Loose Lips

My bad.  When I first read the story, I never went beyond the first paragraph.  It was the ABA Journal, and the headline at the time was that Lindsay Lohan wanted a pro bono lawyer.  It was too funny for me, and apparently too funny for the ABA Journal as well, as the headline is gone.  It was more about a funny story than something to be taken seriously, so I never read the rest of the story. 

Fortunately, Eric Turkewitz did, leading him to find at the end some curious statements by Chicago criminal defense lawyer Stuart Goldberg, who appears to have been in the running for LiLo’s new mouthpiece, met with her and some family members, but ultimately didn’t get the gig.

Meanwhile, another counsel candidate who says he refused the representation has already dished to People magazine.

His would-be client is “a fragile lost child” who “just doesn’t get it” concerning the seriousness of the case she is involved in, says Stuart Goldberg, a criminal defense attorney based in Chicago. When he met with the actress and two relatives, “they didn’t seem to understand the urgency and gravity of the situation.”

As the Turk properly asks,

Why the hell is this Stuart Goldberg, apparently a Chicago criminal defense lawyer, talking about what he heard or saw in the confidence of his practice?

Taking a quick look at Goldberg’s website , one thing is immediately clear.  He’s not shy.  This is a guy who craves attention.  From his self-published novel (with video intro!) to his opening website video.  No, this is not a shy. self-deprecating lawyer.  This is a lawyer who wants recognition.

Lawyers don’t tend to become household names.  At least not for good things.  So when a lawyer is touched by celebrity, there’s a strong compulsion to seize the opportunity to enjoy the 15 minutes of fame.  Stuart Goldberg appears to succumb.  As the Turk points out, Goldberg’s meeting with LiLo about assuming her representation is confidential.  What he learns, what his impressions may be, what he thinks of her and her case, are not his to discuss.  They belong to the potential client, even when that client is LiLo.

Is it possible that Lohan told Goldberg that he’s free to discuss her confidences with the media?  It is, though it’s hardly likely.  Is it possible that Goldberg is a set-up, offering impressions to the media as part of a campaign to humanize LiLo and explain her inappropriate reaction to the court.  It is, and that’s more likely, but still not very likely.

We live in an age of celebrity, where people want desperately to become someone that others know exist. Some will do anything, from mind-numbingly stupid tricks on Youtube that risk their life, to crimes for the notoriety, to feigning a child in a blow-up flying saucer.  Anything to get in the media.  Anything.

Was that why Stuart Goldberg talked?  He got his name in in People Magazine and TMZ .  He’s all over the internet.  His beauty shot on his website now appears to have legs.  Is he now the best known, most prominent criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, for having been LiLo’s transitory choice for counsel?  After all, he must be something special if LiLo gave him a look.

For a lawyer to disclose confidences to promote himself, for sheer self-aggrandizement, is a disgrace.  Will Stuart Goldberg be remembered as a disgrace for this episode?  The ABA Journal doesn’t seem to notice any problem when reporting on his facial breach of confidence, but then it never seems to concern itself much with such trivial issues. 

Given the efforts that so many lawyers, criminal defense included, make to promote themselves and join the ranks of solvency, if not celebrity, on the internet, I wonder how many others would have given their overly-coiffed hair to have a promotional opportunity like this, and would have seized upon it without hesitation to toss their ethics in a ditch for their moment in the limelight?  What have we become? What are we willing to do, to ourselves, our clients, our dignity, to be prominent?

Stuart Goldberg is old enough to remember that loose lips sink ships.  Does he care at all about sinking ships?  Does he care at all that his moment in the sun doesn’t merely put his name on the lips of Lohan lovers and haters everywhere, but also reveals that he will sell his clients’ privilege for his name, spelled correctly, in a gossip magazine?

It’s possible that Stuart Goldberg hasn’t breached confidence in his quest for celebrity.  It’s possible that he’s the greatest lawyer in the world, as well as quite the showman.  It’s possible that Stuart Goldberg is who many readers secretly wish they could be, a criminal defense lawyer called by Lindsay Lohan who has a very shiny website that makes him out to be a star, and their name on the lips of every teenybopper who cares deeply about LiLo’s future.

The need for recognition has become pervasive on the internet.  Formerly sound thinkers have shamed themselves by flagrantly pandering online, concealing their warts and pretending to be whatever they think will sell them, kissing babies they secretly despise to make themselves popular.  It’s disgusting and embarrassing.

But as bad as the self-promotion has become, breaching confidence goes a step beyond the pale.  Dignity and professionalism may be an old man’s folly, but there is never an excuse to violate the attorney/client privilege.  And anyone who does so in the name of celebrity no longer deserves to be entrusted with the lives and welfare of others. 

How many of you will laugh at my old school views?  How many of you would do the same thing as Stuart Goldberg if you had the opportunity?

4 thoughts on “Loose Lips

  1. Lurking Reader 4008

    The ethical answer he could have given People is also the only one that might have made him seem at all a desirable attorney from a potential client’s point of view: “I will not discuss any communications that may have happened with anyone seeking my services.”

  2. SeanD

    It’s funny that the ABA Journal did not think the apparent breach was worth commenting on – even the “Lifestyle” columnist for the SF Examiner (not the most respected paper in the industry) had the decency to ask: “Even if he isn’t representing her, shouldn’t this meeting have been confidential?” after reporting on Goldberg’s comments.

    If he’s speaking without Lohan’s permission this guy is an epic piece of shit.

  3. Lee

    Oh my EFFING good lord.

    That website is HILARIOUS.

    Its like an SNL parody of a douchebag CDL!

    The video is amazing in and of itself, but if you click on the “about” link it gets even better where he is talking about how he has always been drawn to the have-nots, right next to a bunch of candids of him next to really really expensive cars (always with one leg up on the bumper I might add).

    Thanks for the laugh, Stewie.

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