, and you have a tough row to hoe after that, and benefits may not continue.
Well, is there any aspect? Okay, so in the personal injury world, yep. You know, one of the things that we can recover on behalf of people that get hurt is, is obviously, loss of earnings. That’s easy, you know, I was hurt during this timeframe, I couldn’t work for three months, six months, or whatever. We also can recover loss of earning capacity, meaning, okay, I can go to work and back to work, but not in the same capacity. Now, I’m only earning 70% of what I used to earn. So, if you’ve got somebody like a construction worker, that gets hurt, and that’s all he knows, but he could go work somewhere else, but make less money. Is there any compensation for that?
No. And that’s a real big difference between Workers Compensation benefits and Personal Injury benefits. Because in workers compensation, it’s a system of lost wages. So, there is no pain, there’s no suffering, there’s no, there’s no payment for the fact that you are can’t be the same person or do the same things that you used to do. The only thing that they pay is once you reach maximum medical improvement, MMI, they have something called impairment benefits, and pyramid benefits is the worker’s compensation way of paying the employee for their loss, or their loss in the future. So, for instance, if you at the end of when you reach maximum medical improvement, that’s determined by a doctor, the doctor gives you a percentage of impairment, right? So, if you have a percentage of impairment, let’s say 5%, then what they would pay you is they would pay you they multiply that by two, so five times two would be 10 weeks of impairment, benefits and impairment benefits, believe it or not a little complicated are 75% of your compensation rate. So, it’s basically 75% of two thirds your average
wage, so not 75% of what you’re earning, it’s 75% of that 60%.
Correct. Okay, for 10 weeks, right. And that is that the workers compensation way of paying you for your impairment loss, which is far different in your business, David, where personal injury where you have the ability to recover so many other damages, unlike workers compensation,
but that and that’s what I always explained to people because we’ll get calls and people are significantly hurt, but it’s a job site or something like that. While we’re always looking for potential third parties that we can hold responsible, but I explained to people said, Well, look, it’s sort of a trade-off. Because in the world of personal injury, we have to prove false, we have to prove negligence. And when somebody did something wrong worker’s comp, you have to prove you got hurt while you were working. Right? That’s correct.
That’s all you have to do. As I said, it’s a no-fault law. And far different. So you there’s a, there’s a trade-off. You know, the question is whether or not if you get hurt, you might as well get it while working. But then again, if your injury is catastrophic, in its life, you know, life-lasting, you’re not going to get those benefits, and you’re not going to get the damages that you would get in a case like personal injury.
Alright, let’s talk because I know we’ve, we’ve faced issues with that, and my partner does some workers comp as well. We hear and I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but you know, of workers comp doctors, okay, in other words, insurance companies, it happens in personal injury too. But insurance companies like these doctors, so what can you do? or What Can somebody who’s hurt? Do if they don’t think they’re getting the right care and treatment from this doctor? Can
you switch? Great question. Um, the answer is yes, you can switch but you only get one bite of the apple. So, for instance, if you are treating with a worker’s compensation doctor because you have to stay within that family. So, if you get hurt, the first thing that you normally do is we’ll send you to a clinic, then the clinic doctor will try to see you and try to get you back to work, and then maybe make a recommendation to a bad back to an orthopedist or neurosurgeon or something like that. And then that doctor once again selected by the insurance company will treat you. And then let’s say you’re just not pleased with that particular doctor. But you may have a foot injury of a knee injury, UNIVAC injury, you have one chance for one specialty to request a one time change of position. Okay, that’s it. So all you have to do is you send a letter to the insurance company, and they have five days to give you a one time change. If they don’t give it to you within that five days and you can select your own they normally do. And but then if you say I have a bad back, bad knee back bad foot from that injury, you have to sort of select which part of your body
you don’t get to go to somebody that specializes in feet. I mean, your mind but then you’re not going to your back treatment ends. Exactly.
Right. So that’s the only time and once again that doctors within your family, okay, within the family of workers compensation,
right. And if they, do it within the five days again, you’re just going to another doctor they’ve selected That’s correct.
That’s correct. Yeah. So, you know, so yes, you know, there are workers compensation doctors per se You know, you hope that they take the Oh, they take their Hippocratic Oath 100% on that stuff, but at the same time, that’s how they get their business, right? If it’s a workers compensation doctor, and you can certainly tell the difference when you walk into a workers compensation office or doctor that sees workers comp patients, versus maybe it has other types of patients, because it’s a Milhouse, right? Because they don’t pay, they pay workers comp schedule.
So they do invite they do in volume, they don’t invite them. And let’s face facts, the insurance companies want people that are going to get people back to work as quickly as possible. And they should,
right and but in and out. Absolutely. And I think also when somebody comes in, there’s always that thought process from a doctor, they look at that patient a little bit differently. Are they malingering? Are they doing something that maybe they wouldn’t do if they’d hurt themselves playing basketball or getting out of the car, right, or something like that, or trip and fall in a supermarket or something like that?
I think I think that’s as with any sort of benefit, and it clearly is a benefit not to have to, you know, prove fall for your employer and litigate with your employer, which then changes the entire dynamic. But with any benefits that people get, there are always people that are going to try to take advantage of it. And it’s a system that’s well-intentioned, but certainly has flaws.
Yeah. And that’s just human nature, that’s a part of human nature to sort of just do things that you think are going to benefit you. But in the end, I don’t think it really does. Because your true self always sort of comes out. I tell my clients if I had to prepare a client for deposition, and I only had two minutes, the only thing I’d say is I pretend like your mother is asking you the questions. Okay. And your mother knows the answers to every question. And in that situation, then you have to tell the truth because your mother will know when you’re lying and veracity and trustworthiness is the most important thing for both in your business. 100%.
I mean, lately, I’ve never used the mother line, but I might incorporate that now. Yeah, but again, I’ve always, you know, look, truth is the key to all of it, because even things totally unrelated to what the case is, all of a sudden, you lie about something, thinking it has nothing to do with anything. And now collaterally you’re going to get impeached. Correct. your credibility gets drawn into question. And once anybody that’s seeking money, particularly ultimately going to stand in front of a jury, if the issue of credibility starts to go, yep,
it’s done. I completely agree, completely agree. That’s what I’ve tried to teach my clients that way. And I think that it’s, it’s really paid off over the 30 something years in practicing law.
Alright. One of the other things I’ve heard in, in workers comp or washouts, what explains what that is where there’s some sort of payday, and they stop your benefits.
So, most cases end up getting resolved. But unlike in your case, well, you know, if your case goes all the way to the end and a personal injury, a jury or a jury would decide the amount of money that this person would receive, right worker’s compensation, a judge does not determine the value of a case, a judge only determines benefits that may be owed. But there are in most circumstances cases would be resolved or washed out. And what would happen is insurance company you reach EMI, you’re sort of close to the end of the treatment, you know, there’s your days are sort of done with receiving benefits. So, what you can do is you can negotiate that would be my job with an insurance company for a settlement. And the insurance company would pay you a lump sum of money to cover your both your medical care and maybe your future lost wages. And that would be paid for by the by the workers compensation insurance company, an amount of money and then you’re able to take your cut or your cut from the lawyers’ fees and costs and things like that. And it gives the employee a chance to be able to get back to work. They get some money to get sort of up and running. But once again, it only is around those two benefits that you look right medical and indemnity. It does not include those other damages in it like you have in a personal injury case.
Alright, interesting. Let’s shift gears a little bit. Because in addition to being a fine worker’s comp lawyer, you and I, and you instrumental in me getting on the Orange Bowl committee, you’re on the Orange Bowl committee, and more importantly, you served as president of the orange ball committee during the pandemic. Yep. And I got to just say kudos because we got a game off, we actually got a national championship game, even though there’s not directly sort of ours that you know, the strong backing behind it pulled both games off, and just a tremendous job to you. So just talk a little bit about, I mean, I don’t get off on the Archibald committee too much, but it to me and one of the things I think we need to work on, I’m actually going to get jack come on the show, to talk about what the Archibald committee does for the community. But talk about your role as President, and then your role as president during a pandemic.
Well, thank you. I mean, obviously, when I became president, I never imagined that it would be during a year of a pandemic. But I remember sitting in February of 2019 2019, yeah. No, no 2020 right. pandemic? Yeah,
yeah. Started March 2008. Yeah, that year, about a year. So, it’s got we’re almost in 2022 121 days away from that. 2022. That’s crazy. And everybody forgot, like 2021. And they go back to the pandemic and 2020 Yeah, it’s, so we’re sitting Groundhog Day Without any of the humor
in February of 20. And I said, I just don’t want any trauma. I just want everything, no drama, no nothing. So, our CEO Eric palms, says, I think you got a pandemic confronting, like, What are you talking about? And then we were off and running. So, everything that the Oracle had done throughout the year, the game gives us the ability to do everything we do out for the year through the for the community. So, what we used to have been an events and programs and everything for the community basketball tournaments, and high school showcases and youth football. Yeah, everything. I mean, David just goes on and on and on. And then all of a sudden, we’re now you know, shifting gears, repurposing, reimagining. And we’re now you know, helping feed South Florida. And so thanks to our sponsors, who went along with this ride with us, we’re able to do so many different things last year that we never imagined that we would ever do. So, you know, although our organization has been around for 88 years, we’re all about serving the community. We’re about bringing tourism to Miami, bringing, you know, helping the economy of Miami. And we think that we do that, while also having a chance to serve our community. But you know, you’re talking about being present during a pandemic, but you’re all around the people that you’re surrounded by. And fortunately, they have you are set by Secretary that time you still are the secretary eligible committee. And you know, it was your wisdom, because you’re a yes, no kind of guy. And I so much appreciated having somebody like you on the executive board, because we would come to you, you analyze and you give a yes or no, it wasn’t wishy-washy, and it made that year and surrounding myself around people like you so much easier and so much more palatable. Well, I
again, kudos to you because I truly think the leadership you show during this pandemic, because look, everything was brand new. Yes. You know, we do the Orange Bowl all those other years. And yes, there’s always variations we’re trying to evolve. We’re trying to get into different programming, how can we help? What do we do at schools and all that, but there’s a blueprint there. Yeah. I mean, you know, here’s the book. And, you know, you could add a chapter or a page in here, maybe take this page? Well, you got a blank book and went here. Exactly. Oh,
we were redoing budgets. I mean, I can’t ever imagine that in February of last year, I’m thinking that we’re going to do a budget for no fans. 20% of the fans are saving 50% of the fans sad, or no game. that’s never been done before. So we were prepared. We were ready.
Thank God, our CEO, Eric is the king of spreadsheets. Because when you want to start modeling things, I mean, your head will spin as he starts putting these things up, but he is so good at what he does, and we’re lucky to have that. And, and, you know, you talked about repurposing, I just I really think the staff, I mean, the committee itself, and it’s a wonderful collection, but we’re all volunteers. Yes. Okay. The staff did such a great job of repurposing, saying, okay, you know, we can’t have this event. But let’s repackage it. And let’s have, you know, a food bank drive or things like that, and got sponsors to line up. And so, so grateful for that. And
we created what we call aren’t bulk hairs, right? Well, which we never had before. And all of a sudden, we’re like, hey, this really works. And now we’re going to continue aren’t book cares for our community service project for the years to come? So, a lot of things good things develop from it. It’s sort of like making the lemonade and lemon. Right. And that’s what we did.
Yeah. No, and I and I think I think, you know, you look back and you can take a great sense of pride in that. We, we were fluid enough, just to continually roll because daily things changed, you know, I mean, and so you can’t you know, you’re talking we’ve got to project these things months out, you know, when you’re putting on an event like that, you can’t go well, let’s wait till the week before and we’ll figure out whether it’s fans or not. I mean, how do you sell tickets, you know, they did a great job of repackaging and giving deals on sweets so that people could stay in their own little clusters, knowing they were safe, which I do with my family went to the game and had a great time.
And I’ll say this, we did not know if there was going to be a game until that football was kicked, right. I’m not just saying no, I actually mean that because we did not know whether or not a team could that was sitting in a locker room. If those kids had gotten a you know, COVID or whatever it may be. That game was on. Oh, sure. So we really were on pins and needles, as we were really moving up to game time.
Well, all the things we do and it was you know, so North Carolina makes it for the very first time Yep. My son played at North Carolina just a few years ago knows tons of people there. And I’m like, Oh, this would be awesome. Because there’s so many events I could take him to you know at the team hotel and hospitality and all sudden it’s like, no, they’re coming down in a hermetically sealed bubble, they’re going to stay in this little bubble. They’re going to have one or two little practices over here and nobody gets it. That’s it. So, so he didn’t get to any of those events. So, you know, we’ll see. I think we were talking just for started. You know, Mack Brown has done such a great job. I think we’ll see North Carolina again down here. That certainly won’t be there was their first won’t be their last. I
agree. I agree. I mean, they could be ACC champions and everything. But this year, as you know, in your audience that may have some familiarity with college football this year, we will have a semifinal game, right. So, either be one versus four or two versus three. At the Capital One Orange Bowl back got to be what December 31. See here.
Yes, yep. Yes. So please, we assume choice is ever evolving, right. We’re slightly more stable. But you know, we’ve got to get going there. So, what’s the what’s the what’s the greatest takeaway you have? From being president? I know, it was a unique year and everything else. But you look back on it and go, you know, this was the most sort of joyous moment if there is a single moment.
I’ve had some time to think about that, because that’s a question that I’ve pondered. And I will definitely say, who was the people that I had around me? There was never a no, it was always How can I help? What can I do? And I reached out to so many people in our committee and said, I don’t know how to do this, can you lead this, us through this, and they come back to read with recommendations. And they did it with passion, they did it with love. And I think that it made our committee a lot a lot tighter. And it realized that how many great leaders we have in our committee of, you know, some 300 people. So my by far, it was certainly the way that the committee came together and did what they had to do to make it occur so that we would have a game on last year.
And I think that really typifies South Florida. Because if you look at the history of South Florida, when there’s disaster when there’s a Hurricane Andrew, yeah, yeah, a lot of bad comes out to people, but you really get for
that time to see the best. I mean, we will shine in the face of adversity. And that’s, that’s where you see, the leaders step up, you know, we saw suicide and we saw how that community came together with certified suicide a couple months ago, see the Haiti earthquake and see what’s happening there. We saw with what’s what happens in you know, with Hurricane Ida and, and Louisiana. So as these disasters occur, whether they occur in our community, or outside of our community, South Florida, I think is there for our nation.
So, Florida is a resilient, resilient area, the punchline to a lot of jokes, occasionally with Florida, but South Florida like is different from Florida. And that’s a whole different debate for some other time, because I’m like, we’re South geographically, but we’re kind of a different type of city than the rest of Florida.
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. It’s that 15 century phrase that Shakespeare wrote and was uttered by Dick the butcher, and drew cut a raucous laughs even though there’s a debate as to what the line meant. And line, it still makes people laugh today, when we say first off, let’s kill all the lawyers. So, I’m David Heffernan. I’ve been a personal injury lawyer here in Miami for nearly three decades. And the goal behind this is to introduce you to other local lawyers and talk about various aspects of the law and maybe one by one, start to take a few lawyers off of that kill list. My guest this morning is a good friend, an avid cyclist, who I rarely see in clothes like this. And an excellent lawyer, Karen Jordan, and Karen. Welcome. Good morning, David. Good morning. Alright, so let’s talk about you because when we talk about local lawyers, you’re about as local as it gets, okay. You grew up down here. And then you go to Miami Dade, and then to F IU and then to St. Thomas. That is correct. But there’s a gap in there. So let’s talk about that. Because before you were a lawyer, you had another life.
I did. Before I was an attorney. I was a practicing sports, my massage therapist for about 1112 years, and I worked on athletes such as yourself.
Alright, so how does somebody then go from, from being a sports massage therapist, and everything else to going to law school seems to be not a natural transgression, maybe a little, you know, sort of a 180 jump.
That is true. When I was younger, I had intended to go to law school. And then I went out west and I got married. And I spent a few years living that life and traveling. And then I ended that. And I came back to Miami and I decided, you know, I need to get myself back on track to where I want it to be in my life. And I went back to school, and I continued the education. And that’s where it led me today. All right. So, what drew you to law school, I had always been interested in something that used my mind. I was very happy doing what I was doing. But I didn’t feel like it really used my intellectual assets, so to speak. So, I really wanted to do that. And I did like the fact that you were able to be involved with people, you were able to help people. And at that point, I just really wanted to become a lawyer to go out there and make my own business doing that.
And you did because you didn’t come out and start with a firm or anything else you started your own firm. So, did you go to law school, right?
I did. I’d always worked for myself, I had the joke that if if I worked for anybody, I would probably get fired anyway. So, I might as well just make my business. And I have a business degree. So, my degree from NYU was in business marketing. So, I already had that under my belt, I knew what I needed to do. The marketing is in complete aspect, because you can be a great lawyer, but running a business is a completely separate endeavor.
It’s funny, that’s a conversation I have with a lot of friends. And I think it’s a deficiency in law school. Because I think yes, they train you to become a lawyer. And there are a lot of great lawyers. But a lot of lawyers don’t know how to run a law firm. They don’t know the business end of it.
True. A lot of lawyers that come into law school, they don’t necessarily want to run their own business. They do like, you know, for different reasons. They want to, you know, work where somebody can go in and out and then not have the responsibility of running the business. But for me, I love business. I love running a business. So, I knew what to do. And I can tell you yes, I was working maybe 100 hours a week, the first couple years, you know, moving my own desks, you know, setting up my own accounting. I can’t tell you how many Sundays and Saturdays I spent knowing that learning the law because you do not have a mentor you are learning as you go. It really teaches you the hard lessons that you never forget, especially the first time you go before a court, and you don’t have somebody telling you what to do. And so you learn. It makes you a better lawyer.
No question. No question. I mean, it’s trial by fire. You know? Yes. So, alright, so you open your own firm? And have you always dealt with domestic and divorce and immigration? Is that where the focus started?
No, actually, interestingly enough, in law school, I was more interested in intellectual property law. I had always been involved in music during my younger life. And so, I was geared towards that. And I actually did an internship with Mr. Wolf, who’s a very well renowned intellectual property attorney and I did an internship there. And I found that I would have had to have joined a law firm to do that. And I wasn’t inclined to do that. I actually rented some office space in another attorney’s office who was retiring and it kind of just fell in my lap Believe it or not, Were his older clients moving out were Family Law clients and some immigration clients. And I just took them on. And I learned as I went, and I was involved, and it was a good business, and I delved into it, and I found out that I was very good at it.
Alright, so let’s delve into it. Okay, because this is one i think that’s always an interesting topic, just because it’s either affected everybody personally, or affected someone they know. divorce. I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, we’re over the 50%. Mark, I think, and most marriages are sort of almost set up to fail. It’s a begins now. So, let’s talk about divorce law and sort of trends that you see in that, and I want to talk about the pandemic as well, and how that’s affected. But what was the appeal of doing domestic work,
or domestic work is very personal, I find that I am a very personal attorney. When my clients come to me, I am not afraid to ask them the hard questions. I know what they’re going through. I mean, I’ve been divorced. I’ve also my parents were divorced. I know what that’s like. And so I really personalize it. And I think that people coming in understand that, that they can tell me what is going on. I’m also a very strong person, when a person comes in, and they’re not quite sure I’m able to guide them and let them know that it’s okay to tell me those personal things that I’ve heard them before, and that I can help them. And I think that puts them at ease. And it makes me feel good to be able to do that.
Right? Do you tend to represent more husbands more wives, or it’s whoever comes in, because I know some lawyers sort of, I don’t know that they gear it that way? But it just winds up there. Oh, that’s view if your wife, you should go see this lawyer, you know, if your husband, you need to go see this lawyer.
Interestingly enough, I have a pretty 50/50 ratio. Some of the trends that I’ve noticed over the years is that the fathers have been having, getting more time sharing, you know, right now we started equal time sharing. Before many years ago, the presumption was that the mother would get them majority time sharing, the father would have to fight for that. Good thing is that now the premises that it starts at equal. And interestingly enough, I have a lot of fathers who actually majority time sharing now. So I’ve noticed that switch, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the economics and more women are taking charge and going out there and doing, you know, businesses and work, or I don’t know, but I’ve noticed that shift where the fathers are actually having majority time sharing, but I do represent equally both mothers, fathers, husbands and wives and do not have a majority of one or the other.
You’re in that delicate balance, you know, there’s a thin line between love and hate, you know, for a reason, because things are very passionate, either way. And so, you see a lot of times in divorce, how do you deal with the aspect of, you know, I want to hurt this person? Now, you know, in other words, I mean, I want a pound of flesh I want? And how do you sort of get that separated to say, really, it’s a business transaction, we’ve got to get it boiled down to that.
I think a lot of times, it depends on if the representation on the other side is as equally level headed. Because Don’t forget, there’s a lot of moving parts in a divorce, you have your client, you may or may not have children, you have extended family members, if it’s a post modification, after divorce, you might have a new spouse involved. You have opposing counsel, and then you have the judge. So there’s a lot of moving parts in a divorce. And you also see people at their very worst, you don’t see them at their best. And in order to get them to how do I say talk them off the ledge A lot of times, right, you really have to take them aside when they get emotional. And they get over the top. And you have to look at them and say, if I were to go into court with this, this would not work, this would not fly, you would lose and I don’t want that to happen to you. So, take a step back. take three deep breaths, right, and let’s do it together. And I’ve actually done that with my clients. And let’s think about what you’re saying. So I think that helps. And I think having the background that I have in doing even the therapy, you know, allowing people to just take their moment, and then move on from there is really helpful in divorce because it’s so emotional and it feels like the bottom is dropping out. And I have to tell them, the bottom is not dropping out. It may feel like that but it will come back.
Right. Okay. How do you deal with the delicacy of when you have kids involved? I mean, that’s, I think, the most difficult and we often see it portrayed the kids sort of become pawns, you know, and they’re used as weapons toward the other spouse. So how do you how do you kind of try to neutralize that and try to protect particularly young children in what’s an extraordinarily stressful situation?
Yes, that is an extraordinarily stressful situation for both parents, I think the most important thing that I have to look at is what is in the best interests of the child. And that is the standard that the courts look out. And at a certain point, the judge or whoever is administering the law over that case, will look at both parents and say, I really don’t care, I’m thinking of your child. So again, I try to step back, and I try to look at that parent, if I represent them, and I say, you know, is this good for your child, you know, maybe the other person isn’t an ogre. Or maybe the person is and you do have to step in and file an emergency motion and protect that child, which is often the case. So it each part of the case, whether you’re doing the analysis, or whether you’re actually in the case, you have to remind your client, you know, are you being over the top, you know, is the judge may be going to admonish you and say, you know, ma’am, or Sir, this is not in the best interest of your child, the other parents should have time sharing, or otherwise. And I think you have to walk them back from that and remind them of what is going on.
We went through, and there was a great meme I saw yesterday, it’s a guy running and he says me still processing 2020. And there’s a guy right behind him that says 2022, just four months away. You know, we sort of went through 2020, in this pandemic and into 2021. And it’s all kind of been a blur, but and we’ve seen a lot of different aspects. Obviously, bankruptcies have skyrocketed and everything else. But what about the impact on divorce, when you’ve got people now sequestered during lockdown, things like that? What have you seen as far as trends going in divorce?
Well, real briefly, I’ll take everyone back to that time, we know we’re used to going into court, we’re used to represent our clients in front of the jury, the lawyers and judges in the whole system was shut down, we had to learn how to do zoom, we had to learn how to present our evidence. I’m also a certified Family Law mediator. And we were learning how to do mediations via zoom. You know, life didn’t stop. So, I can come in the court system in Miami Dade County, because they did they did come up to speed and they were exceptional. So that being said, during that timeframe, as far as a family matters, were concerned, if the parties were already separating divorce, we had the time sharing issues of you know, who was going to have them during the pandemic. Some parents could agree, and some parents couldn’t during that time, we did the best we could I mean, there wasn’t a point in time where some parents did not see their child for a portion of time whether the parent was sick, and the other parent was healthy, or whether the child was sick or not in school and had to be homeschooled. Yes, it was pandemonium if I can, you know, use that word. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We controlled it. People were dealing with a lot. And they were trying to work together that time.
Yeah, we’ve talked about it in some other shows. And I really do think that the judiciary for Miami Dade was out in front, then quickly went to zoom, they went for different they were trying different ways to have jury trials. And always And surprisingly, you know, at least in the civil end of things, were able to continue to move cases. And so, you know, a lot to be said about that. And we’re far from it yet. I mean, unfortunately now, you know, yes, we sort of reopened the courthouse except now they’ve condemned the courthouse because it’s falling down. And it’s an unsafe building. So we have judges ready to work and lawyers ready to work. We just don’t have a courtroom to go to anymore for a while.
Yeah, I have to tell you the funny stories is that everybody knows what dogs they have now. Because you know, you’re in a courtroom and you think it’s a courtroom. But actually, it’s the backdrop of the judges, right. And then your dog barks and then their dog barks. And then before you know it, you’re showing everybody your dogs. So it’s actually personalized people in a way that I don’t think would have happened before. It’s made us kind of realize that although we are judges, we are attorneys, you know, we are even the litigants, you know, we all have lives, and we all you know, our people, we shouldn’t be feared as much. And I think one thing that pin them did positively was bring that out more. And, and you know, I now know what judges dogs are looking like, and it’s personal.
Absolutely. I mean, I had I had a young lawyer and got to know her and we’re taking the deposition. And you know, she’s homeschooling kids and this not and, you know, how are you doing? Well, I’m failing first grade virtually, but I’m doing okay in third grade because she’s trying to practice law. She’s trying to keep both our kids in front of their computers while they do it. So, it’s been an incredible strain. But I think it’s a testament to, again, the human nature and the ability to adapt to these things. And, and I think the legal community has done a good job with that. And yes, but yeah, so I’ve met lots of kids and dogs that I didn’t know they had. Exactly,
exactly. I think one of the things that people forget is that during the process of divorce, that both people have feelings and emotions, and that the lawyers also have feelings and emotions. And also, you know, we’re dealing with a lot of plates in the air. And they that they don’t realize because I understand they’re encapsulating what they’re going through. And so, I tried to explain to them how the system works. And I think it’s important for people to know how the system works. In so many times, I have a client that maybe had a prior lawyer, and they said, I walked into court, I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea why was there no idea, you know, and so it’s really incumbent upon us as specifically Family Law Attorneys, when there are emotions. And there are children that are properties involved, their life savings practically sometimes, is that you break it down, I’m going in for this reason, this is what’s expected of you. This is what you need to know, this is how you need to prepare. And that’s really important because you’re nervous, the client, not nervous, but the clients, they don’t know what’s going to be asked of them. If it’s a trial, and there’s cross examination. You know, you need to prepare your client to be bombarded maybe with them pleasantries. So I think it’s important for the lawyer to prepare your client to also know that there’s been mediation available, which is a wonderful tool. I mean, as a mediator, I try to always support that and say mediation is a tool that can alleviate not only the cost, which is a high cost, right to divorce, or any part of the family law process. You know, it’s not insurance related, we can’t take a settlement, it is basically out of your pocket or out of the other party’s pocket. So, it’s important to know you have to find other ways to solve the problem and that this is a bubble in time of your life. It is not your whole life, that it This too shall pass. And that you can go on to do the least amount of damage to yourself and others during the process
was one of my favorite bumper stickers years ago. And it’s a little dated, but years ago, bumper sticker said love is grand divorce is 50 grand. So it’s, it’s it is an expensive process. One of the things that I had read articles about and would like your thoughts on is the collaborative process now? Is that something you see that’s going on? And can you explain how that works?
Okay, I have thoughts about the collaborative process, I hopeful, but in the end, it can start a collaborative, and then it typically doesn’t end in a collaborative fashion. And then the collaborative lawyer has to withdraw. That’s part of the process, if you enter into collaborative agreement for that type of dissolution of marriage. Typically, my experience has not worked. That’s just my experience.
It is an interesting concept to me, because, as you alluded to, so you can hire a lawyer, both sides can have lawyers, but those lawyers have to agree that they won’t go on with litigation if you can’t deal and resolve it through the collaborative process. So in theory, it sounds good. But you’re saying
I’m saying if you have an agreement with your party, just get a lawyer and have an agreement, write the case, I mean, you don’t really need to go through all the collaborative process. And that’s just again, not taking away from collaborative attorneys of their process. But that’s something that works in their system. But from my you know, 23 years of being an attorney and Family Law, I have found that if you do have an amicable divorce, just create a settlement agreement, right? Go through the easy process, and then it’s done. Because at that point, if you do have that, and it does fall by the wayside, you keep your attorney, you then it becomes litigation, and then you move on is you don’t have to start all
over to restart. Right, right. Right. Okay. So we talked about divorce, let’s talk about the byproducts of divorce, the other aspects of domestic law. And I’m sure the pandemic has had a big effect on this, people lose their jobs, or people are now working at home, or they’re not making as much money or they voluntarily changed and did something during the pandemic. How does that all get affected? And what happens then to the agreements that are in place?
Yes, modification, I would say it’s a substantial part of my practice. And for the viewers a modification is when you have maybe a final judgment of divorce, and a marital settlement agreement or mediated settlement agreement. And through substantial changes, there needs to be a post modification of that agreement, so that you can start from a different point in place of your life. And there has been many of them a lot of that going on. Now. What happens with that is if somebody has lost their job, and it’s long term, then we have to go back in and assess is this long term was a voluntary? Was it involuntary? So there’s a lot of parts that go into it. Also, did one party have to remove a child from school for various reasons? And then do we have to modify where that child now is going to school if there’s no agreement, or if one party was forced to move, so the modifications can be just as difficult as the actual divorce sometimes It’s another process, it’s very similar to to the actual beginning of the divorce, except now you have to show why things have changed. But I encourage people to do a modification. Because if it’s not working, and your child is five or six, you’ve got a lot of years to deal with that the way it is, it’s not working. So go ahead and make that move if you need to.
What about other aspects of things, custody battles that arise maybe after the divorce? So, you know, we’re going to share custody or whatnot. But then there’s now accusations against one spouse with that child? How does that all get impacted and how the parties deal with it?
Very, very difficult. I’m sure. It’s, it’s a, it’s one of those cases, and one of these areas of family law, that has to be tread on very carefully. The allegations are serious. You know, a lot of people get angry, especially with domestic violence, you know, people make accusations because they didn’t get what they wanted, or, you know, it did happen. So, you know, you really have to vet them. And you really have to question your client, you have to know that what you’re doing is something that you feel is not frivolous to the court. And I think that’s important for the attorney to make sure that you, you talk to your client, you find out if this is correct, because it does have an impact on the other party’s job, on their livelihood on their time sharing. And, and I speak to other lawyers, when I say that not only the clients, that you have to be realistic, and not make false allegations. That being said, as far as a child custody, you do have to again, make sure that the best interests of the child are front center. And that’s what the court looks at. So, you want to make sure you pick that apart as well. Because you don’t want the person to go forward and perhaps jeopardize what they have in their current time sharing if they’re unreasonable, because the judges don’t look kindly on that, right. So, we want to make sure our client has a reality check while we go through the process. If it is realistic, and it is something that should be done, then we go for we file our petition for modification, we set it before the court, and we have a litigation we have to or modification as through mediation. So, it’s another whole portion of the whole new case, basically, I deal a lot with military law, My office is south. So, I’m very close to the airbase. And the relocation is a lot, you know, we do a lot of relocation cases. And that has a whole different structure of law that you have to attach to it. So again, you have to make sure your client has a realistic expectation of what will occur and explain to them and if they have all the criteria, then you move forward with it.
So you say military law, is that separate and distinct? I mean, they have their own body of law that controls
in many aspects. They do. Okay, not all but in many they do. There are specific provisions that deal only with Military Divorce, regarding a pensions, regarding you know, insurance, regarding relocation. I’ve represented people who’ve been overseas in Japan, I’ve done trials via zoom, you know, people are in other countries. So, the whole relocation process may be a little different with that and other aspects. It’s still a divorce, but there’s just some different legal ramifications for that and actually different laws that come into play. Interesting.
Alright. So, what advice do you have for people that are contemplating divorce?
Well, I always like to say I’m a big believer in marriage, and I’m a big believer in divorce. You know, marriage. Again, I have to remind people marriage is a contract. You know, people don’t like prenuptial is what I say when you say I do, you’ve entered into a prenuptial dictated by the laws of the state of Florida. Well, that’s true. That’s an interesting point. You have already without knowing entered into prenuptial agreement, right. So if you want to get really romantic draft your own prenuptial vows. People don’t know that. So what I what I’m saying about family law and divorce in general is, you know, try to try to go to counseling. I’m a big believer in marriage counseling, if there’s no domestic violence involved in anything that was serious in nature, and try to see if you can work that out. If you can’t then find the right lawyer. You know, make sure that it’s explained to you divorce is a personal matter. I mean, my life will go on your life, right? So you have to like your attorney, you have to trust your attorney. You have to feel like you’re being represented in divorce should be contemplated very seriously, on behalf of the children, but go for it. If you feel like this marriage is not working for you. And it’s it’s an emotional business, as I like to call it. It is to people coming into partnership, and in various degrees, whether it’s financial, whether it’s emotional, whether it’s childcare, and once you separate, your life is different. So prepare yourself for that and Get your ducks in a row. And, and, and be honest about it, don’t try to manipulate the process because in the end, it all comes out in the wash. So make it simple, make it straightforward. You know, this is your child, this is somebody that she was loved in the past, and now you don’t. But okay, let’s be human. That’s why I try to tell my clients.
Well, it’s good advice. And I do the same, obviously, personal injury people are dealing with tragedy, or wrongful death cases, is find a lawyer that you can ever relationship with, because it’s going to be a long term relationship. I mean, these you know, it’s not okay, here, bam, you know, file three things, I’ll see you, we’ll have a phone call, that’ll be it. It’s a long, most times pretty drawn out, litigious process. And so having somebody that you can communicate with, that you’re comfortable with, I think is extraordinarily important when they pick a lawyer. And let’s talk about one other aspect, because you said, You’re a certified mediator, okay. I’m a big proponent of mediation. We had Stan Blake on a few weeks ago, who was one of my favorite one of my favorite people. But, you know, one of the top Circuit Court judges for so many years, and now he’s a fantastic mediator, have used him and he just brings that whole skill set to it. And it is amazing sometimes how cases you think, really have no shot of getting resolved, but you get everybody in the same room virtually or otherwise. And things happen. So in the divorce context, talk about those mediations,
in the divorce context, being a mediator, it’s a very active process, especially via zoom, right? You have to be a technological wizard at best. But in general mediation is you really, as a mediator standpoint, you have to listen. And you have to, again, manage people’s expectations. It’s a confidential process. So you have to be very wary of going from one side to another, if you’re in a caucus, which means that you’re with one separate party and their attorney or alone, dealing with that. So it’s a respectful process. And that is one main component that I start with in my mediations is a respectful process. And it’s here, if it’s an opportunity for both of you to maybe take a step back and realize that in the end, you don’t have control, if you go before the judge, right now you have control. So let’s manage those expectations. And let’s get forward a plan that both can be workable for both parties, you have to move each other to the middle, as best as you can. And again, as you know, everybody says mediation successful with the neither party is happy, nobody’s happy. And then again, again, the confidential processes, definitely play mediation, it can take hours, it can take two hours, it can take 10 hours. And again, I think the most important thing as a mediator is to be confident in yourself, and what you’re proposing to each party, and also being secure that the people know that what they’re telling you is definitely not spoken about unless you give consent, right and that you can go to the other party and let them know if you just cannot agree then we can agree partially on certain issues, especially family all you can have child timesharing agreed upon but not property division or equitable distribution Do you know? So in family law, we can bifurcate things and a portion of it have it agreed to and a portion of a go before the court. So that’s important to know, if you’re a little hesitant, you have control, and you can do this in different ways. And that’s as far as mediation is concerned. I think I really, very, you know, I think it’s a great, great part of divorce law and an opportunity for people to settle their case.
Well, there you go. One more hopefully, that we can take off the kill list. Karen, it’s it’s really been a pleasure. It’s an area of law that I know little or nothing about, but is so critical, as I said, because we all know, either direct close impact a family member friends, and I get calls all the time, you know, hey, I’m thinking about getting divorced, who do I talk to, you know, and finding that right lawyer I think is critical. So hopefully, that’s when we can take off the kill list. Next time. I see you probably in cycling gear and we’ll be out in heat somewhere. But pleasure to see you in this environment. hope you all enjoyed it. And we’ll be back next week with another episode of first off let’s kill all the lawyers.
Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers.
Uttered in a Shakespeare line back in the 15th century, which kind of drew raucous applause. Still today sort of holds out when you bring that line up, people kind of smirk or chuckle and think it’s not a bad idea. I’m David Heffernan. I’ve been practicing personal injury law in Miami for almost three decades, and I’m an adjunct faculty at the University of Miami School of Law and their trial program. My goal behind putting this program together was to bring in other local South Florida lawyers.
And maybe one by one, we can take a few of them off the list. My guest this morning, a guy that checks a lot of boxes for me. He’s a good friend. He’s a great lawyer. He is a Columbus High School grad. He’s a University of Miami law school grad. He’s an avid cyclist, we ride quite a bit together. So pretty good guy gets a lot of things done. Welcome Domingo Rodriguez. Thank you, David. It’s good to be here. Good. Good. All right. Well, let’s talk because there’s a lot of things that interests me about you.
Your background is interesting. You came were born in Cuba, right? came over here. But you’re true, you know, sort of Miami kid, right? That’s true. Greg, I grew up literally blocks from where we’re sitting today, and still live blocks where we’re sitting today. So, you’ve kept your world small when it comes to Miami. Fair enough.
But I was interested in looking so family background is in the marine industry. And yet at the same time, you were doing things at South Miami hospital. So, we’ve sort of got healthcare provision and Marine, and you go to law school Why?
Well, that’s a good question. And it
I made friends with a guy that I sold a boat to who was a very good lawyer that most people, at least in our world know a gentleman by the name of Stuart Grossman. And Stuart’s very good friend of mine, right? So, Stuart,
I had always I was always interested in law. But during the process of selling Stuart a boat, he he mentioned, he said to me one day, Domingo, you know, you would be a good lawyer because you’re a good salesman. And that’s what we do as lawyers, we sell our case to a jury. So Stuart is he gave he, I was sort of leaning in that direction. But he kind of gave me the final push. Stuart can be very persuasive when he wants Oh, for sure. Oh, great guy, good firm Andy off is one of my closest friends been with him for forever. So I think very fondly of them. So it gets you into law school. And then I know, you come out of law school. You actually start in with a friend of mine, your former partner, john Aronson in the maritime field. Well, actually, I want to go back, this is what I wanted to talk to you about. You actually started with Stanley Rosenblatt. True. Okay. So I got to spend a few minutes on this just because I’m fascinated because I think, you know, again, anybody that’s been around Miami, or in the legal community anywhere, know, Stanley Rosenblatt and what was it $145 billion verdict, you know, a first on behalf of the Air Flight attendants, and then Floridians and everything else. And of course, form the basis he took on tobacco companies and formed the basis of the whole angle progeny now that all of these tobacco cases go forward with that premise.
But a little bit of a fascinating guy because a mom and pop shop, and the guy took it on big tobacco. Right. So tell me how you start with Stanley Rosenblatt? Well, it comes back to
my tenure, if you will, as a law clerk with the firm that was formerly known as Spence, Payne, matching and Grossman when I was in law school. And truth be told, when I was in law school, I wanted very badly to stay with that firm when I graduated, but the stars just didn’t line up.
In one day, JB Spence who’s a senior guy at that firm, also a very well known and recognized down the street from him. I’m very close friends with his son, john, I used to vacation with him all the time down at Ocean reef. There you go. JB was a fascinating, fascinating man. JB walks into the law clerks room that the Old Firm one day and he says Domingo, I just had lunch with Stanley Rosenblatt and he’s looking for an associate. So I told him about you. If you’re Do you know who he is? And I was, of course, I know who Stanley is. So he said he, I told him that if you were here, I’d send you over for an interview. So I went across the street, met with
with Stanley and his then partner, Neil Roth, who ironically is now partners with Stuart Grossman, right, and they interviewed and hired me on the spot. And then I started working with them the next one day and I ended up about a year and a half working with Stanley and from there I his way
My maritime career really started after I left Stanley, I went to work for a firm that doesn’t exist anymore. But it was at the time it was called Hayden and Milliken and Coral Gables a very well known firm that focused on maritime law. And the reason I was attracted to maritime law is what you alluded to earlier, as I grew up, my family growing up had a boat yard in North Miami, so I grew up around the water and around boats, and I was always interested in the I went to law school wanting to be a maritime lawyer. Okay, so I, which is probably not common, I think, you know, most people that go to law school end up in a field where they get a job. Yeah, well, the problem is, and I’ve handled, you know, death and accident cases out there, the problem is, then you get into maritime law, and you take a lawyer like me, who understands sort of the civil law and everything else, and you get into the weeds of the maritime law, and you’re like, whoa, wait a minute, like, this is a little more complicated. We had a horrible case in the keys, but we had to measure just exactly how far off landed was and and if this mangrove is sticking up at low tide does that count versus this and gets a little complicated maritime law can be a quagmire for non maritime attorneys. And I would not recommend an attorney who’s not really versed in maritime law to take on a maritime case, because it’s just a recipe for disaster. The maritime law community in Miami is pretty small. Everybody knows everybody, right? But so when we see somebody, I can tell you that during the years, I was practicing, almost exclusively maritime law, when I would see an attorney and attorney on the other side of the case, if I didn’t know him, he wasn’t really a maritime lawyer. Right. And it was,
it often didn’t turn out well for them. Alright, so let’s segue. And again, one of the things I like to do on this program is talk about things that are our current in law. And this is actually, you know, we’re going go back and talk to civil rights, because that’s sort of where your career has evolved to, so doing a maritime but evolved into civil rights. And I say, current and trending, although, it goes back to the 1800s when it was first enacted. Correct, you know, but then since dormant but so let’s talk about civil rights, and let’s tread into excessive force by police and claims against police officers and, and kind of tell me how your career shifted into that. And then I want to talk about that type of law.
So I got involved in civil rights litigation, about 12 years ago, and it was almost accidental. And a very good friend that started with one case, a very good friend of mine, who’s a criminal defense attorney had a client who had a problem,
excessive use of force interaction with a police officer, and he asked me what I thought about it, he was a criminal defense attorney, he’d come out of the public defender’s office and was then and still is in private practice. We started talking about the case. And at that point in time, I had never done a civil rights case, but I was interested in it. And so anyway, we, after I got a handle on what needed to be done, we filed that lawsuit in federal court, and federal court because of my Admiralty background was is a place where I’m comfortable. Right. And there’s, you know, most non lawyer, people don’t appreciate the difference between federal court and state court litigation, it’s two different worlds. And many lawyers, as you probably know, don’t want to have anything to do with federal court because it is so different. The rules are different. It’s perhaps more formal, much more formal. Well, I think, much more fun, because I do both but predominantly state court, but I do my fair share of federal court. But I think again, you know, federal court, sort of all the ducks need to be lined up ahead of time. It’s a lot more writing and briefing right than state court, which is a lot more, I think, oral argument and pushing your cases in different ways. So
you’re right. I think people tend to shy away because they’re like, wait, I got an issue with you. I got an issue. We can stay court, I call the judge, we kind of get before the judge and we hash it out. I got an issue in federal court. Well, I got to brief it, you got to respond, I got to reply. And then oftentimes, we wait a long time, while you move forward with the litigation. So it’s a whole different animal, correct. That’s true. So
that case, led that case got some publicity in the local media. And that reporter from the Herald wrote about the case a couple times, it was on a couple of the local TV stations reported on it. And so from that, just by word of mouth, evolved from there, the next thing I know, I’m getting calls from other lawyers, from former clients. And
today, I would say that a good 40% of my practice, maybe a little more even
his civil rights litigation, and I still do some of the maritime stuff, but not as much as I used to at one point in time. It was almost my entire practice, right?
Well, let’s focus on because again, you know, if we paint with a broad brush of civil rights litigation, we can do you know, yeah, and we could do a 40 hour podcast and talk about all of that
let’s isolate now because again, I think it’s in the forefront and you know, unfortunately we’ve just seen it now in Miami Beach, right, with officers being arrested very quickly for use of excessive force and the videotape that’s out there so let’s talk about excessive force and what people can do if they think there’s a claim against the police because then that’s one of those hard things to take on do you take on a police department and what’s happened but we’re seeing more and more of it. Why is that?
I think that in the past year and a half, we’ve seen some real high profile cases that have
have we’ve seen the tape on TV the proliferation of cell phone video of security cameras, wherever we go. I personally pay a lot of attention that I when I’m walking around in a mall or in a shopping center wherever or in a store, there’s security cameras everywhere just because I’m tuned into that I I note I have noticed that and the other thing that has also I think the there was videotape this morning on one of the local
TV stations have an incident that happened overnight in Chicago. Okay, we’re in the video was body cam video. So right police the use of body cam by police departments is has now become almost standard practice. There still are some departments that don’t use body cams, but body cams have.
I think they help in cases where there’s a clear excessive use of force situation. And also the it cuts both ways, because it’ll protect the police correct it. It’s easier, you know, people can eyewitnesses. As you know from litigation, eyewitnesses can tell wildly different stories. But if it’s on video, it’s a lot easier to come to a conclusion. Case in point would be the Miami Beach, the five police officers in the incident that happened in Miami Beach last weekend. So yeah, I think that the tech, just the technology that we have available to us
makes it easier to understand what happens in a lot of these police interactions. And it has been brought to the forefront in the spotlight to the extent that there are bills in Congress now.
You know, seeking to make some reforms in in policing. So I think that’s one of the biggest factors, that it’s become prominent To me, it’s almost amusing because I’ve been dealing with issues of qualified immunity, and municipal liability and those kinds of issues that we talk about in federal civil rights cases. For years, and now everybody’s talking about right well, and in addition to body cam, everybody’s walking around with this. And the footage is there it was it was funny, because last show I had on a watcher who’s a private investigator, who we use quite a bit and again, in the personal injury realm of things, whether it’s a premises liability case, or an auto accident or anything else, getting people on the scene quickly and looking at it. Is there a camera on I 95. You know, which they have if the OTS got cameras there, or in the mall where there’s an incident or, you know, all of a sudden to be able to secure that videotape. It’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to a burden of proof. Right. So you look at those things, but let’s now kind of just peel it back a little bit because clearly,
police officers have a very dangerous job. They are in threat oftentimes. Okay. So where does that line get drawn as to what excessive forces? You know, I mean, some good easy, you know, if anybody has seen the tape of the Miami Beach Police, you know, it’s one of the reasons I think the arrest came about they quickly when a guy’s was handcuffed on the ground, and they’re kicking him, you know, you’re not in threat there. But where did those lines get drawn when someone has an incident with police officers? Well, let me say first that I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that police officers have a very difficult and dangerous job. And we have a great deal of respect for them. I know several police officers and ex police officers well, and I’ve we’ve talked about these issues and it is frankly a thankless job in many ways.
It’s a lot like police officers are a lot like lawyers in the sense that everybody likes to make fun of lawyers. That’s all they need, until they need a lawyer and the same
The same is true with police everybody, it’s easy to watch a videotape of the what happened on Miami Beach, and to then sort of condemned the entire department, right? Which isn’t fair.
And everybody likes to do that until they need the police when you win when you need it, when you’re in a situation where you need to call 911. You want them to be there right now. Right? So we have to honor and respect the work that they do and understand that the that a lot of times they’re working under extremely stressful circumstances. But having said that, there are
hard lines that cannot be crossed.
And there are in unfortunately, in lead in these kinds of cases, too. There’s also
some very broad range of gray cases, which
so when we look at, when we look at a civil rights zone, he comes up with a potential civil rights case, the first thing that we look at is, was there, what was the reason for the police interaction? Was it was there a probable cause a reasonable suspicion for the police officer to initiate the contact with these with the citizen? Where the person they don’t necessarily have to be a citizen? Right? Well, that’s true. Yeah. So the,
you know, that’s the first sort of threshold question, what, how did this interaction occur? Was there probable cause for the police officer to stop and speak to the person question them sometime soon as, which is critical, because in the absence of probable cause, I mean, it changes some of the immunities that are offered to some of the police officers, right, because there are levels of protection. And I want to talk about that in a minute afforded to cities and municipalities and the officers, so that you can’t just treat them as an average citizen to say, okay, you did this. So now I get to sue you. You know, there are different levels. But let’s go back to talk about sort of what, what rises to excessive force? Well, in in general, it’s, well, legally, it’s a if we’re talking about the liability of an individual police officer, and the concept of qualified immunity, police officers, obviously, have they carry weapons that are authorized to use force in circumstances where it’s warranted. And that’s the question when is when is it warranted. And
in a law enforcement scenario,
they are police officers are allowed to use force, even deadly force in a situation where some there’s an imminent danger or imminent peril, or somebody has just committed a violent crime. And they need to use deadly force to either apprehend someone who’s committed a violent crime, or prevent a violent crime from continuing or occurring in the first place. So that’s sort of very broad brush where deadly force or
strong force can be used.
And that is an objective standard. It’s a the, the case law says that a, it’s a the analysis, essentially boils down to whether a reasonably objective police officer would have thought that force was necessary at that under those circumstances. And I think that’s one of the things that’s important is, is to strip away, sort of the politicization of it, because we’ve seen that occur. Now in a lot of different things, okay, where everything becomes politics, I do a lot of medical malpractice, okay. And I look at these things, and people are often hesitant why I don’t want to sue a doctor. But there are duties that doctors have, okay. And again, standard of care as defined by other doctors. within that community. There are duties that police officers have, and I try to explain to people no different than a lawyer. But if you hired a contractor to build your house, and the wall falls down, everybody goes, Oh, I got no problem. I’ll sue the contractor. But then all of a sudden, you get to different things. And they’re like, well, I don’t want to sue my doctor. I don’t want to sue a police officer. But we’re a society of laws. So we have standards that define I guess, what’s appropriate practice for police officers, doctors, lawyers, and we hold people to that. So you know, again, I’m 100% supportive the police department and everything else. But there are times that they go beyond the duties that restrict them. And that’s when cases like this arise, right, the
to put put it in a slightly different way they have legal power and authority to enforce the laws. That’s what they do. And that can sometimes involve
using force even deadly force.
But together with that comes a big responsibility. And it’s not inappropriate to hold them to that higher standard when they cross the line. So and that is our job, our job I view, part of what our job is, is to protect people when the police do cross the line. And with looting to what we were talking about earlier with the video with videotape, in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of examples where it’s easy to make the call.
Where it is like the guy who is flying on the ground down with his handcuffs behind his back and police officer walks up to him starts kicking him that’s clearly over the line.
But there’s a lot of other kids circumstances where it’s not so clear. And even when you have videotape, it’s not always so clear, because you don’t know what may have happened before the videotape the camera and even body cam video is often Herky jerky, and it’s not the guy isn’t pointing in the right direction. And there’s a lot of things that even though we have video, there’s a lot of things that may have happened that we don’t see on that video. So we have to look at the totality of the circumstances, you know, and figure out whether or not there we have a violation of law, either federal law or state law. Alright, so let’s let’s just take in, take an example. somebody thinks that that they’ve been, you know, a victim of excessive force by a police officer. What are the steps that then go from there?
Well, if they if someone thinks that, and we’re talking about excessive use of force cases now, right, because
there’s two arenas in which these cases can be litigated. One is the federal court system, and the other is an in state court. And there’s advantages and disadvantages for both. And you really have to look at the case to see whether it’s a case it’s more appropriate for state court, or more appropriate for federal court, depending upon the circumstances because the standard of or the burdens of proof. And the elements of proof that you need to make are very different between the two. The court systems. I don’t want to get too deep into the law. But in state court, your claims are the general common law,
assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, those causes of actions that probably most tort lawyers in the state of Florida know and understand.
in federal court, it’s much different in we’re going back now to what you alluded to earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Right? And what we all sort of refer to in shorthand as 1983 cases, which refer I was thought it through was your we won the national championship? So it’s a good thing for me. I mean, yeah, section 1983. Is, is where you see, and now we get into constitutional violation. Right. Correct. So if you’re going to file a claim under Section 1983, what are the elements that you have to prove? Well, there’s
typically there’s two
sets of defendants, you have a petition under Title 42. Section 1983 is a federal law that gives someone who whose constitutional rights have been violated a potential cause of action against not only the individual officer or officers involved, but also against the municipality or the county, whoever employs the police department. You don’t sue the for example, not to pick on the city Miami police department but you don’t sue the city of Miami police department, you sue the city of Miami, correct? Because they’re employees of the city of Miami, and in just
so their defenses, their potential defenses are different.
Individual police officers have what we have been discussing as in terms of what’s called qualified immunity. And that essentially says that they
they have the they have immunity from using access or
force in any degree really, when it’s justified when there’s probable cause when they’re within the definition that that we spoke about a little while ago. municipalities have a different
in the common law.
You’re I’m sure you’re familiar with the doctrine what we call respondeat superior your which is the basic concept that an employer is liable. You’re in the course and scope of your employment employers responsible. Well, that doesn’t apply to price in in 1983. litigation to prove a claim against the municipality or the employer, the police, you have to show that the municipality engaged in a pattern and practice of
allowing encouraging turning a blind eye to
constitutional violations. And that is a pretty high bar. In most cases, it’s a pretty high bar to,
to be able to show
custom policies and practices because first of all, I don’t know of any police department who intentionally has, right a written pocket or write it in here. Yeah, here’s you’re not going write it, you’re going do Yeah, but what you do see is you see circumstances where police departments
don’t do good investigations of alleged police misconduct, they will do in an inadequate or sometimes not at all internal affairs investigation.
Again, going back to sort of turning that blind eye, where we may not have written this down, but we’re sorting endorsing it, because we’re not enforcing it. Right. And then together with that, there is a culture among certain departments, it’s worse in some departments in this area in South Florida than in others, but what people refer to as the blue wall of silence, and police officers all know what that means. And, and there are departments that have a serious problem with that because no police officer is ever going to in their terms rat out and a fellow officer.
that’s, that’s a that’s an obstacle. Because if there is no reliable reporting mechanism within the department to keep track of police, misconduct and Police Complaints, then it’s difficult from a later on from our perspective to prove that pattern and practice. So oftentimes, how it gets proven, indirectly or circumstantially by because they didn’t do a good investigation, because they didn’t do an eye investigation, because you can do public records requests, all police records are subject to public records requests, right. So we when we look at a case, one of the first things that we do in every case is that we do public records request to the agency and involved for the police officers personnel file, their internal affairs files, any records of any discipline or any other prior incidents. And that is a part of the evaluation process as to whether or not we’re going to accept the case and take it on because the bar is high in federal court. Now, another difference between the state court arena and federal litigation is in state court, the whoever you sue the it’s typically the municipality, you can only Sue an individual police officer in state court, if they’re really acting out almost outside of the course of scope of their employment, yet they have to prove that they did something to someone maliciously, recklessly, with conscious indifference to the consequences of their actions. problem is when you do that, then that it takes human mental municipality liability away is you can’t have it both ways. That’s true. It’s dicey. So going back to Section 1983. So those are constitutional things. So that would cover under the Fourth Amendment, excessive force, unlawful searches, seizure, right, false arrest, false imprisonment, those all fall under that umbrella. Most of the 1983 cases that we see are Fourth Amendment cases as you based on the things that you just mentioned, there are some and I’ve handled some Eighth Amendment cases in for prisoners, people who get abused or have a problem within a prison system. And those cases would come under the Eighth Amendment, the cruel and unusual punishment prohibition. But in there, there’s first amendment 1983 cases as well. But we don’t see nearly as many of those kinds of cases as the Fourth Amendment violations. I think that when in the national discourse, it’s been going on for the past since really, the George Floyd in the Briana Taylor cases became common parlance in our country.
The majority of cases such as those two cases or fourth amendment cases, and that’s fair to say that it’s mostly 19. Most 1983, litigation is fourth amendment. One thing I want to touch on quickly while we’re on fourth amendment, then I want to get this wrapped up is is one of the other things and you just mentioned George Floyd in some of these other cases, but one of the things that has come out of that is that officers can be held liable for not preventing another officer from exercising excessive force. So talk about that a little bit, which is an interesting thing. And we saw it in the George Boyd case. Now. We’re just standing by while your partner or fellow officers doing something may not be acceptable anymore. Well, I would say it’s always been so right. And there’s a long line of
cases that deal with an officers duty to intervene when they see a fellow officer committing what is clearly an unconstitutional action, beating somebody up with needlessly, essentially, or shooting someone.
So those cases have been around. They’re not as, as comp, they’re not that common. And I think that one of the problems with those kinds of cases is often causation, right.
But there is, in fact, and people should know that, that if they’re involved with an officer, they get a traffic stop, and they get a call for backup. And the next thing, you know, there’s three or four officers there, they the officers who did who are not maybe directly involved in an arrest or a DUI stop, or whatever it may be. They, as you say, very correctly, they have a duty if they’re there, they have a duty to intervene and protect people from a fellow officer if he’s acting outside of the parameters that they’re legally allowed to act. Alright, a lot to digest. It’s what we wanted to go over but, but just just sort of scratching the surface. And I appreciate Domingo coming in, because again, this is something we’re seeing, I think, in light of technology, in light of social media, you know, we’re seeing more and more of this. And unfortunately, the world of politics, that’s sort of smearing the entire message on both sides of everything.
But it is a fascinating system, that that those laws have been back to the 1800s that are levels of protection, obviously on both sides, significant levels of protection to make sure that the police and municipalities are protected and have to be held to certain standards. And likewise, on the other side, you’ve got a heavy burden of proof. But here’s sort of the things that you have to do. And there are rights of redress for people that are victims of this. Sure, absolutely. And,
you know, the title 42 1983 that we’re talking about, has been around since 1871. It was a series of federal laws that were passed in after the Civil War.
But there was really never any 1983 litigation until about the 60s. Civil Rights Movement, right. And, and, and under even under 1983, there was never any municipal liability until about the mid late 70s. Mid late I think 78 is when that was added in. So it is kind of a new field of law.
And it’s now it was a kind of an obscure area of law for a long time. And the events of the past year, year and a half have really brought it now to the forefront. So it’s a good conversation to have with with people so that they understand their rights. And I think that
if anything good can come out of this. I can’t say this enough that I do even though I sue police officers and police departments, we are very selective on the cases that we that we take, because we’re not these cases are not inexpensive to bring in huge investment in time and as well as money. So when we evaluate a case we’re we try to be careful and we look at it from both sides.
I think that one of the things that has happened here is that a lot of police officers and a lot of departments are understanding that they have to do more, they have to have the police, they have to have more what’s referred to as CIT comp,
conflict intervention training, or crisis intervention training, excuse me, and
and then just have more empathy, I think is the right word. Now I’ve heard so many police officers say I deal with criminals every day. I’m a street sweeper in the city of Miami, I pick up the garbage, which is a tough thing. And there’s no doubt there’s a lot of lunatics out there. Yeah. And they use those words, they say those things, but I think that they need to understand that what we were talking about earlier that with the authority and with the power also comes responsibility. And that’s where I see the, from a societal point of view the value of having access to the courts to seek redress when that line is crossed.
So that I
I myself, I really enjoyed doing maritime law, I almost I would say that I got involved in civil rights litigation almost by accident. It was a good friend called and said, I represented this guy and he I think he has I think he was mistreated by the police. Can you look at it and from that evolved, this this whole new area of practice for me and it’s really been
It’s a good feeling. When you have a case I’m I know you’ve experienced this before because we’ve talked about Sure.
When you when you have a case and you get a good result and you feel that the case makes a difference, the case makes a difference because the police department
does things to change the way they do things. So, we went in and one case that we have we, as part of a settlement we insisted that they the department start using body cams which they did not use prior to this incident. We insisted as part of non monetary terms of the settlement included a
citizen’s review panel for to evaluate excessive use of force complaints against the department which they did not have.
That any police of police involved shootings would be should be investigated by an outside agency the Florida Department of law enforcement, if it’s a small municipal department within Dade County, Miami Dade police department is a very good department and I know that they do these types of investigations for various departments around town.
So, I it feels good when you do something that makes a difference for the for our community. Well, and as much as I bash lawyers, I really do think it’s trial lawyers that bring about a lot of change. In cases like these in products cases. You know, we’re seeing it now in Surfside, we’re going see changes in some of those laws to protect people in the future because we are society laws. We’re talking about laws to go back to the 1800s. Shakespeare said in the 1500s. You know, first off, let’s kill all the lawyers. Well, Domingo, here’s one that maybe we can take off the list, and we’ll take it one by one each week. Join us again next week for first off let’s kill all the lawyers.
First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan and I’m a practicing lawyer in South Florida for about the last 30 years or so. And we put this together just because it’s one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes and often gets misconstrued going back to the 1500s. But the one thing about that line is it got a lot of laughs when when it was uttered back in the 1500s. And even today, people kind of go, it’s not a bad idea to get rid of some of those lawyers. So go here, bring other lawyers in bring other people to work with lawyers in kind of talk about the business end of things, and personalized some of it, and maybe one by one, take a few lawyers off the kill list. But I made it easy this morning, because I didn’t bring a lawyer in. I’m very privileged. Only because I’ve known this guy is a very, very close personal friend for the vast majority of my life, but also been an integral part of my law practice, as I’d like to introduce Dave watcher of the watcher agency, one of I think, one of the top private investigators, not only in town, I mean, nationally, you’ve done a lot and everything else. But I’ve had a lot of fun. Getting to know you over the years, but more importantly in the practice of things, you know, really working hand in hand with you on a lot of cases. So first off, welcome. Well, thank you. nice introduction. Well, thank you. Well, you know, the thing is, and I was thinking about this as we came over. I actually go back with you so far that this was before I was in law school, and I was actually working for you. When I made the decision to go to law school, undercover I was I was doing some undercover work for some paper company. We were I was up in singer Island and we you hired me and and I rented a car and we got the route. So these paper trucks, and they would periodically follow these guys to find out who was you know, going home during during lunch hours or who wasn’t dropping things off here and literally running on the beach one night, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. You know, I bounced around the NFL for a little bit. And that’s when I came to the decision to go to law school. So yeah, you You make me do grunt work like that forced me to go to law school and get a real job. It was it was all good. But let’s talk a little bit. Okay, you started out years ago in the public defender’s office. So how does that evolve from what you did the public defender’s office, what makes you go out and become a private investigator?
Well, money was a big motivation. I worked for the state, I actually learned so much at the public defender’s office, worked with tremendous attorneys. Guys, that taught me a lot about how to do my job. And as time went on, I realized there was a bigger fish out there to deal with and more challenges. And I wanted to start my own business. And it ended up in evolution. It took a lot of risk. I think a lot of lawyers, young lawyers go through that when they decide to go out on their own. And I had that same risk. And I was very fortunate that things worked out. Growing up here in Miami, I knew a lot of people. And so it was a natural fit. And here I am today and I’m almost ready to retire. I have my my son who’s my partner. Now, Travis Wasser. And technology technology has changed. So he has really boosted up our agency through the technology side. And he’s learned, learned a lot. And he’s, he’s out there doing going full time.
Good stuff, good stuff. So let’s let’s talk about what is it? What does it mean to be a private investigator? Okay. I mean, because I think the scope of services you offer is going to shock some people as to just how broad that goes. I mean, you know, you can think of the easy things, okay, you know, we go out and it’s a divorce case, and we do surveillance, and, you know, we get some videos that, you know, kind of make people uncomfortable and resolve issues, but but talk a little bit about the whole practice.
Well, we really are a service industry that helps attorneys in their case in their cases, and we have multifunctions, you know, we work for all kinds of attorneys from divorce and marital situations, civil attorneys, which is plaintiff and defense and, and criminal attorneys. So our function is to assist the attorneys in their cases and try to help them bring the case forward, so that they can be prepared when they go to trial.
Well, and I know because I personally, I mean, we bring you in on a case and it’s it’s just a tremendous asset, you become part of our litigation team. And and, you know, insurance companies, they often have their in house people, you know, they’ve got that ability to get these things. Done. But but for a small firm like Mark and I, to be able to bring somebody like you on a case and say, okay, from the onset, you know, hey, this, this just happened, this accident occurred or this incident occurred somewhere and immediately, we’ve sort of got eyes and ears on the ground, you know, we’re able to get somebody like you and other investigators that work for you out there to kind of develop what was going on in the scene and who the potential witnesses are and develop all of that. So how do you see your role when when lawyers bring you in? Early in a case?
Well, as time has changed, and in recent time, now, it’s important for us to get out there as soon as possible after an incident occurs. Sometimes people look at it is like almost ambulance chasing, but it’s not ambulance chasing, once we’re hired by the attorney, it’s important for us to get out there and talk to witnesses while it’s fresh. And we have a system where we go to our databases and our investigative research and we find these people and before they get lost people move away Miami’s got a lot of transient people that come and go. And so it’s important to, to talk to these witnesses, because a lot of times the police, they don’t concern themselves with keeping people around at scenes. And, and so a lot of those people get lost. So we have to get out there quick and and do our job. And that certainly helps the cases move forward.
Let’s say it’s also a situation I think now, having somebody get out to an area, there’s so much video cameras, on businesses and everything else to be able to get a lot of those businesses. It’s great. They’ve got surveillance one now nowadays,
I mean, bring cameras, me there’s more stuff being caught on ring cameras of what’s going on in the street. But you know, those businesses have systems and they rewrite and everything else. So if you don’t get somebody out there quickly, you may lose that opportunity. And that can be that can be a game changer. In a case. While it’s it’s extremely important. That’s one of the first things we do when we go and canvass an area. When I say Canvas, I mean, we go knock on doors, in a radius around where the incident occurred. And we’re looking everywhere for cameras. And it’s amazing how many cases we’ve solved through cameras. And a lot of times again, the police miss it because they’re not so interested in cameras for a lot of reasons. We need those cameras, because every camera could pick up something different. That may be helpful in our case.
Yeah, it’s it’s it’s critical. And, and and the services go beyond that. And I’m gonna ask you to share a story just because it’s my favorite story, because because I think it shows a couple of things shows the creativity of a guy like you, but even his things, civil as Service of Process. Sometimes, you know, lawyers have to get somebody served with papers. And sometimes people are trying to avoid that. So they may hire a private investigator, so So tell us about maybe one of your more interesting Service of Process cases. Well,
there was a case that went back a few years, a very wealthy developer on Miami Beach, lived on a private island. And we were trying to serve Him because this father in law, wanted him served papers. He was trying to collect on some money that was owed. And I had tried to go in the front door, but they had a gate there, and bodyguards. And so that wasn’t working out. So I put one of my guys, I told the client, I said, Hey, listen, he’s out of the country. Right now I’ve got an informant that’s told me that. He said, I don’t care. I want you to be out there. 24 hours a day, seven days a week till we get up. said okay. That’s good with me. So, I put one of my guys out on the causeway, and all of a sudden I get a call from him one day, and he goes, he’s here. I go, What do you mean? He goes, I’m looking through my binoculars. And I see him and he’s with several women and their nude sunbathing behind his beautiful mansion on this island. And I said, I’ll be right there. So I go to sunbathing. You’re actually planning on working. It’s one of my better case. Okay. So I get on over to club nautico. I ran a boat from Miami Beach Marina, where the captain and we pull up to the the man’s residence from the water and the planet was to fake engine trouble and roll up to his dock and asked to use his phone. So that worked like a dream. The guy came down, he actually put a towel around himself as he approached us and he said, What’s going on? I said, Well, we have some engine trouble. And he he, I said, Can Can I use your phone to call for help. And as we were getting close to him, he, I reach out and I pull the, the summons out of my back pocket, and I hand it to him. And he goes, What’s this? And I go, Well, you’ve been served
a summons. And
he said, Can I have your card? I said, Why didn’t you come in the front gate? I go, not too easy. Yeah.
That’s exactly why I didn’t come to the front gate. But again, the creativity and sort of persistence on getting something done. I mean, you know, if can’t get it done one way, try another way.
Well, you try to, you know, most of the time, and, and this has been the way I work, I try to do it, the, the easy way, just go out and talk to people straight up and, and do our job, you know, the way most people do it. But then if they’re, you know, deceptive, then we got to play our games, too. And sometimes you’re successful, sometimes you’re not, we just do the best we can.
Well, one of the things and and I think it really goes a lot to the success you’ve had over the years, but I’ve watched it firsthand is, again, I think your ability to communicate with people to get people to be candid with you, you know, in just in a non threatening, you know, kind of likable way. But But you know, I’ve read lots of statements you’ve taken on behalf of my clients and everything else. And you can see, you know, it’s it’s a, it’s a nervous situation, you’re asking somebody, Hey, can I take a recorded statement, but you’ve got an art about you, that puts people at ease. I mean, you created that what to just years of experience, or, you know,
people are very reluctant to talk because they’re abused by our system, unfortunately. And it’s hard to get witnesses to come forward and talk knowing that they may have to sit down in court, and wait and never get called, or get called numerous times, and never, never get called or then get abused from another attorney. So we just try our best to be straight with them. And because once you lied to them and and mislead them, they’re gone. That’s it, it’s over. And so we try to treat him as best as we can. And guys, like you that are attorneys that also help the situation out by speaking to them after we get hold of them, and making them feel like important. And and they have value to the case. It’s, it’s all good. And we we just try to do that. And, and and I try to do the best I can sometimes it doesn’t work,
right? Oh, yeah, no, no, you got to be one nothing to do with you. But But I think that is important. And and and it’s you know, it’s something I do when when you talk to people because again, if you mislead them, oh, you just give us a statement, you know, that’ll be the end of it. Well, then all sudden, they get served with a subpoena and they’ve got to be deposed, or they’ve got to show up in court. Now they’re not happy, okay, at least, you know, I think you got to lay it out but but explain how they can be part of helping this solution because normally, you know, the cases that you’re dealing with, for my firm or other civil firms, you know, oftentimes deal with devastating injuries, okay. And, and, and the ability to change people’s lives. But you got to get other people to help.
You know, some people just when it’s, when it happens to you, you know, and you want to help to somebody to help you, a lot of people don’t feel that same way. You know, they don’t want to help anybody else. We live we live in a very selfish town sometimes, right? And that’s what we struggle with, you know, and I guess, you try to make people feel good by letting them know how they’re helping and what they mean to this case. And, you know, that’s what we prey on, you know, sometimes I’ll show a picture of the person who is hurt very badly or, and and try to get some sympathy. Right. And that helps sometimes to get them to come forward and talk.
Well, let’s, let’s talk and you talked, you know, that your office now transitioning with your son Travis a little bit? How has technology changed the game? I mean, you started you know, back in the day where, you know, you you’d be out there and and, you know, it’s all knocking door to door to door and it’s that hard work that does that. So how have things changed? Well, now that you brought it up That’s right. Phone,
Grant Miller come in. So yes, this is a, this was called the brick. And it was the first telephone I had, I got an issue to me when I worked at the public defender’s office and weighs about 10 pounds. So get me in shape curls. But yes, technology has changed. I remember when I first went out, to go to a house to try to see who lived in a house back in the day. We couldn’t run license plates on the scene, we didn’t know who was in the house. So we’d have to go back to the office. Okay, go on our computer, that we had just gotten and learned how to get a tag and information, go back to the house. And now we knew whose car that was in front of them. Swimming, they were still there, right? Nowadays, you have a picture of them, you know, what his record is, you know, who lives with him? It’s so much technology that is helpful to us, and helps us identify who were were targeting.
What about other things that are there? database searches? Okay. I mean, I know, oftentimes, we’ll have a significant automobile accident, there’s a limited amount of coverage, you know, we sort of need the peace of mind to know, okay, this person that caused the accident, you know, most people in this town, and Florida is a pretty well, you know, well known state for debtors, you know, because they’re protected. But, you know, so talk about the databases that are available, some things that you may offer to law firms to help on on the financial end of things. So looking into things?
Well, there’s certainly databases that help us identify assets, you know, real property boats, you know, if they’ve filed bankruptcy, because if if, and have liens, because if you’re going after somebody, and they have all these things, you want to let your attorney that you’re working for know this, because they may not want to take the case,
right? And that’s the harsh reality. I mean, we’ve got to sit down with a client. So now this person was absolutely at fault. Yes, you’re absolutely significantly injured. But there’s nothing there. At the end of the day, I mean, you know, we can get you a piece of paper, you know, we get a jury to bring it back to you, but nobody’s going to be happy at the end of the day with your piece of paper, which we get a percentage of that piece of paper. That never gonna be collectible.
That’s correct. You know, at one point, I was gonna start a business, going after people going after debtors. And it’s a lot harder than you think attorneys are great at suing people and winning cases. But collecting on a debt is very difficult, and it’s time consuming. And at the end of the day, sometimes you just don’t get there. So we do the best we can to advise them of what they have, what they can get. And then it’s up to them how hard they want to push.
All right, let’s shift gears a little bit. You were involved in some pretty high profile national cases on on the criminal end, and I know the one that comes to mind is the murder of the young woman down in Miami few years back, how do you get involved with something like that?
Well, on that particular case, I think it was like New Year’s and all my investigators were hung over or from New Year’s Eve, and I was the one that answered the phone that day. Okay. Boyfriend called me to hire me. And he had desperately gone out trying to find his girlfriend who was missing. And, you know, I asked him, how’d you get my name? How’d you find me? And he did through the internet. Actually, I guess on Google, he googled private investigator Miami and I came up. And so I tried to help him. But I was a little sketchy about him. I wanted to learn more about him to see if he’s telling me the truth, because I didn’t know him from Adam. And I met him down at the Miami police department and I said, Let’s go talk to this detective. And immediately he was telling the story to me right as we’re talking to the detective, because time was of the essence at that point, she was missing for a little bit. And in missing persons cases, you want to find them as soon as you can. You want to get your information out there to the media in different places. So you can hopefully have a successful result. Unfortunately, in this case, yeah,
horrific, horrific result, you know, find her dead set on fire in a dumpster. I mean, that’s that’s even even in Miami standards. That one sort of shook everybody a little.
It was terrible. It was terrible. And We didn’t get a whole lot of cooperation from the police department that was handling it, because in my opinion, they just weren’t well trained in their home aside investigation, and they let a lot of things slip by. I was very upset about that. And we did our best to help the family, but there needed to be a stronger presence. And I know it wasn’t the most important thing on their on their list. But there could have been a lot more.
Right. So how do you deal with that relationship? Okay, because obviously, a lot of times you’re involved, whether it be a civil issue, or a criminal issue, where you’ve got the police actively involved? How do you kind of try to blend that relationship, because I would assume that it many times the police officers are like, okay, you’re your private investigator go away, let the big boys do their job, you know, but as you point out, and again, not a criticism of the police, a lot of times, they’re not really doing all they can
you know, the police are protected by open cases. So if it’s an open homicide, they do not have to share anything with us. And as a result, that can work out good for them or bad for them. In this particular case, I thought it was bad for them, because I think if they had worked with us, and other other people, private organizations, they could have solved this case. But unfortunately, you try your best to get their confidence because my, my feeling was I didn’t want to go out and hurt the police. I love the police, right? These are great. They’re they’re what we need, who wants to defend police, we need more police, right. But you want to work together and find a common ground where you both can assist each other. And a lot of times, private investigators. I know I’ve worked with Miami Dade homicide and different organizations, and they’ve been great in certain cases. And we’ve been able to help them and they’ve been able to help us. So it all depends on the case who’s involved. And the trustworthiness, I’ve had always had a lot of former detectives working for me and their relationship with the police, bridges the gap and helps things move forward. And hey, the bottom line, we want to we want to help them get the case soft. That’s that’s what it’s all about.
Yeah, and we get the same thing. I mean, a lot of times, I’ve got cases where the state attorneys involved in some component of I’ve got the civil end of it, they’ve got the criminal. And it really is it’s kind of hit or miss sometimes because we very actively reach out because a lot of times I have information I’ve brought guy like you on, we’ve obtained this information that I want to give them to help on the criminal end. So there’s always an odd sometimes pushback, like you know, they’re doing and I’m like, No, we’re, we’re, we’re fighting for the same goal here. You know, and if I’ve got some stuff can help you and I get, you know, all I’m asking as you share with me what you can and I understand there’s restrictions on it. But but so a lot of times that’s been very successful, but sometimes Yeah, there’s just big pushback. They don’t want to deal with the civil lawyer and let them handle their stuff.
Well, the problem is, if you get a lazy guy, that lazy detective that hasn’t done his work, and he doesn’t have to share his file, that’s true. He can continue to be lazy and do nothing, and nothing happens. So there, there seems to need to be a watchdog, sometimes watching out for these guys, and you hope the internal departments handle their department well. But I’ve seen it where it’s it’s been where it’s been a problem and in some departments.
Alright, we’ve talked about getting you involved early in cases and how that’s integral because now you sort of become part of that litigation team to look at overall strategy to look at. And, you know, there’s been times you shared with me, Hey, this could be a potential defendant, you know, maybe something we weren’t looking at, you know, somebody else owns this as well. But it runs the gamut all the way through. So because you’re even involved, oftentimes, once it goes to jury, okay, and in looking at potential jury issues and everything else, we’ll talk a little bit about that.
Well, we have worked on jury cases before sometimes we background that jurors when they go to trial, so attorneys like to get the edge up on the competition or whoever they’re going against. And one of the things they do is they hire us to do background checks on everybody in the jury pool to see if they’re telling the truth or if there’s something that they don’t want that juror if we find that somebody In the background check, so they can get rid of that germ before they put them on their panel. There’s also jury misconduct investigations. And so there’s there’s a number of ways and things we do backgrounding those people and developing information that certainly assists the attorneys in their job.
It’s, it’s a, it’s a tremendous help. And again, you know, smaller firm like Mark and I, to be able to add an asset like that to the team, you know, again, big firms may have full time jury consultants, and all of that, but you’ve got to reach out to people and build your team, you know, and we do it through people like you like private investigators. We have nurses, we have doctors that we work with, and everything else hand in hand. So so you’re kind of winding down the career, what’s been the most enjoyable part of being a private detective or private investigator?
Well, you know, my father wanted me to get an us Insurance Agency. And to me, that was so boring. It was terrible. The great thing about private investigation is you. Every day you wake up, you get a new case, it’s something different, it’s exciting. And then that’s what I think drives me is that if you know, something different every day, and I’ve enjoyed the career, I’ve worked with some great people, yourself. Many attorneys, and and private people that have just been I’ve had nothing but good experiences, very few bad experiences in my life, I guess the bad experiences would would be the danger of the job or going into neighborhoods that are you’re dealing with just a lot of violent crime, and you’re investigating violent crime and you hear bullets flying, you’re out there at night. you’re photographing scenes, and you’re seeing gangs of people that are looking to see what you’re doing. So it makes your job. That’s the uneasiness of the job. But other than that, it’s been a very rewarding career. You know, I didn’t, I didn’t finish college. And a lot of people think everybody should send their kid to college. Well, this is a career where you don’t need to go to college. You can educate yourself, you can go through courses, and get to wear this to be a good private investigator by just following your path. And I was fortunate that had people helping me teaching me on the job, and it worked out well. And I know it wasn’t all that hard because I do believe I think you and your wife Jamie went undercover on a cruise to somewhere.
I’ve heard some of these gigs that weren’t too bad. So you know, if you get to recruit your wife Jamie to go into an undercover role, that can’t be that bad.
Well, she’s a talker. She can talk her way out anything and and she was an asset to me so it was fun having her around when I had her around. As long as she wasn’t in my ear all day long. Sorry, James. Don’t watch
unsolicited testimony from a watcher so let’s dive It has been a pleasure it’s been great night and and I know we’re not done working with you yet. You may be trying to get out of town but but you know, I got to build up things with Travis and get things going there because you’re a critical part to our practice and and I appreciate all you’ve done for the legal end of things. And as a friend I mean, it just goes goes without saying you’ve been a tremendous friend and I look forward to many many more years together.
Well, thank you Dave. I I’m not dead yet. I still want to work a little bit here and there as time goes on. And so I’ll be around and look forward to still work with you and Mark great attorneys and and you guys are true professionals.
Appreciate it. So look, we don’t get a lawyer to take off the kill list. But here’s a private investigator in case you want to look into a lawyer that you want to get killed. He can give you the background on him and everything else but but appreciate everybody watching this one. We’ll be back next week with with some more interesting legal things. And Dave, really appreciate your time. Thank you, man.