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A giant of the law, Clint Bamberger, passed away in Baltimore, Maryland on February 12, 2017, after a life-time of helping the poor, inspiring students, and living his faith through the practice of social justice, and just 2 days before his first Valentine’s Day alone in 64 years.

I last saw Clint and his wife, Katharine, in their condo in Baltimore a couple of years ago. I knew he had been the first director, in the 1960s, of the nationwide Legal Services Corporation which provides legal services to the poor, appointed by President Johnson.

Clint Bamberger and Robert J. Gaudet, Jr. on May 4, 2015 at the Bamberger residence in Baltimore, Maryland

I did not know (as described in the Baltimore Sun article below) that Clint had argued the Brady case in the Supreme Court. It established the super-famous rule that prosecutors must disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense. That case actually helped one of my former clients, Edwin P. Wilson, who was prosecuted and put in jail for over 20 years after prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence contrary to the Brady decision. When this was disclosed years later, Edwin Wilson used the Brady decision to vacate his decision and get out of jail after over 20 years. We then represented Edwin Wilson in a lawsuit against the former prosecutors and complainant (many of whom had become federal judges despite having broken the Brady rule as prosecutors years earlier, and one is now a partner at a prestigious D.C. law firm). Our case was dismissed on the grounds of prosecutorial immunity although one person, Stanley Sporkin (former CIA executive director), could have been on the hook, as a defendant, since he was not a prosecutor but claims against him were voluntarily dismissed. So, this Brady decision is super-huge in importance and Clint apparently argued it before the Supreme Court. It would not be a decision today if it were not for Clint’s perseverance in taking the case.

I did not know that Clint was the former Dean of Catholic University law school. I did not know that he helped set up legal aid services in South Africa around 1994, about a year after I had worked in South Africa.

Clint spent his life teaching and helping the poor, driven by his Catholic faith, (aside from the years he worked at Piper Marbury as a partner on presumably corporate matters … but he told me that’s why they later picked him to head the Legal Services Corporation – because he was a buttoned-down partner at an established law firm. That firm, which was perhaps the most famous in Baltimore, has now merged into what is now DLA Piper.)

Robert J. Gaudet, Jr.; Katherine Kelehar (Clint’s wife); and Clint Bamberger at the Bamberger residence on May 4, 2015 in Baltimore

[Pictured: Robert J. Gaudet, Jr.; Katharine Kelhehar; Clint Bamberger; May 4, 2015; at the Bamberger home in Baltimore]

When my wife (Karin Gaudet-Asmus) and I last visited Clint and his wife in their assisted living condo in or near Roland Park, about two years ago, Clint seemed frail but he could walk around with a little bit of trouble. I was worried about his health. But he was as gracious as ever. We were late so we unfortunately missed the food that had been available in the dining hall. I believe his wife, Katharine, made something at the spur of the moment. They were kind to entertain us as visitors and share family news and discuss social justice and events which, at the time, involved the riots in Baltimore for which Karin and I served as legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild. I always found Clint inspiring and full of integrity.

The article, below, says Clint’s wife, Katharine, passed away in December 2016. That is very sad. In 2015, she seemed much younger and healthier when we last saw them together; she helped him walk and get around; and she advised him to take it easy although he was enthusiastic and vigorous as a host. Over the past several days, before his passing, I can only imagine that he might have had tremendous grief in anticipating his first Valentine’s Day alone in over 64 years.

In a visit around 2001 or 2001 to Clint and Katharine’s previous condo at the Inner Harbor (which, I think, the father of my high school classmate, Leo D’Aleo, had built), while I was in law school and figuring out where to move to make a difference, I remember Clint told me that Baltimore was a “dying city” and advised me not to return. I was hoping for some links to class action lawyers or social justice lawyers in Baltimore. But I took his words to heart. I looked into some options in Baltimore but never heard back, e.g. from the Angelos law firm. Unlike defense firms, plaintiff’s and social justice firms do not recruit at top law schools across the country. I was offered a summer position at Piper Marbury (where Clint was once a partner int he 1960s, now called DLA Piper) but I did not want to defend Microsoft against antitrust suits, etc., so I turned it down. In retrospect, maybe I should have looked harder into returning to Baltimore. The fact that it was a “dying city” was no reason not to return. If anything, it might indicate there was an even greater need for new lawyers who, in the mold of Clint, could help the vulnerable and dispossessed.

When I entered the law profession, people like Clint and Jack Greenberg (former dean of my undergraduate college at Columbia University) are what I had in mind. They are what I expected from the profession – changing the world, helping the poor and vulnerable. They are the lights of our profession. Sadly, since becoming a lawyer, I have not met very many lawyers like them, with the same devotion, understanding of real people’s troubles, concern for the world, empathy, ambition to do better for everyone, drive, sense of camaraderie with like-minded spirits. I hope I can remember to follow the example set by Clint and try to carry a small piece of the torch.

Thank you, Michael Susko, for introducing me to him.  I am glad you got to know him through the Catholic church in Baltimore, a place that nourished both of you in your faith to care for others and help the vulnerable as a way of life. This example of Clint’s life is the strongest testament to the immense power that faith can have if one actually lives out one’s beliefs.   -Robert J. Gaudet, Jr.

Karin Gaudet-Asmus; Katherine Kelehar; and Clint Bamberger at the Bamberger residence on May 4, 2015 in Baltimore. Around this time, Karin and Robert served as legal observers for the National Lawyers Guild in Baltimore during the time of unrest

Pitchfork

Photo via Judit Klein on Flickr

 

By Arthur Bryant
Chairman, Public Justice

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform just released the latest version of the propaganda piece it started publishing in 2002. Entitled “2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States,” the report summarizes the answers of a “nationally representative sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with annual revenues over $100 million” who responded to what it calls a “survey.” The so-called “survey” does not, however, show what these people really think. Everyone taking it knows that its purpose is – as it has been for the past 13 years – to give big business a basis to smear state court systems that aren’t pro-business enough as “judicial hellholes” and push all state courts to limit corporate liability for wrongdoing.

Even so, the answers provide some extraordinary information.

First, Corporate America’s representatives say that state courts are increasingly better for them. Consumer, worker, environmental, and civil rights advocates would agree. As the report says, in the 13 years since the so-called survey began, “there has been a general increase in the overall average score” given to state court systems by lawyers for big business – “and this trend continues with the 2015 survey.”

“From 2002-2006,” the report finds, “the overall score averaged approximately 52.9, whereas from 2007-2015, the score averaged approximately 59.6.” Chart 2 of the report gives the details and shows that the score given by big businesses’ lawyers to state court systems has gone up almost every year. In 2003, Corporate America’s lawyers gave the state courts a score of 50.7; in 2015, they gave them a score of 61.7.

Since this is supposed to be the views of one side in an adversarial system, wouldn’t a score close to 50 be ideal? The Chamber’s propaganda campaign (backed by corporate lobbying, campaign donations, and decisions like Citizens United) is plainly working. I understand that, in theory, a system perceived to be fair by all parties should get a score of 100 from everyone but, remember, this was a “survey” taken by specific people of specific people for a specific purpose: to push the state courts in the corporations’ favor. You could reasonably expect a court system that got a score of 100 from these participants to get a score of zero from lawyers trying to hold big businesses accountable for breaking the law.

Second, even in a “survey” designed and taken to show that the state courts are biased against big business, half of Corporate America’s lawyers say the state court liability systems overall are “excellent or pretty good.” Another 41% say the systems overall are “only fair.” I thought the goal was for them to all be “fair.” But perhaps that’s why I’m a public interest lawyer, not a lawyer for big business. Despite the reason for the “survey,” only 8% said the systems overall were “poor” (the last 1% was not sure or declined to answer).

In other words, despite what the “survey” is intended to show, it actually shows that the state court systems overall are viewed by Corporate America’s lawyers as significantly better for big businesses than they are for the people and companies suing them. Can you imagine the cries of bias we would hear if a survey showed legal services, consumer, and workers’ lawyers saying the courts were “excellent or pretty good” for them (much less “only fair”) in lawsuits against big business?

Third, Corporate America’s lawyers give grades between A and F to each of the state court systems and say where they do and don’t like to be sued. In a stunning and continuing display of arrogance, they actually include a map of the “Best to Worst Legal systems in America.” The map was apparently created in Bizarro World. They give As to 14% of the state courts, Bs to 38%, Cs to 27%, and Ds to 11%. In other words, even according to these “survey” respondents, 90% of the state court systems are passing. They give failing grades, Fs, to 5%. The other 5% were not sure or declined to answer. These answers, too, put the lie to Corporate America’s claims that state courts need to be more favorable to them. If anything, they show that many state courts are already far more favorable to big businesses than they are to those trying to hold big businesses accountable.

The “survey” respondents also took the time to tell us which states’ courts are the most, and least, favorable to Corporate America. The top five states, according to them, are Delaware (often called a subsidiary of DuPont), Vermont, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Hampshire. See any states in there with a lot of minorities and poor people who might not look kindly on big corporations abusing their power? The bottom five states, they say, are West Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois, California, and New Mexico. Ask yourself the same question. I question some of these rankings. Most plaintiffs’ lawyers would list the Texas state courts as one of the most pro-business in the nation. But maybe the state’s so big that they don’t want to admit that. The states they rank highest are all fairly small.

If you want to figure out which states have juries most likely to hold big corporations accountable, try reversing the order. These are the states the Chamber of Commerce regularly uses this “survey” to label “judicial hellholes.” In reality, however, a “hellhole” for corporations violating the law may be “heaven” for those seeking justice against businesses that cheat or injure consumers (for more on this, click here).

What we need in America are state and federal court systems that are fair – and biased in no one’s favor. Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce’s latest propaganda piece shows we are far from that goal and, for some time, things have been getting worse. Big businesses’ own lawyers say that state court systems have turned increasingly in Corporate America’s favor since the “survey” began.

This needs to stop. Our courts systems need to turn back to being even-handed. That’s the only way justice can be done.

[Reprinted with permission of Mr. Bryant.  Mr. Gaudet is a member of Public Justice, the organized chaired by Mr. Bryant.]