I defended a lady who was sued by a female lawyer in Henrico County. Basically, my client filed a bar complaint against the lady lawyer, I’ll call her Debra. The bar complaint was thrown out, because Debra hired a fancy lawyer to protect herself. And then Debra sued my client for “defamation” (for calling Debra unfit to practice law and incompetent, and for allegedly lying in the Bar Complaint) “intentional infliction of emotional distress”, “assault” and assorted other issues. This is all background to understand the interesting parts of the trial.
I had another lawyer from Virginia with forty-two years of experience to testify that Debra was indeed incompetent. He testified: “She was either a conscious, deliberate liar of enormous magnitude, or she really couldn’t tell the differnce between the truth and lies. Among other things, she would say one thing and five or ten minutes later deny she ever said it.” Debra had contacted that lawyer a few years before to help her in major litigation, basically because she was in over her head an experienced lawyer to help, and he had worked with her on the case for several months. Regarding her competency, he testified: “I cannot think of any occasion on which I have found an attorney to be so ill prepared and so ill qualified to conduct a major litigation….She appeared to be an unstable person….Either she is a congenital liar or she is not able to distinguish reality from fiction….”
During my cross-examination of her, Debra became so perturbed that she called me a liar. Basically, I asked her a question, I can’t recall the exact question, and she said I was a liar, and that I was lying. I asked: “How can I be lying, I just asked you a question, I did not make any positive statement.” But she insisted that I was lying. I replied that if I ask you if it is minus 10 degrees outside, and it is really 60 degrees, am I lying? She either was too mad to see my point and concede it, or she was too stupid to get it.
During closing argument, I was making the point that some of the alleged defamatory statements by my client were her “opinion” and thus could not be found to be defamatory. As people who have known Debra for years can attest, she has had, shall we say, some additions and deletions from her face at the hands of trained physicians. I knew this but of course the jury didn’t know this. I wove that fact into my argument, just to get in a dig against her. [not saying she has had any of this particular work done…] “To call somebody ‘incompetent’ is an opinion. Just as though some people might look at a nose job and think it is uglier than sin, and others might like it. Or one might look at great big lips after lip implants and be grossed out, and another might pay good money for such a procedure. Still others might go for botox injections, and others might think the effects are hideous...” I looked at her and gave her a big smile. I was treading on thin ice. I did know exactly what work had been done on her. I had subpoenaed her medical records, but the judge had ordered me not to divulge what was contained therein. So I didn’t. 😉 Hey, her lawyer did not object.
During her direct examination she boo hoo’d and made it sound as though this was the worst thing that ever happened to her, with big ole crocodile tears. But as it turns out that Debra had sued 2-3 other persons for almost the exact same reasons, “Defamation”, “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress” blah blah blah. I had copies of those lawsuits admitted into evidence as Exhibits. After a three day trial, the jury was only out forty-five minutes (and much of that time was spent eating their lunch) before returning a verdict in favor of my client. Slam dunk.
But wait, there is more. Debra’s lawyer who represented her at the trial either quit or was fired, and Debra tried to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court of Virginia. She came up with an impressive list of issues that she claimed led to an unfair trial, and set them out in a 20-30 page Petition for Appeal and sent them to the Supreme Court. But the Petition was filed too late. Yup. She even screwed up the appeal on her own case. If you are even one day late on a Petition for Appeal, you automatically lose. Game, set, match.
Even today, this woman holds herself out as an expert lawyer. When I knew her years before this trial, her modus operandi was to go out and get big cases–she is very good at getting cases–and then to get competent lawyers to actually do the work for her. That way, she gets much of the money, and the clients do not find out that she is in over her head. She actually met with me years before this trial to interview me to see if I was appropriate to help her on a big case. It might have been the same one that the lawyer who testified against her worked on, instead of me. The timing was about right.
I just thought the general public would like to know that there are attorneys out there, almost totally incompetent, who have websites and who advertize and hold themselves out as experts. Best way to get a lawyer is by word of mouth. Find people whom you trust and find out who they recommend. Eventually, you will hear the same name over and over. Hire them. Not Debra.