Madame Butterfly Follies
Will the army of lawyers end what she started?
Big news out of Florida last week. Scientists said they plan to
release killer flies that will inject eggs into the bodies of
pesky fire ants, and the eggs will hatch maggots that eat the
heads of the ants. No word on whether this can be used to curb
the recent infestation of attorneys.
Trial lawyers marched on Florida by the hundreds in the days
after the election, responding to a flurry of e-mails calling
all good soldiers to the front lines. So much was at stake. The
presidency. The republic. The protection the trial lawyers had
paid for with huge campaign contributions.
Thirty attended one hearing; 50 squeezed into another. By early
last week, Theresa LePore, the designer of the infamous butterfly
ballot in Palm Beach County, had been sued no fewer than 12
All right, so the ballot might not have been Madame Butterfly's
best work. "But Theresa's not the story," argued her attorney,
Bruce Rogow of Fort Lauderdale. The better story was that he
found himself muscled and literally screamed at by attorneys and
Democratic Party chiefs who were more concerned with getting Gore
elected or feeding their own egos than using the law as a tool of
justice. And some were in way over their head. "I got a call from
one attorney who wanted to file an injunction but had never done
it," Rogow said. "I told him if he was too stupid to know what an
injunction looked like, he was too stupid to be involved in this
Rogow, a scholarly, bow-tied law professor who has argued 11
cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, said the word circus wasn't
big enough to describe the show. At one point attorney Alan
Dershowitz, the Zelig of American law, and another lawyer
attended a hearing with Rogow, and the New York Times observed:
"In a race that was not particularly close, both men beat the
lead defense lawyer, Bruce S. Rogow, to the television cameras
outside the courthouse."
"It's beyond ego. It's an addiction," said Rogow, who believes
nothing short of a methadone-type program can save his brethren.
He thinks a dozen attorneys are arguing two or three vital legal
issues with style and class. But battalions of "confused lawyers
are representing confused voters" in partisan sideshows that
Not that it wasn't entertaining. At least once a day, Florida
secretary of state Katherine Harris modeled something from Chanel
or Mrs. Howell's Gilligan's Island collection. Harris, a
supporter of Governor George W. Bush, would issue a totally
nonpoliticized ruling favoring Bush, and then Florida attorney
general Bob Butterworth, who chaired Vice President Al Gore's
state campaign, would issue a totally nonpoliticized response
It wouldn't have been this embarrassing if Bush and Gore had
insisted on more restraint. "It's a free-for-all," Rogow said,
and one day in his office, the incoming calls backed him up.
Dershowitz was on Line 1, and former Secretary of State Warren
Christopher, a Gore point man, was on Line 2. Both were calling
to apply some muscle.
"Alan. Alan. Listen to me, Alan. Listening helps," scolded Rogow.
He later said Dershowitz, who represents several Palm Beach
County voters who couldn't figure out the ballot, wanted LePore
to vote for an immediate recount instead of waiting for the
Florida Supreme Court to say it was O.K. Not a chance, said
Rogow. He and partner Beverly Pohl had asked the court for some
much needed clarification, and they weren't going to tell LePore
to do anything before the Supremes weighed in.
Rogow said goodbye to Dershowitz and hello to Christopher. "You
want the counting to continue. I know," Rogow said, before giving
Christopher the same answer he'd given Dershowitz. Rogow is a
loyal Democrat, but he refused to play politics with the law just
because team Gore wanted to rush ahead with the recount. His
client is LePore, not Gore.
Go to the beach, Rogow told a weary LePore whenever she felt
responsible for bringing down the republic. She was a paragon of
virtue compared to some of the other players, he says. And on
Thursday, when the turkey's on the table, she can give thanks for
the little things. At least she's not an attorney.