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I Didn’t Know Fred Baron Had Died

No doubt, many of you will have heard of Fred Baron, one of the most prolific, controversial and wealthy plaintiffs’ asbestos lawyers in history. Somewhere in my reading yesterday, I came across an article that Fred had died. "Texas lawyer Frederick M. 'Fred' Baron dies at 61"

Fred Baron is the guy who paid the money to fly John Edward’s girlfriend to California just prior to the affair making headlines.  He’s the one that stood up against all the other plaintiffs’ lawyers in the country and took two cases to the U.S. Supreme Court which attempted to put asbestos victims into class actions, where they would be slotted for set damages based upon a predetermined schedule, effectively denying them their right to a jury trial.

I knew Fred back in my mass tort asbestos days working for the Jacques Admiralty Law Firm in Detroit, Michigan.  My boss Leonard Jacques, now also deceased, and Fred stood on the same side of the class action question, both opposing class certification and seeking to uphold the individual right to a jury trial.  I had the great privilege of traveling with Fred, including by invitation on his private jet as we traveled from deposition to deposition.  During a class action fairness hearing down in Texas before Judge Parker, now in Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Fred once questioned me as to whether or not I was going to seriously set up Judge Parker  on a subornation of perjury line of questioning which would have exposed his active participation in structuring the class action settlements.  While a judge’s participation in structuring a settlement is questionable in and of itself, the real problem is that a long line of witnesses had testified that Judge Parker had no real involvement in the settlement terms.  Coming up was a bean counter witness who had actually testified that Judge Parker constructed the essential terms of the deal.  That meant that Judge Parker knew that the testimony being offered in front of him was potentially perjury.  So I couldn’t believe that I was willing to go down line.  Neither could Judge Parker.  As the days and witnesses rolled on, he would glare down at the defense table filled with fifty of the most powerful attorneys in the country, including Herb Wachtell from Wachtell Lipton, and essentially tell them that they’d better “fix the problem.”

They managed to push the bean counter witness to the last slot, and then adjourned on Friday, December 22 without having the bean counter take the stand and instead taking Christmas break.   I quit my job at 4:00 a.m.  on December 26, cleaned out my office and moved into my Mercedes Benz where I drifted around the country, essentially living in my car.   I had given away all my worldly possessions prior to that to my ex-wife.  Red Baron was one of the reasons why I had jumped off the cliff, abandon the practice of law, and set out to change every aspect of my life.

Fred was a good man who did better than most putting his clients first.  He had a sense of priority, decency and a strong idea of what was right.  While so many other asbestos attorneys were simply doing mathematical calculations in their head about how much they would make, Fred kept his eye on the ball. 

I’m a better person for having known Fred Baron.  I would encourage all of you to read the article summarizing his accomplishments in life.  His death reminds me what a long strange trip it truly has been. 

Comments

Juanita Mandy

I too agree that Fred Baron was one of the nicest persons that I have met and worked for at Baron and Budd in Dallas. I traveled to New Orleans to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals with Fred in his private jet as well. I was only a legal assistant at the time and Fred treated me as if I were somebody important. He was so good to his staff. I truly admired him. He was a terrific human being. A Great, Great Man.

J. Mandy

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