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Fred Baron

Andrew Baron at DemBot, writing on his father, Fred Baron, the late Texas tort lawyer and John Edwards benefactor who was a frequent mentionee on this site (e.g.):

With the strong support of my dad, after Bill Clinton out-raised and then defeated incumbent George Bush Sr., Clinton offered to nominate my dad to become a Supreme Court Judge. My dad actually considered it and even spent a couple of days shadowing one to see what the day-to-day activity was like. He just wasn’t interested. Plus, he would be required to sell his law firm. He told me that it was actually a pretty boring job.

The younger Baron’s piece is worth reading in its entirety for insights into the role and results of political fund-raising.

September 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 2, 2010

August 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 12, 2010

  • “Father demands $7.5 million because school officials read daughter’s text message” [KDAF via CALA Houston]
  • How many different defendants can injured spectator sue in Shea Stadium broken-bat case? [Melprophet]
  • Prominent trial lawyer Russell Budd of Baron & Budd hosts Obama at Texas fundraiser [PoL]
  • DNA be damned: when actual nonpaternity doesn’t suffice to get out from under a child support order [Alkon, more]
  • “Sean Coffey, a plaintiffs’ lawyer-turned-candidate for New York Attorney General, made more than $150,000 in state-level campaign contributions nationwide over 10 years.” [WSJ Law Blog] “Days before announcing a shareholder lawsuit against Bank of America, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli accepted $14,000 in campaign donations from a law firm hired to help litigate the case.” [WSJ]
  • Big new RAND Corp. study on asbestos bankruptcy trusts may spur reform [Lloyd Dixon, Geoffrey McGovern & Amy Coombe, PDF, via Hartley, more, Daniel Fisher/Forbes, background here and here] Update: Stier.
  • Public contingency suits? Of course the elected officials are in control (wink, wink) [The Recorder via Cal Civil Justice]
  • Copyright enforcement mill appears to have copied its competitor’s website [TechDirt via Eric Goldman]

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May 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 27, 2010

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A book proposal by former John Edwards aide Andrew Young is sensationally said to allege “that Edwards asked [the late asbestos-suit impresario] Baron if he could find a doctor who would falsify a DNA report.” [New York Times via (quoted) AmLaw Litigation Daily] Now where would anyone have gotten the impression that Baron was a good person to talk to if you wanted to misrepresent medical facts about someone?

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Elizabeth Edwards as Mrs. Stephen Haines, on Rielle Hunter as Crystal Allen: “I don’t know any people like this, I don’t have any friends like this person.” But she does [Paul Horwitz, Prawfsblawg ("It does, after all, take two to tango -- or, more precisely, two plus Fred Baron"); more from Mickey Kaus and again]

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What with all the money in Edwards’ own name from his legal career, not to mention the late Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron’s generosity in solving the housing needs of Edwards’ girlfriend, it wouldn’t seem necessary to use campaign or charitable funds for her benefit, too, but a U.S. attorney is said to be pursuing allegations along those lines. Hunter was paid $100,000 to do documentary filmmaking about the Edwards campaign, which gave the couple many opportunities to be close to each other. [New York Daily News, CBS News, Raleigh News & Observer] More: Althouse, Kaus.

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September 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2008

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Aficionados of the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter scandal may have noticed a new attorney’s name cropping up in news reports: Lee Rohn of the U.S. Virgin Islands. From the New York Daily News:

One day before Edwards went public with the affair, Hunter and 6-month-old daughter Frances were flown to the Virgin Islands on a chartered jet, the Enquirer reported.

The $50,000 trip was paid for by friends of Edwards. The newspaper also said she stayed at the oceanfront home of another Edwards’ pal, lawyer Lee Rohn.

(Larry McShane, “John Edwards promised Rielle Hunter they’d be together – report”, Aug. 20)(via ABA Journal)(Update: Rohn vehemently denies the Enquirer story as false, saying she neither hosted Hunter nor is close to Edwards; see below). Readers may be wondering: is Rohn yet another attorney whose doings are going to make irresistible copy for a site like this, much as with Edwards chum/Democratic moneyman/perennial Overlawyered mentionee Fred Baron? To which the answer would appear to be, “you bet”:

St. Croix attorney Lee Rohn has stirred up a chorus of criticism and complaints about her professional practices both inside and outside the courtroom.

Her most vocal critics have been opposing parties or counsel in lawsuits she has filed. They have alleged a wide spectrum of professional conduct violations.

Among Rohn’s frequent targets is Innovative Communication Corp., which runs the Virgin Islands’ local telephone provider and the islands’ newspaper, and whose lawyers say they’ve lost count of how many times she’s sued them. The company’s chairman, Jeffrey Prosser, has called in vain for Rohn’s disbarment, complaining of “intolerable” and “abusive” instances of “ethical misconduct” as well as “vitriolic” public attacks: “In some cases with us, she coerced her clients to sign documents that were knowingly false [and] ignored judge’s orders on limits of discovery inquiry during depositions,” he wrote.

In 2002, Rohn publicly blasted one of the islands’ two federal district judges, Thomas Moore, accusing him of inappropriate behavior, and Moore recused himself from some of her cases citing the antipathy. Subsequently, after she moved to demand Moore’s recusal from yet another of her cases, he refused, stating in his written ruling, “I believe attorney Rohn’s personal attack on one of the two sitting judges in this jurisdiction was nothing more than a calculated litigation tactic that would be labeled ‘judge shopping’ in most places.” Moore, who has sanctioned Rohn for insulting and profane language toward witnesses and court personnel, wrote in another case, in which the Caribbean Geoffrey Fieger “sought to compel testimony from all the federal judges in the territory”:

“Nothing Lee Rohn does surprises me anymore, although subpoenaing all the federal judges in the jurisdiction is a high point of ingenuity and creativity in attempting to manipulate the system,” Moore wrote.

“I do not believe, however, that an attorney should be allowed to use her calculated personal attack on a sitting judge as a technique to prevent that judge from presiding over any of her cases, especially in a small district with only two judges.”

A few weeks ago, it may be recalled, we looked at the question of lawyers’ public denunciations of judges and whether they do or should result in recusal by those judges. (Jason Robbins and Lee Williams, “From judges to opponents, Rohn has no shortage of harsh critics”, Virgin Islands Daily News, Mar. 29, 2004 — the newspaper, it bears repeating, and its parent company have been frequent targets of Rohn’s litigation, as in this libel case arising from her airport pot bust). Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts has more, including a picture of the Rohn villa.

The National Enquirer, which keeps breaking new developments in the story, is now reporting that “a team of six more lawyers have been involved in the coverup”. They can’t all be as interesting as Baron and Rohn, can they?

Update Fri. 8:20 p.m.: the Daily News reports Rohn categorically denies the story’s truth:

The Enquirer quoted Virgin Island pol Anne Golden as saying Hunter stayed for 10 days in an oceanfront home owned by prominent St. Croix lawyer Lee Rohn.

Rohn hotly denied that to the Daily News and vowed to sue.

“It is absolutely false,” she told The News. “The Enquirer knows the story is not true as they sat on a hill above my house for a week with telephoto lenses and video cameras and had no sighting of her. The guest cottage she was supposedly staying in is under construction and has no floor.”

Rohn said that while she donated money to Edwards, she is not friends with him. Records show she gave $2,300 to Edwards a year ago and another $2,300 to Barack Obama early this year.

(Helen Kennedy, “John’s island girl Rielle fled to St. Croix on eve of cheating flap”, Aug. 21). And — hat tip to commenter Ken Floyd — the opinions of heated Rohn critic Jeffrey Prosser, the newspaper/telephone magnate, should be evaluated in the perspective of his own controversial and colorful business record, which recently culminated in high-profile bankruptcy proceedings involving his Innovative Communication empire. Some sources on that here, here, here, and here. For more background on the recusal disputes involving Rohn and Judge Thomas K. Moore, see this Moore opinion (U.S. v. Roebuck, PDF) and this Third Circuit opinion (Selkridge v. Mutual of Omaha, 360 F. 3d 155). DBKP wishes it had been a fly on the wall during an AAJ award ceremony honoring Rohn. And see commenter #7 below who seems to have been doing considerable digging.

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Thursday’s New York Times investigates Fred Baron’s role (Serge F. Kovaleski and Mike McIntyre, “Lawyers’ Ties Hint at Extent of Hiding Edwards’s Affair”, Aug. 14; AP/L.A. Times; commentary at Deceiver, Jeralyn Merritt/TalkLeft, Greg Pollowitz/NRO Media Blog, DBKP; earlier). And more from DBKP here and here. P.S. And I didn’t realize until reading USA Today’s profile that scandal figure Andrew Young has served not only as a loyal Edwards foot soldier, but also as a lobbyist for the North Carolina trial lawyers’ association.

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Baron grants an interview to the Texas Lawyer, and makes some implausible claims:

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Per Marisa Guthrie at the magazine Broadcasting & Cable, ABC News was able to force John Edwards’ hand in part because it had been tracing the Fred Baron money trail (which, it will be recalled, Edwards supposedly had nothing to do with). “According to multiple sources, Edwards was apoplectic that ABC News broke the story on its website and began promoting it early on Friday” because the former North Carolina senator — who, y’know, was beating up on himself so bad and wanted nothing more than to come clean with the American people — “had hoped to control the news cycle by making his admission late on a Friday night when the country was watching the Olympics and the long weekend yawned ahead.” Earlier here and here.

Many commentators have questioned whether Edwards was telling the truth about when the affair ended. (Despite her family’s publicly expressed wishes for a paternity test, Rielle Hunter says she won’t allow one; whether this refusal is or is not related to her presumably ongoing financial dependence on Fred Baron’s largesse is not for us to know.) A second question is whether Edwards was telling the truth on ABC when he said he hired Hunter first for her filmmaking skills and began the relationship later, thus dodging charges of having put his mistress on the payroll. Sam Stein at Huffington Post examines chronologies here. Relatedly, Advice Goddess Amy Alkon has this to say about the L.A. Times’s straightfaced description of Hunter as a filmmaker: “Katie, honey, in this town [L.A.], we know to look at imdb.com to see if somebody actually is a filmmaker. This is a good dating tip for you, too, dear, because half the guys you’ll meet at the bar in this town are ‘producers.'”

More: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers.

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Yes, I’m being facetious

by Ted Frank on August 9, 2008

Where’s the trial lawyer bringing a class action on behalf of all of the people who were defrauded when they gave money to John Edwards’s presidential campaign?  It’s certainly a much more plausible claim of causation, reliance, and financial injury than the typical class action.

More seriously, I hope someone somewhere is investigating whether Fred Baron violated federal campaign finance law when he set aside tens of thousands of dollars to pay Rielle Hunter hush money without disclosing the payments on behalf of Edwards.  Edwards said he was in the Beverly Hilton to help keep the story from becoming public, which makes it seem unlikely he’s telling the truth when he said that he had no knowledge that Baron moved Hunter to California.  Alas, ABC didn’t ask the right follow-up questions, such as how Edwards thought meeting Hunter in a hotel room would help keep the story quiet.  And “Fred Baron” appears nowhere in the New York Times story, even as he is a major fund-raiser for Barack Obama today.  Obama is still running for president, right?

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We described the Dallas attorney as poster boy for legal ethics for his astoundingly brazen conduct in the scandal over an asbestos testimony-coaching memo. Now his name is hitting front pages on the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair:

Dallas lawyer Fred Baron told The Dallas Morning News today that he paid relocation and housing expenses for the woman that former presidential candidate John Edwards has confessed to having an affair with.

Mr. Baron, who was chairman of Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign finance committee, said he paid money for Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location. …

He said Mr. Edwards did not know about the arrangement.

(Gromer Jeffers Jr., “Dallas lawyer Fred Baron paid for Edwards’ mistress to relocate”, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 8).

More coverage of Edwards’s (partial or otherwise) confession: ABC News, AP, Memeorandum, Marc Ambinder, Ben Smith/Politico, News & Observer, Just One Minute, Shaun Mullen/Moderate Voice. Readers will remember that Ted had the story very, very early, before it was much noticed even on the blogs (more). As for Edwards’s own credibility, Mickey Kaus, whose news judgment in pursuing the matter now stands vindicated, has this to say: “There is now one player in this scandal with far less credibility than the National Enquirer, after all.”

More: Byron York at NRO “Corner” quotes the Raleigh News & Observer account with Baron’s statement:

“I decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives when harassment by supermarket tabloids made it impossible for them to conduct a normal life,” Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer said in a statement, Rob Christensen reports.

“John Edwards was not aware that assistance was provided to anyone involved in this matter,” Baron said. “I did it of my own voilition and without the knowledge, instruction, or suggestion of John Edwards or anyone else. The assistance was offered and accepted without condition.”

York points out:

Hunter and Young, the recipients of Baron’s generosity, were not high-ranking officials in the Edwards campaign. How Baron got to know them and how he decided to fund their move to California, and why he decided to do so without Edwards’ knowledge, might be the subject of more questions as the Edwards matter goes forward.

Blogger Gina Cobb hopes the window of Baron’s generosity is still open:

I am touched and moved by your generosity. I especially like the part about “The assistance was offered and accepted without condition.” Accordingly, I would like to request the same generosity from you. Henceforward, I would like you to rent me an enormous house and pay my living expenses in perpetuity. I can assure you that the assistance you offer will be accepted without condition.

And see Ted’s follow-up post.

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Rocketboom

by Ted Frank on August 5, 2008

Andrew Baron complains (via Valleywag):

Having been completely and utterly stuck for almost two years by the courts without being able to accept any investment offers or other equitable partnerships to grow Rocketboom at all, we have since been frozen like ice… and without any additional resources to grow.

“Litigation hamstrings start-up business” is sort of a dog-bites-man story in the US, but what provides the frisson of irony here is that some of Baron’s Rocketboom legal troubles stem from being sued by his father over a $810k loan–and his father is one Fred Baron, well known to the Overlawyered crowd.  Young Andrew has a happy ending; after jettisoning his original star, Amanda Congdon, and defeating her in court, he’s parlayed the loan from his daddy into a seven-digit distribution deal with Sony.  Two Americas indeed.  (Separately, if Rocketboom gets that sort of deal with a million views a month, I’m sure Walter and I will be happy to sell distribution rights to Overlawyered’s quarter-million monthly views for a pro-rated number of what Sony paid Rocketboom…)

Aides to candidates Clinton and Obama feverishly work an AAJ/ATLA trial lawyers’ conclave down Puerto Rico way, sensing that the money behind the flagging John Edwards candidacy may be “looking for a new candidate to get behind”. It’s “a testament to the crucial role played by the legal profession in Democratic fundraising. Trial lawyers have proved to be the financial mainstay for Edwards’s two presidential bids, as well as for the Democratic Party in general.” Quotes longtime Overlawyered favorites Fred Baron, Thomas Girardi and Robert Montgomery (Matthew Mosk, “Top Candidates’ Teams Look to the Lawyers”, Washington Post, Jan. 28).

So suggests Robert Novak, which, if true, puts to question any claims Obama has for being a different kind of Democrat. One wonders how long the prosecutions of Mel Weiss, Dickie Scruggs, or the Kentucky fen-phen lawyers would last. Of course, one recalls, the Clinton administration wasn’t any better when it buried a prosecution of Fred Baron in the Baron & Budd script memo scandal. Baron, who was the head of the ATLA trial-lawyer lobbying organization, is now Edwards’s finance chair, though the media has yet to note this hypocrisy by the supposedly anti-lobbyist Edwards.

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Overlawyered, August 5:

A look at the largest donors for Obama and especially Edwards shows a disproportionate number of active members of (the trial lawyers’) lobbying group. Indeed, John Edwards’s finance chairman is Fred Baron, the former president of ATLA. If Obama and Edwards want voters to believe that Clinton is influenced by lobbyist money, what should we think about these two candidates’ debts to trial lawyers? Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty?

August 7 AFL-CIO Democratic debate:

OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards, I have a question for you. You made your substantial fortune as a trial lawyer. Trial lawyers are now contributing significantly to your campaign. How is that any better than lobbyists?

Alas, Edwards dodged the question, but it has perhaps contributed to the recent NY Times press coverage.