From the author: Lawyers Gone Bad is the story of beleaguered attorney disciplinary counsel, Dean Alessi, and his trusty investigator, Stu Foley, in their fight against lawyers gone bad – that is, lawyers who commit ethical and criminal wrongs. In this case they’re investigating the local District Attorney, who may have committed the ultimate ethical wrong - murder.
The lawyer was crying.
His name was Frank Martin and he was slumped forward on a chair facing the desk of Dean Alessi, Deputy Director of the state’s Lawyer Discipline Office. Dean had slid a resignation affirmation to the front of his desk so that Frank Martin could read and sign it. After staring blankly with red swollen eyes at the affirmation for a time, Martin slid it away, then leaned forward, put his face into his hands and started crying again.
Dean leaned back in his chair and waited. He’d seen lawyers cry before.
“Jesus, Dean,” Frank said, finally looking up. “My life is over. Fucking ruined.”
“It’s not over, Frank,” Dean said. “Your life as a lawyer is over. You’re a talented guy. You’ll find something else to do. But it’s either this, resign your license, or we file a disciplinary petition and the world gets to know what a scumbag thing you did. And you certainly don’t want that, all the messy details coming out. Right? By resigning, that can’t happen. Nobody will know why. Only you.”
Dean sighed and waited as Frank drooped forward and seemed about ready to start sobbing again.
“And, best thing about it,” Dean added, “you won’t have to tell Jackie a thing.” He frowned and asked, “She doesn’t know, does she?”
“Course not,” Frank said, looking up. Dean noticed that his eyes were genuinely red and swollen and there were large, dark circles under them. He hadn’t been faking his remorse as some lawyers did. The guy probably had not slept very well since learning that the LDO was onto his grotesque love affair. “How could I tell her something like that?”
The “something like that” was what he had been caught doing - screwing the wife of his own divorce client, the husband, during the divorce proceedings. During. And, he’d given some questionable legal advice to the husband that he’d been secretly cuckolding the last few weeks that would have resulted in a substantial financial gain for the soon to become ex-wife – had he not gotten caught.
Frank Martin took a long deep breath.
“You want to hear something ridiculous,” he said to Dean, “I still love that bitch. Can you appreciate that?”
All Dean could do was shrug and look away.
“But she doesn’t love me,” Frank went on. “That’s for sure. She laughed in my face the last time I called her. Laughed. The bitch used me. She’s the one who should be resigning, resigning from life. I should kill the bitch. Strangle the fucking life out of her.”
“Look, Frank, don’t make this worse than it already is,” Dean said and nodded to the resignation form. “You start making death threats, I have to call the police. Just sign the affirmation. Move on with your life. Forgot about that woman. Re-kindle whatever you once had with Jackie. As far as I can tell, she’s a fine woman.”
“You haven’t seen Jackie in a long time, Dean,” Frank said. “Since law school, right? She’s let herself go. They all do, in some way or another.”
Dean sighed. Thinking of his own situation, with Laura, he couldn’t disagree with that.
He sat back in his chair and watched as Frank picked up the resignation affirmation and appeared to be reading through it.
“Doesn’t say much, does it?”
“That’s the beauty of it,” Dean said. “What it doesn’t say. What won’t become part of the public record. All the world will know is that on this date, you handed in your law license, became a civilian. The why of it is forever secret.”
Just as Frank Martin again started reviewing the resignation affirmation, the door to Dean’s office opened and the LDO’s long-time Chief Investigator, Stu Foley, stepped in. In his early sixties, Foley was a short, solidly built bullish man, a product of ten years in the Marine Corps including two tours in Viet Nam. He kept his hair buzz-cut short and reminded Dean of the drill sergeant from all the army movies he had ever seen, a tough, loyal, no bullshit kind of guy. Foley had left the Marines after ten years, came back home and, after a brief stint as a cop, became a private investigator. He still ran a couple miles every other morning, tried to eat right, and never smoked. Except for good booze of various kinds, he kept drugs of any kind, even the prescription variety, out of his body. In this regard, he never drank coffee and laughed at anyone who took Viagra or blood pressure pills.
Foley had developed over the years a decidedly cynical view of the world, often telling Dean that the saying, “what goes around, comes around,” was “pure unadulterated bullshit.” He once added to that “justice was solely a chance proposition in this world that God, if there was one, exercised no priority in doling out.”
As usual, Foley was scowling that morning as he edged forward into Dean’s office. The local morning newspaper was lodged under his right arm as he sat down in a chair against the side wall. When Frank Martin looked across at him, Foley nodded and said, “Hi, Frank.”
“Hi, Stu,” Frank said, then shook the resignation affirmation. “Giving my fucking life away this morning.”
“I know,” Foley said with an uncaring shrug. “Can’t be helped.”
Foley didn’t have much use for Frank Martin, or any man who’d break his marriage and professional vows in one fell swoop. “Any guy who thinks with his pecker that bad doesn’t deserve to be a lawyer or have a marriage license for that matter,” he had told Dean when his ethical and marital breaches had been conclusively demonstrated during the investigation.
Martin turned his attention back to the resignation affirmation and after a minute or so, looked up at Dean.
“That’s it? Six lousy paragraphs?”
“Didn’t you look it over last night like I told you?” Dean asked.
“No,” Frank said. “I wasn’t up to it. I drank myself to sleep instead.”
“Well, that’s it,” Dean said. “Short and sweet.”
As Martin started re-reading the affirmation, Dean slid a pen across the desk to him and asked, “So I guess you didn’t talk to a lawyer either, as I advised, did you?”
“What the fuck good is that going to do?” Frank asked as he picked up the pen and looked at Dean. “He’d tell me to resign, right?”
“Either that or be disbarred,” Foley chimed in. “And the disbarment would come after we file charges, and the whole sordid mess becomes public.”
“I know, I know,” Martin said. “Your boss here has made abundantly clear the benefits of resigning.”
Martin sighed, held up the pen and read the resignation affirmation for the third time. As he read through it, he mumbled the words softly to himself.
I, Franklin Richard Martin, upon careful review of the facts found during a disciplinary investigation pending against me regarding allegations of professional misconduct under the Rules of Professional Conduct of this State, as set forth in State Supreme Court Rules and Regulations, do hereby agree and affirm:
Frank Martin looked up from the resignation form at Dean and blinked.
“That’s it?” he asked.
“Yep, that’s it,” Dean said. “Like I said, short and sweet.”
Frank Martin sighed and closed his eyes. After a moment, he opened them and with one swift motion, scribbled his name across the signature line, followed by the date, and then slid the form abruptly across the desk back to Dean.
“You did the right thing, Frank,” Dean said.
“Fuck you, Dean,” he said. After a moment, he sighed. “I’m sorry. That fucking skank ruined my life.”
“Don’t they all,” Foley said.
“Now what?” Frank asked.
“Now, I fax it over to the Court with the investigative report,” Dean said. “And, provided the Chief Judge approves, which I can’t see why he wouldn’t, an order will be issued, like the form says, removing your name from the roll of attorneys.” Dean shrugged. “They don’t even call it a disbarment.”
“Which is what it is,” Foley added.
“So I cease being a lawyer,” Frank said. “Just like that.”
Dean shrugged, nodded.
“And what gets in the papers?” Frank asked.
“Like I said, nothing,” Dean said. “We don’t do a press release or anything. And the news guys never look at disciplinary orders. If by same quirk one of the local reporters picks up on it, all I can legally tell them is that under the Court’s rules, you resigned. Not why. If they call you, you tell them the order speaks for itself and that’ll be the end of it.”
“And, as you know, the skank, as you call her, and her lawyer, and your former client and his new lawyer,” Foley added, “have also agreed to keep quiet about it.”
Indeed, that had been part of the deal to get Frank Martin to resign.
“What are you telling Jackie?” Dean asked.
“That I messed up my trust account,” he said. “That I used some of my clients’ money to pay bills. I handle all the personal and law firm finances, the credit cards and all that. I can tell her a big fee that I thought was coming in didn’t, and so I couldn’t pay the money back. Jackie knows what a big sin it is for a lawyer to mess around with clients’ money. She might even be sympathetic, supportive. She might even go back to her old accounting firm. Now that the kid is out of diapers, I been bugging her to do that anyway.”
“See,” Foley said, “a silver lining.” Then, he frowned and asked, “You didn’t, did you, Frank, mess with your clients’ money?”
Frank shot him a sideways glance.
“No, Stu,” Frank said. “What a shitty thing to ask. And what if I did, you gonna make me resign twice?”
“No, better than that, Frankie,” Stu said. “Help put you in jail.”
“Fuck you, Stu, You really like to kick a man when he’s down, don’t you?” Frank said.
Dean scowled at Foley, a signal to keep quiet, let this conversation end.
“I can’t believe my asshole client hired an investigator and had me followed,” Frank said and sighed. “Know what tipped him off that I was screwing his beloved soon to be ex?”
Dean shook his head.
“He could smell her on me,” Frank said. “That’s what he said the moment before he spit in my face.” Frank laughed. “Fucking bastard spit in my face.”
“Can’t say as I blame him, Frank,” Foley said.
A few days after the spitting incident, Dean received a one paragraph letter from Frank’s cuckold client. Enclosed with it was a DVD showing a series of meetings between Frank and the cuckold’s wife during the divorce proceedings, mostly going into a room at a cheap motel.
“Well, what’s done is done, Frank,” Dean said. “You just have to move on. And at least you still have Jackie to move on with.”
Frank sighed. He seemed to be wanting to prolong the inevitable. Finally, he stood.
“Thanks for all you’ve done, Dean,” he said. “I bet you never thought I’d end up this way in law school.”
Actually, Dean was not surprised. They had been in several classes and study groups together during their three years in law school. From that experience, Dean had always felt there may be a deficit in Frank’s character. He drank too much, he chased women incessantly, and he didn’t seem to have a definitive goal in life. And that had led to this, his lawyer’s license lost.
“You’re sure that nothing can be done?” Frank asked. “A suspension instead of this?”
Dean sighed. Now he was getting angry. There was no way he wanted Frank Martin to be a member of the same club to which he belonged. That was the whole point to what he did, getting rid of lawyers gone bad.
“Don’t you understand the gravity of what you’ve done, Frank?” Dean asked. “While you were representing a husband in a divorce proceeding, you screwed his wife then did some things that appear to have financially favored her in the divorce. Why should something like that deserve clemency?”
“You always were on a high horse,” Frank said. “Well, fuck you.”
“Time for you to go, Frank,” Foley said from the side wall.
Frank glared over at Foley. Finally, he stood but didn’t move for a time. It seemed as his body had locked and was about ready to explode.
“Look, Frank,” Dean said. “I’m sorry, that’s all I can say. There was nothing else that could be done.”
“You get a cheap thrill out of this, don’t you, Dean,” Frank went on. “Ruining lawyers’ lives.”
“Only the bad ones,” Foley said and now, he stood. “You signed the form,” he added, “now it’s time for you to go.”
Frank turned to Foley and they stood glaring at each other for a time.
“Well, fuck you both,” Frank said. Then he turned and walked out of Dean’s office, slamming the door behind him.
“Want me to go after him?” Foley asked. “Make sure he leaves peacefully?”
“No, he’ll be fine,” Dean said. “He’ll end up making a million dollars in shady real estate deals.”
Foley smiled, then moved to the seat directly in front of Dean’s desk where Frank Martin had just been sitting.
Dean waved the resignation affirmation at Foley.
“See, there is justice in the world, Stuey,” Dean said.
“Yeah,” Foley said. “If you can call that justice. But justice for fools like Frankie Martin is one thing and justice for lawyers truly gone bad is quite another.”