When Alan Dershowitz, emeritus professor of law at Harvard, was accused in a recent civil action of having had sexual relations with a teenage girl, my first thought was, what does Bill Bulger think of this?
Does Bulger wish he was still in office, I wondered, so that he could make some sly and cutting references to the accusation from the rostrum of the Massachusetts Senate, or has he mellowed in retirement to the point where he could not care less about the trouble besieging his one-time bitter adversary?
Most of us will never learn the answers to those questions because Bulger, who served as Senate President for 18 years, is unlikely to issue a statement on the matter or ring up a reporter to chat about it.
If you need a reminder of the bad blood that existed - and probably still exists -- between Dershowitz and Bulger, consider the following excerpt from a blog post by the professor, which appeared on the web site of Boston magazine on July 8, 2011 under the headline, “Dershowitz: With Bulger Brothers, the Cover-Up Continues”:
“When Billy was the most powerful political figure in Boston, corruption permeated every aspect of public life, from the FBI, to federal prosecutors, to the state judiciary, to Beacon Hill, to building inspectors, to the State Police. Everyone - from governors, to justices of the state’s highest court - kowtowed to ‘The President,’ which in Boston meant Billy Bulger.”
Somehow I missed most of that crime wave. Perhaps it’s time the feds investigated Bulger’s role in the rise of Al Qaeda and the decline of the glaciers?
Well, you don’t have to love that unique Dershowitz style or agree with everything that comes out of his mouth to appreciate his spirited response to the allegation he’d taken indecent liberties with a minor.
That claim was made in a motion filed last week in a civil case in Florida involving new allegations against Jeffrey E. Epstein, a New York money manager who, according to the New York Times, pleaded guilty several years ago to soliciting prostitution. Dershowitz once served on Epstein’s legal team.
The motion, part of a civil case brought against Epstein, claimed that Epstein had ordered an underage woman in his retinue to have sex with several men, including Prince Andrew of England and Dershowitz.
Buckingham Palace issued a prompt denial on behalf of the Prince. And Dershowitz denied it with equal swiftness in direct conversations with reporters, while adding an extra twist, something I’d never seen before in situations like this: he declared his intention to go after the lawyers who filed the motion.
“They are lying deliberately, and I will not stop until they’re disbarred,” Dershowitz said in a phone interview with the New York Times.
It was his intention, Dershowitz told the Times on January 2, to initiate disbarment proceedings the following week against the lawyers who filed the motion, Bradley J. Edwards, who practices in Florida, and Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge and a law professor at the University of Utah.
Lawyers are supposed to have reasonable grounds to believe something is true before they put it in a lawsuit. They don’t have to know for sure it’s true, but they have to have formed a professional judgment it could have happened the way their client and/or witnesses say it did.
In pursuing the disbarment of Edwards and Cassell, Dershowitz would likely want to have the pair deposed, so they’d have to answer questions under oath on how they came to the conclusion that Dershowitz had had sex with the underage woman.
On Tuesday, there was a new wrinkle in the case: Edwards and Cassell filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz in a Florida state court, claiming he had damaged their reputations by accusing them of “intentionally lying in their filing (of the motion).” Dershowitz, they complained, had “initiated a massive public media assault” on their reputations and characters.
Edwards and Cassell accuse Dershowitz of taking sexual advantage of a teenager - basically of being a sleazebag -- and they’re outraged when he, in turn, accuses them of lying. That’s kind of rich, to say the least.
It’s easy to rip someone’s face off in the initial document that launches a civil lawsuit. Plaintiffs’ attorneys tend to paint the worst possible picture of a defendant at the outset, presumably to instill in that person: (a) a fear of how bad the case could get if it ever goes to trial, and (b) a desire to consider an early out-of-court settlement.
And when a lawsuit hits the newspapers, defendants usually clam up. They say “no comment” to the newshounds who knock on their doors, they make themselves “unavailable” for any comment at all, or they let their lawyers speak for them, but all the lawyers say is, “I’ve advised my client not to speak on these matters because they are now before a court of law,” adding, primly, “We’re not going to try this case in the press.”
That’s what made Dershowitz’s response so refreshing. Not only did he personally come forth to deny unequivocally any wrongdoing, he also called out the lawyers for the other side. He stood before the world and told his tormentors, I’m coming for your law tickets, boys. I’m shutting you down!
I probably would not count myself among the fans of Dershowitz. He’s too scorched-earth-all-the-time for me. But I like the way he has jumped fearlessly into this game of Career Russian Roulette. Yesterday, he was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, “In the end, someone will be disbarred. Either it will be me or the two lawyers. In the end, someone’s reputation is going to be destroyed: either mine or theirs...I’m thrilled they sued me.”