Friday, August 19, 2005


Mark Lay changes bet to politics, not legal acumen

Mark Lay, impresario of the MDL fund, is apparently crafting a new strategy for his defense of how he lost $200 million of BWC's money.

Until recently, Lay's attorney has been Barry Slotnick. Slotnick, back in the 80s, became a national name after he defended some high-profile clients like Bernard Goetz, the "subway shooter." Since then, however, Slotnick has steadily increased his reputation as an effective mouthpiece for well-heeled clients accused of "white-collar crimes" (Jeez - white-collar crime? Has there ever been a term more carefully crafted to evoke conscious and unconscious emotions related race and class, while suggesting that some crimes might be "okay"?).

Regardless of his clientele, Slotnick - to our knowledge - has never been accused of being a slacker in the courtroom.

So, we find it extremely odd, yet fascinating, that Lay has suddenly dropped Slotnick and signed up Eric Kuwana to head up his legal defense. Kuwana also had a good reputation (legally speaking) and is probably on par with Slotnick.

Joyce Gannon at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a clue today about what's going on here:
Kuwana, like his law firm, has strong political ties. Prior to joining Patton Boggs, he worked in the Office of Counsel to the President under the first President Bush, George H.W. Bush, and was a lawyer at the Federal Highway Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

He was deputy general counsel of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2001 for George W. Bush and also worked on Bush's 2005 inauguration. He also has represented the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In other words, Kuwana is wired - to the hilt - in GOP circles. Working as an attorney for these groups, Kuwana has learned to slither beneath the surface in the lakes of the power elite without letting outsiders see the slightest ripple in the waters.

Now, we realize the value of any good attorney largely depends on what he or she does outside of the courtroom. But, given his backgroud, this bit of bragging from his website suggests that clients can depend on him for something a little, uh, "extra":
Outside the courtroom, Mr. Kuwana has developed a particular expertise in quickly and accurately evaluating lawsuits and other risks for clients . . . Along with a dedicated group of partners and professionals, he uses this expertise to assist clients by conducting transactional risk assessments. He also specializes in implementing creative and aggressive strategies to change the dynamics of a case, even in its late stages, and to obtain the best possible result in settlement or trial. [emphasis added]
With his political pedigree, we have to wonder what Kuwana's ability to "change the dynamics" might mean in the various BWC scandals that have all sorts of political characters involved as suspects, witnesses, attorneys – and even prosecutors. This certainly suggest the stakes are being raised and the strategies are getting more sophisticated.

But, hey, it's a win-win situation for the GOP. Lay gets a crafty mouthpiece and the Republicans have a pipeline and a confidant that will keep them from being "surprised" by the direction of Lay's defense. Pretty clever.


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