I have been a trial lawyer for over fifty years with a law practice focused on those who have suffered damages or harm due to the fault of someone else. I’m usually content with what I have done for others during this last half century of being a lawyer until I go to an affair like the one I just attended. Last year I was inducted into the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame along with Phil Corboy, Chicago; J.B. Spence, Florida; Russ Herman, New Orleans and Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, Texas – all great and nationally known plaintiff trial lawyers. Past inductees include Edward Bennett Williams, Melvin Belli and Gerry Spence. It was a humbling experience to be included with these lawyers when I was made a member of the Hall of Fame last year
This year, in Las Vegas, Joseph Cotchett, California; Fred David Gray, Alabama; Elaine R. Jones, Virginia and Sheldon Schlesinger, Florida were inducted. Cotchett was the lead trial lawyer on behalf of senior citizens against Lincoln Savings & Loan, represented 8,600 Filipino children abandoned when the Island Naval base closed and has a life long history of pro bono legal work. Gray has dedicated his life to eliminating racial discrimination in Alabama. He represented Rosa Parks in he bus boycott and was the lawyer for Martin Luther King. He hs been involved in every major racial discrimination matter in his home state and performed a life time of professional pro bono work. Elaine R. Jones has led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund and was the first black woman to defend death row inmates. She has spent her life doing pro bono legal work in the civil rights area of law. Lita and I have known Shelly Schlesinger and his family for over thirty years. In addition to his record setting jury verdicts he had dedicated his work and his money to civic and charitable causes in Florida.
As I sat on the stage with these people while their accomplishments were given I felt out of place with people who had dedicated so much of their life to free legal work because they knew it was the right thing to do. When we hear about trial lawyers who have dishonored their profession, think of these lawyers who have contributed so much for others.