The Real Texas Bar

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
Copyright © 1997-2017
All Rights Reserved

Recently it seems as though in the discussions about lawyers that I have listened to, there is a large chorus of whiners who hired the wrong sort and came up short of their goals. Lawyers are in that respect much like anyone else. Some are good, some are mediocre and some are just bloody awful. I have known all sorts, but the worst is someone who is just boring. I would rather spend time with a real good liar and thief than someone who is boring. So called “intellectual property” lawyers – patents, etc – are the most boring people on the planet next to accountants and funeral directors. Theirs is so often a scientific background that they are sticklers for exactitude and correctness. That’s OK in its place, but in a social setting it is worse than a sleeping pill. I am of the older generation of business trial lawyers, and one who did not come from any country club set background or to-the-manner-born kind of genealogy.

I lack the gentleman’s polish and the air of entitlement that my betters in the society of leading lights tend to exhibit. On the other hand I would not go out and buy a designation of Super Lawyer as so many of my colleagues are now doing, and then touting their having been designated as a Super Lawyer as something bestowed upon them for reasons of merit – total bullshit. The new Super Lawyer foolishness is the successor to the old Martindale scam of selling av ratings – supposedly reserved for only the finest lawyers. The pretense was that you had to have written recognition by a peer group of your worthiness to receive the M-H av rating. In reality, as I was informed by those in the know, you bought a round of drinks or dinner for the right folks and they then wrote the letters to M-H attesting to your high quality and esteemed repute. You then received written notice of your having been awarded the “coveted” M-H av rating accompanied by your right to buy expensive advertising in the back of the M-H directory book for your state. As a young lawyer I did invest in lunch and cocktails to get the coveted av rating. It meant nothing and brought in no business at all. It was total bullshit. Being designated a Super Lawyer is the same crap. I’m not making that mistake again.

There are those among us who simply had to find the ways to outmaneuver the big shots and obtain sufficient redress for our smaller (by comparison at least) clients that are not taught in any schools or seminars. We were always few, and now we are far fewer.

There doesn’t seem to be a generation following us that are similar. There probably is and we just refuse to recognize that the young hot shots of today with their hundred dollar haircuts and manicures are similar. To us they seem like a bunch of pencil neck sissies who would never step outside and whip out their manhood mano a mano to settle anything from the price of their expensive watches, the speed of their cars and women, to who has been most promiscuous in the scope of clients they will accept if the retainers are large enough. But the world is changing and people more and more want fantasy than reality. Additionally, changing politics are making it tougher for anyone to challenge the decisions of big business and their impact on middle tier businesses and people.

Something called “tort reform” is touted as limiting “lawsuit abuse” – in reality making predators pay for their predation. In franchising, as with flaky drug companies and crooked doctors, that opens vast avenues for investment scammers who tell these fools that they will instantly become their own bosses and masters of their own futures if they will just sign the most outrageous contract anyone could ever devise. They sign them by the battalions and then frog march their sorry asses right into bankruptcy or worse – think spending years making no net profit struggling to avoid bankruptcy and enduring unspeakable economic abuse permitted by the terms of that outrageous franchise agreement they signed. Today’s real answer – tough shit – you signed it voluntarily. The excitement of those grand days of yesteryear when the big dogs roamed the legal range seems to be waning. Today there are too many rules, too much digital “stuff” that makes personal confrontation less frequent, and the fear of juries has made the sissies opt for back room arbitration with no appeals and no record of what went on in private. The era when courtrooms were performance arenas for lawyers with a flair for the dramatic surprise are gone. Oral argument of almost anything no longer exists. Everything is decided on the “papers”. I’m glad I’m not young anymore.

Some sordid theater still abounds. On court days when “no fault” divorces are awarded, a lot of opportunistic lawyers who know that the just freed wives are going to go out and have a few drinks and fuck the first halfway decent looking reasonably clean guy who picks up their bar tab hang out in the halls and in the courtroom to pick up the sharper looking babes. I haven’t ever done that – never needed to – but I have been in a number of bars when these guys settled up and went running over to court to be ready to harvest the “no fault” willing women.

The really colorful guys and gals are mainly in criminal law these days. They seem to represent the televangelists caught in cars with dead women and live boys; business big shots who snort powder and beat up their wives; the heirs of moguls who want to keep daddy’s favorite whore from inheriting his fortune; politicians who send their nude pictures to young girls and boys over the Internet; and cases that are just so bloody sordid that you know they are going to be on the evening news every day for months – think Michael Jackson’s doctor.

When I was practicing in Detroit there were bars to which colorful trial lawyers went at day’s end or at lunch on a slow day and told colorful stories for hours on end, regaling hundreds of audience members who went there every day just to hear the stories. Some of the stories were somewhat true, but so well told that no one could tell truth from enhancement. A really good trial lawyer can make you believe anything. If Jesus had been a trial lawyer Christianity would today be the only religion. Trial lawyers are really that good, especially in a bar after a few drinks. And every one of them has his special story with extrinsic evidence to make everybody believe that the story is true. Mine is to recount those glorious days when I was the world champion unlimited heavyweight pig wrestler, with championship belt buckle to back up the story.

By the time I moved to Texas I had become accustomed to drinking with a fantastic crowd of bull shitters at Galligan’s Pub, owned by a very boring tax lawyer who mainly stayed upstairs and did the bar’s accounting, leaving his lair mainly to go to the bank (no longer in existence) and with the most fantastic humans on the planet in the Buhl Bar (in my building) where the black criminal trial lawyers of Detroit gathered every afternoon and the stories were better than anything you could ever buy a ticket to in any theater. It was in the Buhl Bar that Dee Daniels challenged me to hire a black associate and be the first firm in the Buhl Building to do so. When I agreed he sent me one of the finest people I have ever met, David Mason, son of a Detroit Police homicide detective and as cool a guy as ever walked the planet. David is now a preacher in Detroit, and his wife Janatha is as beautiful as she ever was. I miss him. While he was still a law student we tried the McAlpine vs. Aamco case, the first ever victory for franchisees of Aamco transmissions. He and I gave some extremely arrogant and over paid lawyers who were bragging all over town how they were going to wipe the floor with us a real thrashing. Judge Ralph Guy wrote a magnum opus opinion in that case that got me invited to speak about franchise litigation all over the country and that brought in a ton of new business. As a team David and I were more effective than I can ever describe in words. When the firm downsized in one of Detroit’s famous economic droughts, David moved on.

Between Galligan’s and the Buhl Bar the office always knew where to find me when I wasn’t needed for anything requiring immediate attention. Those were hugely celebratory days and some lawyers sought to take advantage of my reputation for partying. One miserable sonofabitch, when I caught his client lying his ass off in a sworn deposition and contradicting what he had told the court in a sworn affidavit in the case, interrupted the deposition and called the court demanding to report to the judge that I had just hit him. When the judge told him to put me on the phone and asked me if I had hit the shit head I told him that if I had hit him he wouldn’t have been able to make that phone call. The judge laughed and hung up. This pussy was a big firm lawyer who thought himself and his clients immune to any rules by which others have to live, so the exposure was particularly delicious. His firm was to lose to us again in a very high profile case, the Aamco case, and there ensued a wall to wall attitude of hostility between us.

One of his firm’s clients was a crooked so called art dealer who made a fortune fleecing the rubes on phony art prints all of which, so they said, were “originals” by famous artists. In reality just about none were originals, and when we brought a consumer protection act case against the thief it made all the newspapers with feature articles about what original art prints really were. This arrogant bunch of assholes law firm threatened me with an ethics complaint with the Michigan State Bar Association if I brought one more lawsuit against their client. Stupidly, they did that in writing, which I used for more publicity, pushing the sumbitches over the edge of wrath. The art dealers of Detroit sided with me and one of them, a former curator of the print collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts became my expert witness. The case never was a money maker but it was about the most fun case we had for a long time.

There were a couple of losers who claimed that I had hit them in attempts to avoid the consequences of their bad lawyering. One tried to tear up an Order granting my motion to dismiss his case so that I would not be able to hand it up to the judge for signature. He did get punched before he could make good on that tactic and ran into the courtroom bleeding from the mouth and nose screaming that I had attacked him. Judge Morehouse signed the order and told the courtroom deputy to escort the little bastard off courthouse premises and put him in a cab to the hospital. He went directly to the third police precinct building and told the intake officer his sad story of having been assaulted by me. I later got a call from the police asking if I had hit the shitwad. I told the officer that I did indeed hit him and that in doing so I had preformed a valuable public service. The officer asked what all had happened and when I finished telling him he said “Well sir, I want you to know that we here at the third precinct will never take any action where lawyers are beating the crap out of one another, so you can relax.”

The Oakland County sheriff’s office, I later found out in another combative incident with a lawyer who decided he was going to show me what Marines were really made of and ended up on his back bleeding profusely, had a very similar policy. They were going to call EMS to take him to Beaumont Hospital to get checked out, but his date for the evening decided she should just take him home and save him from the potential newspaper publicity about his being with a prominent law firm and getting his ass kicked so badly that he needed hospitalization. The deputy told his girlfriend not to call them anymore to come stop lawyers from beating each other up.

I have always avoided fighting whenever possible, but no matter how hard one may try to be peaceable, there will always be those few who leave you absolutely no choice. Real fights are over in about fifteen seconds. Those things that go on for hours on T V that are called boxing are nothing at all like a real fight. There are no rules in real fighting. Everything is just fine, no matter how opportunistic or how debilitating the results may be. I hate it and anyone who leaves me no choice will regret it.

Detroit is not a happy place, to put it mildly. I have just recounted every incident in which I had no choice but to hit someone, but overall these were never happy people even in good times. I lived through intense race riots with bombs and gunfights and through the ups and downs of the auto industry when there was a so called gasoline shortage in 1973 and when the Japanese started selling high quality cars into the American market – all bad news for Detroit where style changes and big engines were what the industry was about. Detroit has only gotten worse since I moved to Texas. The arrogant assumption that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler had no reason to deliver reliable high quality cars at a reasonable price and manage their businesses so that they could do that and still make an operating profit eventually brought their downfall. The company I worked for when first out of law school, then called General Motors, is now called Motors Liquidating. What is now called General Motors is the same arrogant bunch of losers en route to putting the new company into failure eventually, but in advertisements always referring to themselves as “professional grade”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Texas, thank God, is a happy place, and Houston is the best place in Texas for someone like me. It has everything I like plus a sufficient scoundrel population to keep armies of lawyers busy all the time. Fortunately my practice is national and international in scope, so I don’t look just to Houston for clients. Texas is also called a Bible belt state, which means that once out of the city limits you are in fundamentalist territory where views are predominantly absolutist and mostly wrong headed. You have to be aware of the social context wherever you go. But even in Houston there are law firms that advertise themselves to be “Bible believing lawyers” and “Christian law firms”. Of course these Bible believing Christian law firms also tend to be contingent fee personal injury hustlers cutting the same corners as the rest of the heathens. Comically the Christian conservative state government hates all personal injury claimants as long as the insurance lobbyists keep crossing their palms with gold, so new laws tend to limit personal injury recoveries and are moving to losers having to pay the lawyers of the winners, which is eating into medical malpractice case proliferation. It is a battle royal between the forces of Christian Bible believing personal injury contingent fee law firms and those of the Christian conservative politicians on the take from the insurance lobby. Now if you can’t think up a ton of jokes from the availability of material like that you don’t belong in Texas.

Our latest really big ponzi scheme criminal defendant had engraved into the face of his building right by the main entrance that “This company was created for the glory of God”. Now I think only a complete fool would ever invest his money with anyone who used his ostentatious religiosity as his mission statement. Christian crooks somehow lack the flair of Jewish crooks – think Bernie Madoff. Bernie would never have fit in here in Houston. Here the crooks all have their offices adorned with statues and pictures of eagles. Eagles are a dead giveaway that the person in front of you is a thief. Bernie, on the other hand was into $ 17,000 umbrella stands one of which is an exact replica of Martha Stewart’s vagina, so it is said.

For those of us who like to raise hell and who know that God loves us anyway, Texas is really a fun place, especially Houston.

When I first came here from Detroit because a Texas company had retained me to protect them from their own rapacious franchisees, I felt like I had been let out of jail. People here were hospitable and friendly, had a sense of humor and would go out of their way to help you and to show you around even if you were their opposing counsel.

I was on the way out of another bad marriage, and that also made me feel like a bird just let out of a cage. I had never seen so many really lovely, friendly girls in one place in my life. Most of them had come to Houston from some small Texas town in the hope of finding a nice guy to start a family with. These were good girls, not your bar sluts, even if you tended to meet them in a saloon. You knew within a minute of meeting them that they were really not the kind to be your mate for a one night stand or a weekend in New Orleans. They were so lovely and so unbelievably great to be around that you just wanted to take ‘em all home to mommy.

Fortunately for me there were also some young ladies of easier virtue. I was in Houston too often to keep using hotels, so I rented a small apartment for $ 185 a month in depressed Houston at that time. I furnished it with inexpensive furniture and decorated its walls with neon beer signs compliments of the local Coors distributor who was an old boyhood friend of one of my partners. Mike Tulloch, my best friend from Michigan, soon moved down here and it didn’t take him long to start up his own motorcycle group of mostly ex elite unit veterans. Mike was here with wife and kids, so we used my apartment for all parties. That picture of us in the eating area of that small apartment that appears on the home page of this website is that initial group one Sunday morning before we adjourned to Pappasito’s for brunch. In that picture the tall girl in the back on the right pretending to be picking her nose was my then current girlfriend, an incredibly talented sculptress and architect named Lee. She was here from Tennessee.

I had never before been in the midst of so many people enjoying each other’s company with no tension and nothing to detract from the ultimate society of happy people. There is no equivalent joy of life in Detroit.

I was travelling a lot in those days, all over the country, taking depositions, arguing in courts everywhere and trying cases in about 14 states. In those days franchise litigation kept you on the road constantly, and the other trial work was even more extensive. I was in California at least twice a month and rode a motorcycle out there and just left it at the airport so that I would have one when I wanted to go ride the wine country on weekends. That was absolutely the busiest time of my whole life. One Georgia young female attorney representing about 150 or more of the franchisees of one client of mine seemed to spend the most time with me as we went on a tour of the country to key spots to depose all her clients. Later, when we were free of conflict of interest problems, we took a shine to each other that lasted a few years. Life was insatiable and so was I.

I wasn’t running into lawyers in bars in Houston. There was a different work ethic here. There is so much business in Houston that the better lawyers don’t have the time or energy to party. Life here is also more committed. Good folks get married, have children and usually stay together and try to make a good life for themselves. There was no group of hard drinking trial lawyers here to hang out with every afternoon when you might not be working. Drinking at lunch is a definite no no here. People here really work their asses off all day long. That’s another difference between Houston and Detroit.

By the same token, socializing in Texas tends more to revolve around BBQ and cold beer on weekends, associated with sports mostly. Texas is a much cleaner lifestyle all around. The entire social setting is so incredibly inviting that it would never ever occur to me to want to move to anyplace else, no matter the reason. My current inamorata is a Texas country girl, and she would not move out of Texas for all the money in the world.

But I did miss Galligan’s and the Buhl Bar. In recognition of how much the Lord wanted me to be ultimately happy, She created Muldoon’s. The first Muldoon’s was an ultimately fun place. See The second incarnation of Muldoon’s became the hangout of the Enron criminals and they made it an extremely famous destination saloon. See It was sold almost at auction and brought a museum quality price not at all justified by its operating statement. The fifth incarnation of Muldoon’s is now in business with a large patio under incredibly huge live oak trees, but Belinda and I don’t do the bar scene anymore. Can you believe that? There is actually a girl who is more fun just hanging out with than going to any saloon. We actually met in a saloon over 22 years ago. See I think life in its happiest times actually began when I met Belinda. See Can you imagine someone telling you that if you don’t shape up she won’t even tell you when she wins the Texas lottery? I think that might have been her mother’s suggestion, not telling me if she wins the lottery.

I don’t get out much anymore. I miss the fun in saloons, but not that much, really. Maybe I am starting to grow up. I wonder what maturity is like. Something tells me that it’s boring and that if I am going to do that I am really lucky to have someone like Belinda to do it with. She has always been a grown up. Having someone with that kind of specific experience as a life coach is a real luxury.

Now the Texas bar has morphed into a professional organization that regulates the practice of law in Texas. That definition almost never entered my mind.

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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