“After more than a decade of wasted tax dollars in the name of ‘justice’ the government has officially dropped its case against the embattled slugger. [Last week] the federal government informed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that reversed Bonds’ obstruction of justice conviction.” [The Legal Blitz/Above the Law RedLine; earlier on Barry Bonds]
The baseball star, who’s threatening to sue people who say false and misleading things about him, has retained two Oakland, Calif. civil rights attorneys, including repeat Overlawyered mentionee John Burris (Jul. 5, 1999; Nov. 23, 2006) (Sports Law Blog, Aug. 14). More: Gwen Knapp @ SF Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, SF Weekly.
If there is one universal banality about the perjury trial of Roger Clemens available on the sports pages and talk radio stations today, it’s the following, which is a composite of actual quotes and for which I am providing no link, because the sentiment is ubiquitous:
Did Clemens lie? A trial will never really answer that question. Everyone has already formed his opinion on whether Clemens is telling the truth.
Either way, we all know a huge chunk of players took PEDs in the 1990s. That era of the game is forever stained regardless of the outcome of this trial. What is this trial going to accomplish? Is this really the best use of taxpayer money?
I just hope this trial is a short one, because I’d rather focus on the games being played now.
This being Overlawyered, one might suppose the appropriate point of view here would be along those lines. Certainly, from a libertarian point of view (when in Rome…), it’s hard to be sympathetic to any investigation or prosecution whose roots are in substance abuse. If taking steroids was or is a violation of a contractual obligation running from players to Major League Baseball, that would be an entirely private matter. Evidently it wasn’t, or to the extent that it was, MLB would rather not pick at that scab. Major League Baseball keeps lawyers busy with other things.
But we all acknowledge that prosecutors do and should, to some extent anyway, concern themselves with the laws that are “on the books,” which brings us back to that Sports Guy trope: “What difference does it make? Who cares? Why are you distracting me with those shiny objects?”
Dumb, dumb, dumb, Sports Guy!
Point One: It isn’t overlawyering to prosecute people who mislead law enforcement officials or lie under oath. Yes, people mislead police and prosecutors every day and aren’t prosecuted for it — but famous people often are, because civil disobedience by them can make for a very bad example. What better example of an example-setter is Bill Clinton, a one-man Chief Executive as sexual revolutionary, who had to turn in his law license to avoid a perjury conviction?
“The fan who originally gloved and then fought to keep Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run baseball may still owe his former attorney more than what the ball fetched at auction, a California appeal court ruled May 24.” Attorney Martin Triano says Alex Popov owes him $473,530; lawyers for Patrick Hayashi, the other disputant in the squabble, agreed to roll back their fees so that he would not come out behind on the episode. (Warren Lutz, “Bonds’ Ball Litigant Strikes Out in Fee Fight”, The Recorder, May 31). See Jul. 1 and Jul. 12, 2003 and Jan. 3, 2004. And independent filmmaker Michael Wranovics has made a documentary about the whole episode entitled “Up For Grabs” which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival and has been getting good critical reviews (Clint O’Connor, “A record-breaking hit brings out the base instincts in sports fans”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 27; Glenn Whipp, “Big hit, comedy of errors”, Long Beach Press-Telegram, May 12; “Film Listings: Ongoing”, San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 4-May 10; Neil Davis, “You gotta catch ‘Up For Grabs'”, Stanford Daily, May 9).
“The San Francisco Giants fan who caught Barry Bonds’ 700th homer is being sued by another man who says he was the rightful owner of the prized ball, which he maintains was stolen from him during a mad scramble. According to a restraining order to be filed in state court Tuesday, Timothy Murphy said Steve Williams stole the historic blast from him during a melee in the left-center field bleachers at SBC Park on Sept. 17.” (David Kravets, “Man who caught Bonds’ 700th homer ball sued”, AP/FoxSports.com, Sept. 28) “In October 2001, Bonds’ record-setting 73rd homer of the season sparked litigation that ended when a judge ordered both men to split the $450,000 the ball fetched.” Lawyers’ fees were reported to have eaten up most of the proceeds in that case: see Jul. 1, 2003.
More developments in previously covered controversies:
* Where credit is due dept.: lawyers for Patrick Hayashi, whose squabble over ownership of a souvenir Barry Bonds home run baseball grew so costly as to eat up the ball’s auction value, agreed to roll back their fees so that their client would emerge from the case with something of value other than the experience (Gwen Knapp, “Finally, in Bonds ball case, someone shows some class”, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 30)(see Jul. 1).
* National talk show host Joe Scarborough, criticized here among other places for naming a company as “Rat of the Week” without disclosing that his partners at Pensacola’s Levin Papantonio were actively suing it (see Sept. 15), says he’s now stopped receiving a stipend from the law firm, though name partner Fred Levin says Scarborough remains associated with the firm and may even do a commercial for it (Amber Bollman, “Scarborough: No pay from law firm”, Pensacola News Journal, Dec. 30; Howard Kurtz, “Bad News Bearers: Up To No Good?” Washington Post, Dec. 29)(low in piece) (via Lori Patel, Law.com).
* After nearly three weeks of testimony and an hour and a half of deliberations, a jury has rejected a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company over the death of New Jersey state trooper Scott Gonzalez (see Oct. 27, 1999). Gonzalez was killed in a shootout with a mental patient, and lawyers for his widow had alleged that he might have survived had his Ford Crown Victoria been designed so that a crumpled fender did not block his door from opening; they also sued the killer’s parents (who were released from the suit shortly before the recent trial) and Hechler & Koch, the maker of her husband’s police gun, because it briefly jammed after he’d fired seven shots from it; the latter suit resulted in a settlement providing less than $50,000 to Maureen Gonzalez. (Jenna Portnoy, “Jury rules Ford not liable in trooper’s shooting death”, Easton, Pa. Express-Times, Dec. 19)
A baseball story: “Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi scrambled in the stands for Barry Bonds’ No. 73 home run ball, fought in court over it, and walked away after its auction for $450,000 Wednesday with nothing but bittersweet memories. … A couple hundred grand for each side’s lawyers, a cut for Uncle Sam and sundry expenses. What’s left for Popov and Hayashi? ‘In the end it’s probably going to be a wash,’ Hayashi said.” (Steve Wilstein, “Bonds No. 73 ball: a story of greed”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Jun. 26). (& see Jul. 12: lawyer sues Popov for fees). Update Jan. 3: Hayashi’s lawyers waive part of fees.