I was born and raised in West Virginia. I worked my way through college at Marshall University, graduating cum laude in 1973. Following graduation, I moved to New York City, in part to see what the big city was like. I worked for a year after college before entering law school at New York University.
New York City offered a wealth of opportunities to observe some trial lawyers and I spent a great deal of my free time sitting in courtrooms. I remember, for example, I watched Gerald Lefcourt, who had defended Bobby Seals of the Black Panthers, in a federal criminal trial, and Harry Lipsig representing Yul Bryner and his co-star in the King & I in their personal injury trial against a famous night club, Trader Vic's, after they had gotten trichinosis from bad spare ribs. I learned a great deal about courtroom decorum and strategies watching great trial lawyers such as these in the courtroom.
Upon graduation, I was offered a position in a New York real estate firm as an associate. I stayed in New York and got my jungle training in the law there.
The firm I joined was the New York City, Park Avenue law firm of Wein, Lane & Malkin. The firm had 30 lawyers and was a well-respected real estate firm. The senior partner, Lawrence A. Wein, had been Harry Helmsley's real estate partner, and together they had invented real estate syndications. The firm's biggest client was Empire State Building Associates, which had been formed by the firm and owned the Empire State Building. My practice there included commercial real estate, syndications, and litigation. During my first few months at the firm, I was given the opportunity to take part in writing a brief in support of a motion for summary judgment in a constitutional challenge in the U.S. District Court a residency requirement contained in the Florida probate code. The motion was granted and the requirement held unconstitutional.
I left New York in April 1979 and moved to Pinellas County, Florida. I found a job in June 1979 with two men with a general practice, with an emphasis on municipal law. In the summer of 1980, I was appointed to the part-time, contract position of city attorney for the city of Safety Harbor, Florida, a position which I held until August 1990.
Throughout my time representing Safety Harbor, July 1980- August 1990, I maintained a private practice emphasizing mainly civil litigation, including a substantial amount of family law. I had always been interested in criminal defense work, however, and really felt my strength was in front of a jury. In 1988, Lloyd Mosley, who had practiced criminal defense in Florida since the year of my birth, 1950, invited me to take office space with him with the idea that I would take over his practice in a few years and he would retire. We had met when we opposed each other in a divorce case that had gone all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Lloyd was a highly respected criminal defense attorney. He showed me the way around the courts on the criminal side and after his retirement, I tried my first criminal trial in October 1990. It was a first-degree murder case in which I had tried to get the state to let my client plead to second-degree murder. The verdict was second-degree murder. Since then I have tried 31 more felony jury trials, six of which were murder cases. I have represented three young men who had been found guilty of first-degree murder, in the penalty phase of their trials. I am happy to say all received life recommendations from the juries and all received life sentences. I have been qualified as an expert witness in criminal defense for the purpose of testifying in evidentiary hearings on motions for a new trial based on incompetent counsel.
In general practice I have advised and represented many small businesses, I have incorporated churches, charitable and civic organizations. I have represented thousands of individuals, so the achievements, whatever the number, have usually been small. I explain to all clients that the cost to them in both mental and emotional energy will far exceed the dollar cost. I think if more people did these things our profession would not have as much of an image problem as it does today and the courts would obviously not be as crowded.
As a father and attorney, I feel my responsibility to the community is greater than that of most people. I was the Outdoors Chairman of the local Boy Scout troop, charged with organizing the monthly campouts the boys do. My three younger children swam competitively and I am a U.S. Swimming certified stroke and turn official and have officiated in both local events and the Junior Olympics. I was president of the local Kiwanis Club for two years. I was the representative for my district on the county executive committee of my political party for two years. My wife and I were the organizers of the Adopt-a-Class program at the Middle School two of our children attended. I served on the committee to draft by-laws for the new PTA at the same school. I was the first Chairman of the local chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and kept that position for three years. I was on the Board of Directors of the local chapter of Safari Club International for 18 years.
I am a trial lawyer, with a practice consisting of approximately 70% criminal defense, 30% personal injury.
I believe I have earned a reputation as a thorough, aggressive, usually successful litigator. I have won acquittals in very difficult cases: a young man was charged with second-degree murder for killing a teenager by hitting him in the chest with a baseball bat at a party with 15 witnesses; a black man in a rural community charged with capital sexual battery on two children of his live-in girlfriend, who both took the stand, pointed him out in court and described what they said he had done; and a young man who broke into a home with a double-barrel shotgun, with no disguise, tied the occupants up and robbed them, and who was positively identified by both victims, husband and wife, from the stand. Sometimes I am convinced of my clients' innocence. On the other hand, I have gone to trial for a client who told me from the beginning he had committed the crime but insisted on his right to a trial. Needless to say, I did not allow him to take the stand and commit perjury but had to rely on witness impeachment in cross-examination to win for my client. I do not shy away from difficult cases. I consider myself an adventurer. I run. In February 1995, at age 44 I ran my first marathon- 26.2 miles. Before that day I had never run further than 15 miles. One year later, at age 45, I ran my third marathon and finished five minutes under 4 hours. I don't do things halfway. I started hunting 25 years ago, as a way to spend time in the woods. Since that time I have become an avid hunter, both at home, in ten other states, in Canada and Africa.
American Association of Justice (formerly ATLA), Member, 1981 to 2010
Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member, 2000 to Present
U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, 1979
U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida, 1979
U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida, 1979
U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, 1979
U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, 1987
New York University School of Law, New York, New York
J.D. - 1977
Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia
B.A. - 1968
Honors: cum laude