In the Courtroom, Historic Political Battle Attracts Hordes of Lawyers Large, Small Names Join The Fray


Wherever a Florida “pregnant chad’’ labors, it seems there’s a lawyer standing by to deliver.

Florida hasn’t endured an esquire invasion of such magnitude since the last American Bar Associa- tion convention at Disney World in August 1996.
If it feels like the state’s post-election frenzy has sucked in all 972,900 American attorneys, plus Florida’s 50,000, that’s because some of the profession’s biggest names are busily filing briefs along- side indigenous counselors known mainly to their local clients.

A few on the Democratic side: Harvard Law School constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe; former Miami-Dade U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, who represented Elian Gonzalez’s Miami relatives; past Dade County Bar Association president Benedict P. Kuehne; Robert Brochin of Miami, former deputy general counsel to late Gov. Lawton Chiles; Joseph Geller and partner Peggy Fisher, Miami govern- ment law experts; Tallahassee government lawyer Mark Herron.

For the Republican Party: one-time Kenneth Starr partner Theodore A. Olsen; former Coral Gables state legislator Barry Richard, a Florida Press Association lobbyist; former U.S. Attorney Roberto Mar- tinez; former state Rep. Miguel De Grandy; Greenberg Traurig’s Raquel Rodriguez; Sue Cobb, last year’s interim Florida Lottery director.

And here are a few of the others:
Alan Dershowitz. If it’s controversial – and made for TV – expect the Harvard University law professor and civil-rights champion to show up. He represents seven disgruntled Palm Beach County voters, and helped Tribe persuade a Miami federal judge Monday to continue hand recounts of disputed bal- lots. The Brooklyn College graduate, 62, got his law degree at Yale University. He writes a syndicated column and has authored or co-authored 16 books. His 1986 book, Reversal of Fortune: Inside the Von Bulow Case, became a hit movie.

Dershowitz successfully defended socialite Claus Von Bulow against attempted murder charges. He also has represented O.J. Simpson; heiress and accused ‘70s radical bank robber Patty Hearst;
“Queen of Mean’’ tax cheat Leona Helmsley, and disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker.

Gonzalo Dorta. Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed the Coral Gables Republican to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County. Dorta, 39, was one of seven Florida named plaintiffs in the Bush/Cheney federal-court suit dismissed Monday.

The Cuban-born University of Miami graduate got his law degree at Georgetown University. He repre- sents Miami-Dade homeowners in blasting-damage suits against the rock-mining industry, and MasterMedia Group in a suit filed by Beasley Reed Acquisitions, which claims that MasterMedia’s WAFN- 1700 tried to lure sports talk host Joe Rose from WQAM-560. In 1998, he won unspecified millions for single mother Aileen Aguiles, 21, brain damaged in a 1993 car wreck.

Henry Handler. The Boca Raton Democrat, 47, served on the party’s Palm Beach County executive committee from 1986-1988, and once was Attorney General Bob Butterworth’s campaign coordinator in the county. He filed the first election-related, circuit-court suit on Nov. 8, after Delray Beach chiro- practor Andre Fladell, one of three named plaintiffs, told him that the county’s confusing ballot caused him to vote for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

The Princeton University graduate holds a University of Virginia law degree, and practices complex commercial litigation. Last year, the Palm Beach County school board asked him to investigate charg- es by some of its members that a school system attorney threatened them, saying she would “get
a shotgun and go postal.’’ Handler found no disciplinary grounds. He represented the board when it ousted superintendent Monica Uhlhorn in 1995.

Jon May. The Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer filed suit Tuesday against Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, seeking to halt her certification of Florida’s electors (based on the theory that the state’s “winner take all’’ Electoral College system is unconstitutional). May, 45, holds degrees from Emory University and the University of Florida Law School.

He was on Manuel Noriega’s legal team. Last year, May and co-counsel Frank Rubino got the Pana- manian dictator’s federal-prison sentence knocked down from 40 years to 30. May also represented drug lords Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta. Two months ago, May – who wasn’t charged – invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a trial to determine whether some of the pair’s 39 lawyers laundered drug money.

Bruce Rogow. The Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center professor, 60, repre- sents Palm Beach County’s beleaguered elections supervisor, Theresa LePore. An appellate special- ist, Rogow holds degrees from the University of Miami, and the University of Florida Law School.

He successfully defended 2 Live Crew’s First Amendment right to talk dirty on the group’s rap albums, after Broward County sheriff Nick Navarro tried to have their work declared obscene in 1990.

He also represented Florida Death Row inmate Jesse Tafero, whose gruesome, 1990 electric-chair execution renewed arguments over “Old Sparky’s’’ humaneness.

Related Posts