Reflections in a Golden Eye

John J. Hopkins Jan. 30, 2005, 9:46am

I have now been a Madison County Record columnist for three months--five columns. Not giving up the day job just yet.

As the title of this column suggests--one taken from an obscure Brando film featuring a career performance by Brian Keith and the allusion of nudity in a still voluptuous Elizabeth Taylor--today’s piece takes a look back on the road traveled so far.

First and foremost, I sincerely appreciate all the feedback, good and bad, from a variety of sources. I have received e-mails from judges, lawyers, ex-law partners, opposing counsel, as well as executives in insurance companies, citizen readers of the Record, as well as one very nice note from Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan. They have come from as far away as California and Chicago, and from as close as right down the street. All are welcome.

Let me put to rest the reason why a plaintiff’s lawyer and registered Democrat would even bother with such a conservative, partisan weekly as the Madison County Record.

No one but the proverbial yellow dog would deny this paper’s editorial bent. Pro-tort reform, pro-doctor and pro-business. Yet, in this column, I have been given the chance to present the alternative viewpoint, the truth as so many see it. Paraphrasing President John Kennedy, I do not shrink from this opportunity. I welcome it.

I have been amazed at the power of the Internet, and the on-line version of the Record. From California, the CEO of a pediatricians' med mal insurance company sent a very supportive e-mail, in full agreement with the first column, echoing the theme that caps on damages do not work and will not lower premiums. Period.

He even sent along industry documents to bolster the claim. Dialog is the key to understanding, and the enemy of fear.

The movie parody in each column is appreciated by some, tolerated by others. It is a distinctive way to approach the thorny problems of the Madison County legal scene, and besides, I am a huge movie fan and trivia buff...and, it’s my column, Pilgrim...

The reaction to the last column on President Bush’s visit to the Hellhole has been strong, vocal, and breaking down along party lines.

Depending on your familiarity with “A Few Good Men," your level of appreciation was either very high or mystifyingly low. But all seemed to recognize the satire. I have yet to hear from the White House, the Department of Homeland Security or Meet the Press.

As to the column itself, I feel like Don Vito Corleone, when viewing the bullet ridden body of his eldest son Sonny, exclaimed “Look how they massacred my boy!” In this column, I suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous editing. If you would like an unedited version, log on to our website,, and send me an e-mail and I will send you the unedited version by return.

Far and away the biggest response was to the “Wonderful Life” Christmas piece. It is best to remember that pieces of satire, while not reality, can make points in a fashion unavailable to straight commentary.

We need to act accordingly, and yes, I do believe all the things said, and no, George Bailey is not me. I do not drink at the Stagger Inn--at least not regularly. Do you really think the debate on the proposed Rule 225 on class actions would have degenerated into a bash Madison County party without the Phillip Morris case? I think not.

A bit of contemporary commentary...Gordon Maag’s $110 million lawsuit is a colossal bad idea, and should be dropped.

Gordon, I have known you for 25 years, argued against you as a lawyer in the beginning of our careers, later to stand before you as a judge. I do consider you to be friend, albeit not a close one. Your lawsuit continues to feed the beast of negative publicity, flaming the fires of hysteria, not only against you, but all of us on this side of the ball.

You have a brilliant legal mind, and clearly more of a future in the profession. Do not let this be your legacy, one of sour grapes and bitterness.

On a final note, I recently received notice that I am part of a class action against Ameritech. Naturally, I was curious to see who my attorney might be, who is my champion against this rampaging corporate giant, getting me my $25 off my next SBC phone bill, while as my counselor and protector, owing me an undivided duty of loyalty and fidelity.

I am pleased to say that I am comforted on many levels to know that I am a client of Steve Tillery’s. Perhaps now he will send me a Christmas card.

See you in two weeks.

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