E-mail from Bill Simon


I have constantly marvelled at Gary's ability to incorporate his moral and >political commitments into his lawyering.  During the wonderful memorial service, I was reminded of an episode from the Legal Services Institute (as it was called then) in 1980.

It was a cold Friday before Christmas, and a tenant in a nearby > three-decker came to say that she had no heat.  The boiler was broken, and the landlord, a notoriously irresponsible character, was nowhere to be found.  My guess is  that most lawyers in this situation would feel compelled to respond, "There's nothing I can do to help you."  (Or worse: "You should call the city building 
inspection department" -- a knowingly futile suggestion designed fool the client for a moment into thinking she had been helped.)  A few would probably help by trying to get 
a TRO ordering the landlord to restore heat.  This might be of some use eventually, but would be unlikely to accomplish anything over the weekend.

Gary took a different approach: He started calling plumbers.  He went down the list in the yellow pages, and after several rejections, he found one who would talk to him.  I forget what he said, though I'm sure he mentionned Christmas, the cold, and the client's young children.  I also remember that he didn't say anything about the client being on welfare.  Somehow, he kept the plumber engaged, and 
then got him to agree to go out and try to fix the boiler.  I was really impressed at his persuasive powers.  Then, just when I thought the conversation was over, Gary said to the plumber, "There's one more thing.  You might not get 
paid."  I tensed and grimaced.  I couldn't believe that, having achieved this miracle of persuasion, he was going to risk blowing everything by making the plumber aware of this fact.

There was a pause that seemed to me to last a long time, and then the plumber said, "I know."  He went out and fixed the boiler. 

Of all the vicarious thrills I felt at Gary's many successes, none was stronger than the one I felt when the plumber said "I know."

It wasn't enough for Gary that the plumber do the right thing.  Gary wanted to give him an opportunity to do it for the right reason, as an act of charity or solidarity, rather than as the effect of Gary's manipulative capacities.

Gary was never a patsy.  He could be as tough with adversaries as any lawyer I've known.  But he had an extraordinary capacity to recognize and respect
people's humanity, even when they were sitting on the other side of the table.
 

Return to Reminiscences List