Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has sought to bring the spirit of helping others to New York lawyers by his creation of a pro bono requirement for admission to the New York bar in the hope of instilling a lifelong desire to help those who are truly worthy of pro bono publico. Can there be anyone more worthy than Nassau County District Attorney cum United States Congressperson, Kathleen Rice?
When suit was brought against Rice for making false allegations against Jesse Friedman to thwart his effort to prove his innocence, a law firm stepped up to the plate to defend the poor, the downtrodden prosecutrix, Debovoise & Plimpton. At first, Friedman attorney Ron Kuby, assumed the obvious, that this defense could prove both expensive and unhelpful for the county footing her bill.
But Debovoise’s Andrew Levine was deeply hurt by the suggestion that the firm’s interest was in filthy lucre, and requested that Kuby make clear that the firm would not be charging the County for its services. Oh no, these services would be pro bono. After all, this was Kathleen Rice.
Sure, there are some who would think that Biglaw’s pro bono efforts would be better directed toward the wrongfully convicted facing imminent execution, perhaps children facing deportation, or even to fill the gaping holes in underfunded representation of the indigent.* But do they not appreciate the worthiness of Kathleen Rice? What about her need for a million dollar defense on the cuff?
Friedman is suing Rice for some unpleasant things she said about him in her report explaining why, despite the assertions of innocence that gave rise to the movie Capturing the Friedmans, his conviction should not be overturned.
In papers filed in Nassau County Supreme Court, Jesse Friedman, 45, says Kathleen Rice and two of her press officers falsely accused him of writing “horrific pornography” while behind bars and defamed him by calling him “a psychopath.”
Rice’s report, which Friedman had hoped would exonerate him of wrongdoing, was issued last June and “included dozens of false statements” designed to harm Friedman’s reputation, the suit says.
A simple Internet search showed the porn Friedman was alleged to have written — which included tales of bestiality, rape and child incest — was not written by him, and Rice should have known that, since it included an email address and was printed on a high-quality laser printer, amenities Friedman didn’t have access to.
“Despite having had nearly three years to fact-check her report, Rice did not perform this minimal due diligence,” the suit says.
How awful that Rice, deep in the midst of picking a color scheme for her new office in Washington, is forced to deal with this suit. Clearly, such a poor unfortunate demands the aid of lawyers who are filled with empathy toward this maligned prosecutor whose only wrong is dozens of false statements designed to smear a man wrongfully convicted for the horrific crimes of child molestation. Isn’t there a white knight to offer its services to a damsel in distress on her way to Congress?
That would be Debovoise & Plimpton, and the lawyers will be defending Kathleen Rice for the good of the public. Because she is so obviously worthy. I’m glad to be a laboring oar in clearing up this terrible misunderstanding that the firm would be charging its usual rate, when that isn’t true at all. No, this one is on the house. What a bunch of great guys, and who’s to say that Rice won’t remember their generosity as she buys her Amtrak ticket?
There is another rumor that every partner at Debovoise has prepared an application to join the 18B panel and dedicate their practices to the defense of the indigent. This rumor is completely unconfirmed, but wouldn’t that just be wonderful? Are these great lawyers or what?
* Snark aside, D&P has a pro bono arm that takes on deserving cases at no cost for the public good. This defense just isn’t one of them.