The Marshall Chronicles: His 15 Minutes Are Up

The imbroglio started when a fellow named Jack Marshall, an unknown and inconsequential quantity in the blawgosphere, leveled an accusation against Eric Turkewitz, a well-known, highly-regarded New York personal injury lawyer and blawger.  It was a direct charge that Turk violated Rule 8.4. 

This wasn’t about discussing whether conduct was violative, but that a specific lawyer violated a specific rule with specific conduct that could result in sanctions ranging from suspension to disbarment.  It’s the lawyer equivalent of yelling rape.  And Jack Marshall was the yeller.  And the sole basis for accusation was that Marshall pronounced it to be so, because Marshall, per Marshall, was an ethics expert.

He was told he was wrong.  Over and over and a variety of ways by a variety of people over a period of days.  During that period, he had the time to write two additional posts, The April Fool Lawyer and His Defenders: Ethical Dodges on Display, and then, amazingly, decided that Jack Marshall was important enough to write the rules for everyone else, April Fool’s Day Ethics.  He called a lot of people names.  I was one for having stood up to his accusation against Turk, but the bloodletting went on for quite a while.

I watched in morbid fascination as the comments came in, trying nicely, angrily, sweetly, attackingly, to tell Marshall he was wrong.  He attacked in response.  He was right.  He was absolutely certain he was right.  He was the expert and everyone else was a fool, an idiot, all manner of stupid, because he was right. More than 100 comments at his blog (note spelling).

Then suddenly, he wasn’t.  Jack Marshall announced I was wrong, you were right.

He apologized to Turk, which Turk gracefully accepted.  Others praised his willingness to admit he was wrong and apologize.  The “hoary” (to borrow a word) chestnut that it takes a big man to apologize was floated.  Kumbaya was heard in the distant background.  The train stopped wrecking itself, over and over, and we could all return to our normal blogospheric viewing.  Who cared that some idiot named Marshall flung a false accusation, raised a ruckus against a respected lawyer, smeared many of the most respected members of the blawgosphere, then skunked off with his tail between his legs, admittedly wrong?

Despite watching for the past two days, mostly laughing at the antics of one of the most pompous, narcissistic ignoramuses I’ve yet to see online, I’m not satisfied with this conclusion.  Marshall proceeds to “explain” the error of his ways.

I’m not going to spin this. My conviction that the web hoax engineered by trial lawyer/blogger Eric Turkewitz violated the legal ethics rules was the product of a toxic mix of factors, prime among then being that I didn’t review my own files.

Yet spin is all it is.  Even this opening sentence, claiming that his fault was not reviewing his own files, is a outrageous lie.  Does he have files that inform him not to accuse others falsely of wrongdoing first, then think later?  What file does he need to tell him not to falsely accuse someone?  What a load of crap.

I had been wallowing in obscure clues from other jurisdictions–Tennessee, for example, which has the ABA wording but an odd Comment that begins…

[4] Paragraph (c) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Such conduct reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law…

This could be taken to mean that all such conduct reflects adversely on fitness. The problem is, I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe that Tennessee means that.

Spare me.  The old “obscure Tennessee caveat” defense?  At no time did Marshall “reveal” his argument that he was relying on the Tennessee interpretation.  In fact, at no time did Marshall say he was relying on any obscure state rule.  In fact, he disavowed, numerous times, that there was a need to rely on any interpretation, caselaw or otherwise, smacking those who tried to tell him otherwise that they were wrong.  They were idiots who didn’t get it like he did, because he was the expert and they were morons.  It wasn’t that Marshall just got it wrong, but that he viciously attacked back at every chance.

Run through the list of adjectives used by Marshall in this post and his response to comments.  Anybody see a reference to an obscure Tennessee interpretation?  But now there’s no spin? 

I picked Eric’s hoax, moreover, for another bad reason: I was rubbed the wrong way by his post criticizing the New York Times for falling for it. But that’s not ethics, that’s style. I let it warp my judgment.

Notice that it’s still a hoax rather than an April Fools Day joke or prank?  Notice that he’s still justifying his reaction, despite the backdoor concession?  It may not have been an ethical violation, Marshall now says, though Turk was still wrong for criticizing the Times, which is what compelled me to do it.  He’s wrong, but not blameworthy.

So, with incomplete disregard for my accumulated research and my prior positions, I wrote that Eric’s fiction was an ethics Rules violation. Then I compounded the blunder by focusing on the counter-arguments initially chosen by Eric, Carolyn Elephant, and Scott Greenfield, which were more emotional and abusive than analytical, rather than considering whether they had something to be emotional and abusive about. It was a good platform to write about how lawyers and others resort to rationalizations, and I took the bait…

And the “counter-arguments” (which by definition elevate Marshall’s original attack from false accusation to argument) were “emotional and abusive.”  Marshall still doesn’t grasp that his false accusation was utterly baseless, the narcissists dream of alleging a wrong because Marshall, the center of his own universe, says so.  This malicious, self-aggrandizing narcissist still doesn’t get that the responses were geared to his baseless, ignorant, false accusation.  The false accuser whines that those who called him out were “abusive”?  Do you think that the “abusive” attacks against you might have something to do with the fact that you began this mess by falsely and baselessly accusing Turk of unethical conduct?  Does that detail not enter into your warped psyche?

Without question, it’s better that this worthless, pontificating, ignoramus finally conceded that he was wrong, even if he does so in a vain attempt to salvage what remains of his reputation only after the universal condemnation of the blawgosphere.  We tend to be a fairly forgiving bunch, and the amount of energy put into dealing with this otherwise inconsequential self-promoter far exceeded his worth.  But I don’t buy his apology.  Not in the slightest. 

I believe the apology is wholly disingenuous, replete with spin at every turn.  I believe that Marshall is trying to resurrect himself, only because he now realizes that he committed marketing suicide with the universal condemnation.  His apology is nothing more than a carefully crafted rationalization of his misconduct.  His apology continues his attack, merely from another angle.  Even wrong, he’s still right.

Since Marshall never offered an apology to me, I have nothing to accept or reject.  If he had done so, I wouldn’t have bothered with it.  He’s unworthy of my concern either way.  But Turk is.  Carolyn is.  The myriad blawgers who tried to straighten this jerk out are, and this post is for them, and me. 

You do not falsely accuse someone of wrongdoing first, then figure out whether you’ve got any basis later.

You do not justify your accusations by claiming to be a false prophet of ethics, while attacking others as ignorant fools.

You do not spend days viciously attacking those who are telling you that you’re wrong, when you’re wrong, then claim that you were only wrong because you didn’t have the time to “review your files.”  There is no justification, none, for your attacking first then thinking later. I can’t imagine a more pathetic, disingenuous, claim.

You do not get to apologize after having done all of this and then expect to get a trophy for being a big enough man to admit your error.  The best you get is minor mitigation for your many wrongs.  And they were many.  But even the minor mitigation is undermined by your attempt at self-aggrandizement and rationalization in the apology. You net out zero.

Jack Marshall, the owner of ProEthics, a company that sells CLE courses, has destroyed his credibility.  Jack Marshall, blogger at Ethics Alarm, has engaged in rampant unethical conduct, based upon his own claims of what constitutes ethical conduct.  Jack Marshall cannot pretend it was just a big, silly mistake and expect to be welcomed back into the fold as an ethics expert.   Anyone who listen to Marshall is a bigger fool than he is. 

This fight has come to a conclusion.  Eric Turketwitz has done nothing, repeat, nothing unethical.  The baseless accusation against him was false.  And false accuser Jack Marshall’s 15 minutes are over, and he should never be heard from again.

If others forgive him, that’s their choice.  Some may think that he deserves a second chance.  That too is their choice. I believe he’s a danger to ethics.  He can have a second chance being a dog catcher, not an ethicist (if he ever was one except in his own mind).  I have deliberately used a wealth of ad hominem attacks on Marshall because I believe he should be attacked for what he’s done and how he’s done it. I am deliberately harsh.  That’s what Marshall deserves.  It’s unfathomable to me that anyone would pay heed to this worthless twerp on any subject, no less ethics.

25 thoughts on “The Marshall Chronicles: His 15 Minutes Are Up

  1. David Sugerman

    The anger and condemnation are well-deserved. And what a pompous ass. “My files” means the freaking rule. But can you imagine PAYING this fool for ethics advice? Crazy.

  2. SHG

    You bet I’m angry.  Rarely do I reach the point where I’m inclined to start using epithets, but I’ve reached that point here.  Nice words like “disingenuous” don’t cut it.  How dare this miscreant first engage in false accusations, and then try to play the blawgosphere by his self-aggrandizing apology.  I don’t know what, if anything, anyone else has to say about this, but it’s not going to fly with me.  And I’m not going to let this scumbag go quietly into the night.

  3. Amy Derby

    I’m glad you’re angry, Scott. I hope the right people come upon this post, and that this whole incident isn’t swept under the rug — especially by those who might employ him. I read Jack’s posts, and all the comments, in a single sitting the other night. It made me sick to think this man is teaching ethics, let alone legal ethics. His apology does nothing to alleviate that concern.

  4. SHG

    I am more (actually, much more) than a little disappointed that some people have tried to bring peace to the valley by acquiescing in this faux apologia.  It would be wonderful if we could all have a big group hug, but ethics precludes me from pretending this never happened and allowing this mutt to use this to salvage his failed reputation.

  5. David Sugerman

    I’ve avoided reading the comments. While I’m very good at singing Kumbiya, this ain’t the time. I imagine that SJ won’t be the only law blog to cover this topic in a substantive and realistic way.

    As we say in the civil justice system, shining a light makes the cockroaches scurry. That light doesn’t go away simply because some accept an apology that is thin at best. Many don’t appreciate how wrong Mr. Marshall was in his understanding of attorney ethics and how far afield he went in his conduct. I think you may have laid a glove on him….

  6. SHG

    Marshall’s actions and reactions have rendered him non-existent in my world, so I don’t give a damn whether I laid a glove on him.  He never counted before and certainly doesn’t now.  I do, however, care a great deal about the good people of the blawgosphere, as well as keeping this place clean from the likes of the Marshalls.

    Whether anyone else chooses to join me is up to them.  I hate to think that we’re reduced to a world of beta males whenever there’s an easy way to avoid conflict at the expense of integrity.

  7. Charles

    Why didn’t I post my thoughts at Popehat? I wasn’t as comprehensive but at least I could have been FIRST!!1! Anyway, here they are.

    Even though a lot of the right notes are sounded, there is too much patting himself on the back and he is far less generous with the people who corrected him than he should be.

    Things that bothered me:

    He implies that his slander of Turkewitz was itself supposed to be a kind of web hoax. Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?

    The “aha” moment is unconvincing. It is a backhanded compliment to say that a snide putdown from a person he doesn’t respect made him do actual research. It is akin to hearing a four-year-old say “… but Babe is a pig!” and deciding to read Peter Singer on the road to renouncing meat-eating.

    He continues to call all of the evidence gathered against him “rationalizations” – as if the pack stumbled into the right answer and he confirmed it with “research.” The qualifier “…reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law” appears multiple times from various commenters and he treats his discovery of it in the Virginia Model Rule as if it was the first time it came up.

    He refers to his files like they are the Alexandria library.

    I can only imagine the tedium that his CLE classes must be. Alas, by all evidence, that makes him an ideal CLE instructor.

  8. SHG

    It looks like Patrick did a post about it, but there are some aspects to his post that suggest he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the subject.

    I find nothing “convincing” about Marshall’s apology, and I think it’s pure and total crap, a sound reflection of its author.

  9. Charles

    Trust me, Patrick gets it. I don’t see anything that indicates that he considers the apology convincing. There is an apology, in two parts. Patrick linked without comment for narrative simplicity in the same way he linked here to close the show.

  10. SHG

    Patrick’s “closing the show” didn’t strike an appropriate note.  Perhaps  the refrain, or the fat lady singing would be appropriate, but not the “chorus” via any analogy.

  11. Amy Derby

    Scott, an honest question if I may? Suppose his apology had been genuine — would it matter?

    I’m not a professional ethicist or a lawyer, so I know my opinion is inconsequential. But this is bothering me. Would even a genuine apology have you forgive the way he went on the way he did for so many days, responding to comments the way he did — even at one point in the comments section addressing that he indeed does teach this particular NY rule in a legal ethics capacity?

    Perhaps if he had come to his “I’m wrong” conclusion after his initial post, or if he had framed the discussion in a way that had not made such a grave professional accusation, I would see things differently. But for an ethics professor to behave this way, with or without a genuine apology, seems inexcusable.

  12. SHG

    That’s a great question, though there are so many variables at this point that’s a messy one as well.  Of course, a sincere apology rather than this sociopathic crap would have made a difference.  But the question is how much of a difference, assuming it came at the end of this fiasco rather than at any number of earlier points where he could have pulled his head at of his butt and seen the light.

    But then, by the time he admitted his was totally, completely inexplicably, unjustifiably dead wrong, he lost any possibility of being in a position to play ethicist to a snake, no less lawyers.  Fine, sincere apology accepted, but you have disqualified yourself from any chance of opining on legal ethics.  Of course, it remains that the only person who saw Jack Marshall as a legal ethics expert was, ta da, Jack Marshall.

  13. Patrick

    It’s Greek tragedy, not Shakespearean tragedy Scott.

    The chorus comes in after the main character’s death, to explain the internal flaw that killed him.

    This isn’t Turkewitz’s tragedy, because he lives at the end. I gave you the chorus for good reason.

  14. Charles

    What if you think of yourself as the Frogs and he is the Cliff Notes of Aristophanes (and maybe, briefly, Heracles)? Does that level it enough for you? I’m just trying to help.

  15. Grant

    Huh, wow. I had no clue this thing happened, so I’m kind of late, but I just want to throw in my two cents, for the record, at least I’m kind of tired of reading all of these posts calling him a narcissist. He’s not. He’s very generous, especially to family and friends, and in my experience doesn’t show any more elitism than anyone else. As for other blogs asking if he has friends, yes, he does, just very many of them are not interested in legal ethics, so they wouldn’t read his blog. An example being his father’s funeral in February that took place at Arlington with full honors. Maybe about 20-30 people came just because of Jack. Some had met his father briefly, but most hadn’t. They came because they were his friends and to support him.

    I should know. After all, I am his son.

    That being said, I found it stupid as well. April fools jokes are not subject to legal ethics in my opinion, as long as they don’t cause any harm. I mean, this could be counted as “harm” but I’d call it confusion. Misleading? Sure. But nobody attempted to hurt themselves or another over the joke itself. I think that this, mixed with the hard times we were having, made him jump the gun and act irrationally. I’m not apologizing for him, just trying to rationalize.

    Also, I am sad that this has wrecked him so much. Money is already tight and this is really the last thing we needed. Alas, he did do it to himself, and thus should accept the consequences, which I believe he has.

    As for commenter Charles, his seminars are pretty fun, what with all of the singing and such that comes from his massive Theatre background.

    Post this or not, as I said above, I just wanted to give my opinion on the matter.

  16. Grant

    I guess so.

    I think I might have a slightly better view on the thing from a personal standpoint, but it was his fault for letting it get in the way of his profession.

    And @Mark, danke. He’s been a wonderful father. He lets me have a good bit of freedom without being completely out of the loop. I am proud to say I have never yelled “You just don’t understand me!” at him at any point. Well, other than the times I’ve joked around.

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