But such a moment occurred the other day in the HealthSouth lawsuit that is wrapping up its first week here in Birmingham.
Former chief financial officer Weston Smith testified via videotaped deposition in Jefferson County Circuit Court that former CEO Richard Scrushy knew about the accounting fraud. Smith said he shared his concerns about signing false financial certifications with former HealthSouth legal counsel Bill Horton.
According to Smith, Horton told him to sign the document anyway, adding, "You can't walk away from the mafia."
The alleged discussion between Smith and Horton has its comic elements. But it's also serious, alarming stuff--on several levels.
For one thing, if proven, the allegation against Horton probably would result in his disbarment.
Second, it's interesting to note that Horton has since landed at the Birmingham firm of Haskell Slaughter. I love some of the information provided in Horton's bio at the firm's Web site. Consider this:
A nationally recognized speaker and author on healthcare, corporate and securities law, and professional responsibility topics, Mr. Horton has held leadership positions for several years with the American Health Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association's Health Law Section.
Are you kidding me? This guy was chief counsel at a company where one of the largest frauds in U.S. history was going on under his nose. He evidently was clueless about what took place, but now he's an expert on healthcare law and professional responsibility? What does he tell people at these speaking engagements? How not to be a general counsel?
Haskell Slaughter is developing quite a cadre of lawyers with connections to our Legal Schnauzer story. And I've yet to see one acquit himself in an honorable way.
You've got Jesse P. Evans III, the first lawyer I hired to defend me against a neighbor's bogus lawsuit. Evans could not even manage to get a case dismissed when we filed properly executed and supported motions for summary judgment that the other side did not respond to. By law, summary judgment must be granted in such cases, but Evans repeatedly lied to me in an effort to cover up the corrupt activities of Shelby County Judge J. Michael Joiner. Evans even told me that Joiner is "one of the best judges in this part of the country." I still want to vomit when I think of that.
Evans' sidekick, Michael Odom, has joined him at Haskell Slaughter. Odom handled most of the actual work on my case, and under normal circumstances, I suspect he's a pretty decent guy and maybe even a good lawyer. But at Evans direction, I suspect he had little choice (if he wanted to advance in his career) but to lie his ass off about what was taking place in my case.
Evans is so immersed in the sleazy legal culture that I'm not sure he has a conscience. But in my interactions with Odom, he showed signs of at least having had a conscience at one time. And I wonder sometimes how he sleeps at night, knowing what his firm did to my wife and me. But it seems a lot of folks check their consciences at the door when they enter law school, so maybe that's how Michael Odom sleeps just fine.
If the law was not a self-regulated profession, if the field had real oversight, Horton, Evans, and Odom all probably would be disbarred. Of course, if the field had real regulation, they probably wouldn't pull such stunts in the first place. Horton might have actually headed off the fraud at HealthSouth, and Evans/Odom might have dealt with me honestly.
Finally, the Haskell Slaughter roster also includes former Clinton-era U.S. attorney Doug Jones. We know that Jones has formed an alliance with sleazebag GOP attorney Rob Riley in a massive federal lawsuit involving HealthSouth. And we have learned that Jones doesn't seem the least bit concerned that court documents indicate that a physical-therapy company owned by Riley apparently is acting in a fraudulent manner.
All of this makes me wonder about the culture of Haskell Slaughter. Sounds like the place could use a good scouring--or perhaps a massive injection of ethics.
Bill Horton evidently thought he was in the "mafia" at HealthSouth. To me, looks like he's still in the mafia at Haskell Slaughter.