Friday, June 01, 2007

Legal Jigs and Reels

Michael Flatley took Irish dance, with its rigid as a board, arms compressed to the sides, unbendable form, and made it sexy. The former Chicago plumber found success and incredible wealth in a pair of fast moving feet and a bit of a twist on the old way. No matter if the man were as ugly as ugly could be, for what woman wouldn't find all that money attractive enough to keep her from examining the face? A dancer's grace, cavorting across the stage, but in a manly way to be sure, and Michael Flatley is a bit of a sex symbol in certain circles.

Tyna Robertson found something appealing about Mr. Flatley, but whether it was his skill as a dancer, his rippling muscles, or his bulging wallet, is hard to say. According to her, she went to Las Vegas in 2002 to spend the weekend with the famous dancer. A month later, she was phoning the Las Vegas Police Department to report that she was raped.

The next thing Michael knows, he's getting a letter from an attorney, threatening to sue him for $30 million. Not only that, but if the dancer didn't settle things out of court, the whole world would soon know that their beloved set dancer was a rapist. That's the sort of thing that is typically referred to as extortion, and it's quite illegal. Mr. Flatley's legal counsel probably told him as much, because he didn't pay up.

A bright day dawned in March of 2003, and attorney Dean Mauro popped into the Lake County, Illinois, courthouse to file a lawsuit, accusing Michael Flatley of performing vile deeds. Two days later, Mr. Flatley turned around and sued Mr. Mauro and Ms. Robertson, citing extortion, fraud and defamation as grounds for his case and seeking some financial compensation to cover the damages to Mr. Flatley's good name. $100 million was the price, the amount that Mr. Flatley wished to extract from the lawyer and his client who wanted to finagle $30 million out of him.

It took six months for Mr. Mauro to blink, but he did indeed dismiss his lawsuit against Michael Flatley. He's doing a great deal of nervous blinking these days, because the Illinois Supreme Court's attorney disciplinary committee has just suspended Mauro's license to practice law. He's not a lawyer these days, having been hit with a suspension of five months to a year, and that is a very serious blow to Mauro's career and reputation.

Apparently, Mr. Mauro threatened to use some forensic experts to back up his client's assertion of rape, but when the committee checked with said experts, they knew nothing about a case because no one had talked to them about it. Mr. Mauro denied any wrongdoing on his part, but once he gave a statement to the panel investigating his little scheme, he never bothered to attend the hearing that investigated his acts of misconduct. The three members of the panel did not take kindly to being ignored with such blatant rudeness.

Mr. Mauro got off lightly, considering the fact that panelist Kenneth Peters wanted Mauro disbarred, so egregious was the attorney's actions. As it stands now, the committee will have to decide in future if Mauro gets his law license back, with the suspension left open-ended "until further order."

Lawyers cannot threaten to take legal action against a defendant for the sake of harassing them. Nor can they make statements that they know are false. There's a tale in there somewhere, of a small time lawyer looking to make a big score but over-reaching, dreaming of a $10 million cut of the action, only to get his feet cut out from under him by the man with the fastest feet in the dance world.

Is that the ghost of Flannery O'Connor whispering in my ear? I feel a short story coming on.

No comments: