It's called the Lakin Lakin Firm because of L. Thomas Lakin, the man whose big-verdict, big-money reputation made him once the biggest name plaintiff's lawyer in Metro St. Louis, much less the Metro-East.

That's what State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) was thinking when he accepted a cushy salary to join the firm a few years back. These were the guys with the private planes and the big game class action lawsuits.

Hoffman knew that he himself might be a reigning state representative, but Tom Lakin really had clout, ultra-tight with Hoffman's original political benefactor, Illinois House Majority Leader-turned-lobbyist Jim McPike, who was so powerful that he once secured Lakin a slot as an original investor in the Alton Belle Casino, making the lawyer wealthy beyond most of our comprehension.

McPike also played a major role in launching Hoffman's career, hand-picking the then 28 year-old director of probation and court services in St. Clair County to run for the State House back in 1990. No doubt then, Tom Lakin's legend seemed larger-than-life to the young lawyer.

But now that Lakin faces a mire of incredible allegations that he sexually abused minors, among other things, Rep. Hoffman is rushing to "distance" himself from the man. He explained that while, yes, he is a firm partner, he's never worked with Tom Lakin on a case. Hoffman added that firm's founder sold his ownership interest to his son, Bradley, before he even came on board back in July 2003.

As an explanation for the people, this just isn't enough.

We know Hoffman rubbed elbows with Lakin, attending his gossip-column touted galas in Wood River with other legal eagles and political notables. And we know he proved impressive and trustworthy enough that the firm eventually tapped him to join the firm.

Hoffman would be better advised to come clean and admit that, yes, there was a time when he did admire the work of Tom Lakin. And if he wasn't Hoffman's friend, he was at least a very useful ally.

Either quit the firm now and sever your ties, or publicly explain that you'll reserve your own judgment until Lakin has his day in court. But Rep. Hoffman, please save your constituents the hazy, Clinton-esque parsing. We elected a leader, not a deserter.

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