Thursday, November 7, 2019

Maximum Leverage - A Rock Bottom Story


November is the cruelest month. Many of the darkest times of my life occurred in this light- and joy-deficient time of year:  when I was suicidally depressed (three decades apart at Brigham Young University and at Western Washington University); getting diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe codependency; being pressured into signing a Settlement Agreement with fraudulent and unethical government lawyers; losing my home; losing my virginity; breaking my heart; health and family crises; being abused by malignant narcissists at every level; and having my whistleblower lawsuit erroneously dismissed on a frivolous legal technicality two years ago.

This November, I feel better than I've felt in my entire life. I give all the credit for my improved mental health to my family, and to writing. In particular, this month marks two and a half years, two hundred and fifty essays, and over 300,000 words of therapeutic, honest, sometimes sad but often funny storytelling and public advocacy.

To celebrate Movember, today's blog essay brings together many of the great themes you'll find at the heart of all my stories:  Pivot, Rock Bottom, My Story So Far, Mindset, This is what 'Impact Litigation' Looks Like, Dear Evan Hansen, and of course "I Come From Good People."



This summer I published a series of connected blog essays about my former employers at the Washington Attorney General’s office. I accused them of a pattern of unethical, incompetent, and dishonest conduct, and presented extensive documentation supporting my accusations. My subconscious apparently determined it was time to say everything I had to say about my employer-abusers, tie it all up in a bow, and move on. 

I intended to post one final essay in the "My Story So Far" series, to be called "Pivot," in which I described how I’m cheerfully moving on with my life. But I still didn’t know how the Court of Appeals was going to rule on my pending appeal. As the summer passed without a ruling, I started drafting two separate “Pivot” essays discussing the relationship between the eventual litigation milestone  win or lose  and the new directions my life and writing were taking regardless.  

After the Court of Appeals ruled in my favour, I published the cheerier version of my essay. In “Pivot,” I announced that I was “done writing about my former colleagues and my workplace trauma.” It was time to write about other things.

Shortly after I hit “publish,” I discovered the insurance defense lawyers representing my opponents had made a strategic blunder, the impact litigation equivalent of getting involved in a land war in Asia. As I sheepishly acknowledged this week in Re-Pivot, during the coming months I expect to continue writing about the challenges facing disabled people  as well as about what happens when lawyers start lying, and then won’t stop. In the meantime, I'll end this particular trilogy by sharing what’s left of the less cheery version of my draft “Pivot” essay.


When I originally started writing my Pivot essays, I saved my drafts in separate “win appeal” / “lose appeal” folders. The two versions eventually evolved to “verb” and “noun” alternatives. 

Here’s how the published essay “Pivot” began:

The verb “pivot” means to reach a point and then turn in a new direction. Like a basketball player. Or the Titanic. 

Here’s the beginning of the rock-bottom version of “Pivot,” which I intended to use if I lost my appeal and was forced to declare bankruptcy:  
piv·ot  /ˈpivət/
noun:  the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
synonyms:  fulcrumaxisaxleswivelpinhubspindlehingekingpin, gudgeon   

The noun is the older, more literal meaning of the English word “pivot.” The verb usage reflects the word’s subsequent metaphorical expansion to cover any change in direction. But the key is the original image of a fulcrum.


An effective pivot gives you enough leverage to move a particular obstacle. As the classical mathematician and engineer Archimedes supposedly said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

Everyone quotes Archimedes when they’re looking for a big stick. Smart, funny people find the right fulcrum.


If the Court of Appeals had affirmed the trial court’s erroneous legal ruling, they would have eliminated my last hope for obtaining reasonable financial compensation for the injuries to my family. The Court would have also slammed the door shut on clearing my name and salvaging my professional reputation. Plus Washington’s easily-twisted “whistleblower protection” statute would have stuck me with an unjust bill for the other side’s legal fees, and forced me into bankruptcy. By many reasonable child-welfare measures, that significant risk meant rock bottom for my small family.

Some would say it’s been another tough year for the Leishmans. We are tough people. But kind. And funny. As I described in “Mindset” and other essays this year, I’ve learned to recognize even the biggest challenges as opportunities for growth and change. In particular, money is just money. 

By the time the Court of Appeals issued its decision in September, all that was left of the worst-case version of my “Pivot” essay was a noun and a couple of witty quotes about being broke and unemployed. I even made a list of the ten most likely outcomes that might come to pass over the next couple of years. The worst possible scenarios all involved the kids and me moving in with my sainted parents on the other side of Bellingham.  
                                                                                             
Is that really so bad?


But don’t take my word for it. 

Currently one of my nephews lives at my parents’ house while he finishes high school in Bellingham. On Monday nights I invite him over for dinner at our house so my parents can get a break, and so my unruly children can practice their table manners. 

As Oliver and I were peeling potatoes last week, I overheard my daughters tell their cousin how lucky he is because he goes to Squalicum High School and gets to eat Grandma food every day.

I pointed out that I was busy making delicious mashed potatoes for ungrateful mouths, and suggested my parents have been phoning it in since they retired. Most nights Grandpa probably picks up pizza from Little Caesar’s. My legalistic arguments were met with deaf ears and rolled eyes. Everyone knows I can’t compete with Grandma. 

When you have this much leverage to work with, rock bottom can’t scare you. It doesn’t matter how heavy your burdens become, or what direction you end up going next. My children and I are blessed because we come from good people.



Previously in Rock Bottom Stories: “Roger's House of Dreams.”


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Re-Pivot


The Orson Welles I grew up with was not the brilliant director of Citizen Kane, nor the handsome provocateur behind the War of the Worlds radio scare. Instead, I got the obese wine pitchman of the 1970s.

Ever since, I’ve wondered how the folks at Paul Masson vineyards knew it was time to sell that particular bottle of Pinot Chardonnay.    


As I’ve written beforehydraulics have become my primary metaphor for the various stages of the writing process. Droughts and deluges. Sluicing and mixing. Pressure and release. 

Fluid imagery is particularly useful because it accommodates both natural and unnatural analogies. Inspiration can arrive like a gentle dew distilled from heaven, or like a flattening tsunami. Later in the process, words take their time simmering under pressure in your subconscious, or fermenting in various vats.

So how does a writer know when it’s time to open the valve labeled “publish”?


This summer I was inspired to finally finish a series of connected blog essays about my former employers at the Washington Attorney General’s office. I accused them of a pattern of unethical, incompetent, and dishonest conduct, and presented extensive documentation supporting my accusations. After a couple of years of research and pondering, my subconscious apparently determined it was time to say everything I had to say about my employer-abusers, tie it all up in a bow, and move on. 

Nevertheless, after reading the first essay in the series, "Unrighteous Dominion," my mother called to ask if I was about to embark on the kind of semi-deranged rant I was known for in my early days of living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I assured her there would be no ranting. To the contrary, I’d already written most of the final essay in the series, to be called "Pivot," in which I described how I’m cheerfully moving on with my life. 

I told my mother I'm “done writing about my former colleagues and my workplace trauma, at least until some interesting new development comes along.” At least that's what I wrote in "Pivot."


Although I recognized my life was heading in a new direction, I still didn’t know how the Court of Appeals was going to rule on my pending appeal. As the summer passed without a court ruling, I started drafting two separate “Pivot” essays discussing the relationship between the eventual litigation milestone and my life and writing.  

Meanwhile I was surprised by other important life changes, like becoming a fulltime single dad again and moving into a new house near campus with three kids and two dogs. Life is good. Fortunately, I also won my appeal. On October 3, 2019, a month after the Court of Appeals issued its decision and the kids and I settled into our new routine, everyone got to read the cheerier version of my essay. 


A few minutes after posting “Pivot,” I realized I’d jumped the gun. 

Litigants in Washington are entitled to one appeal. In most cases, the Court of Appeals has the final word. Like the United States Supreme Court, the Washington Supreme Court accepts only a small number of appeals each year. Unsuccessful civil litigants like Ogden Murphy usually don’t waste time and money petitioning for discretionary review at the Supreme Court level. Nevertheless, thirty minutes before the court deadline, an automated email notification informed me Defendants had filed a Petition for Review.

No one over at Team Ogden Murphy actually believed the Supreme Court would accept review. Nor do they believe there’s a realistic chance the Supreme Court would actually reverse the Court of Appeals’ sensible and straightforward legal ruling. Rather, Defendants and their truth-impaired insurance defense lawyers were grasping at any opportunity to stall. As usual. 

The Washington Supreme Court grants fewer than one in ten requests for discretionary review. But there is one sure thing:  Defendants’ last-minute filing guaranteed we’d add at least another five months to the two years I’ve already lost while waiting for the Court of Appeals to correct the trial court’s legal error. As Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”


On my way to chorus rehearsal in Vancouver that week I was seething. Not because Defendants Ogden Murphy Wallace and Patrick Pearce exercised their right to seek discretionary review of the Court of Appeals’ decision, or because their Petition for Review was predictably sleazy, or even because I’ll be waiting until at least Fall 2020 to finally have my day in court. No, I was frustrated because as a lawyer and a writer, I knew I wouldn't be able to resist filing an Answer to Petition for Review. I couldn't think of anything I could say to the Supreme Court that would make it even less likely for them to accept Defendants’ half-baked appeal. And I used to write exactly this kind of brief for a living.

Then like the Grinch I had a terrible, horrible, wonderful idea – why not try to make it more likely that the Washington Supreme Court will take the case? 

The result is described in my recent blog essay “This is what ‘Impact Litigation’ Looks Like.” I have joined the strategically clueless folks at Ogden Murphy in urging the Supreme Court to accept review. This case indeed presents important issues of substantial public interest that should be determined by our Supreme Court. Hopefully the Court will take this opportunity to provide guidance to lower courts and the public – not just about the proper interpretation of Washington’s whistleblower protection statute, but also about how the legal system should respond when lawyers start lying, and then won’t stop.


My original “Pivot” essay began like this:  

The verb “pivot” means to reach a point and then turn in a new direction. Like a basketball player. Or the Titanic. 

As I pivoted, I promised my parents and my lawyers that I would shut up and move on. I meant it. But thanks to the megaphone provided by Defendant Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, Seattle’s sleaziest bottom-feeding law firm®, this fall’s new direction has involved the kind of shuffling pivot that most referees would call traveling. 


Long ago, a grateful law firm partner gave me a bottle of vintage champagne. I still don't know what Dom Perignon’s 1999 vintage actually tastes like. For years it was impossible to identify any occasion that would justify opening a $200+ bottle of champagne. 

Eventually I zeroed in on three possibilities:  becoming a judge, saving my house on Whidbey Island, or finding a real boyfriend. All three turned out to be hopeless causes. The bottle is still sealed in its box.

According to Wine Spectator, the Dom Perignon 1999 vintage is “best from 2008 through 2020.” I’m running out of time. Fortunately, I’m confident there will be interesting developments soon in my ongoing litigation and public education campaigns. Whatever happens, I’ll be ready to write about it. Then propose a toast. And then write some more.









Thursday, October 31, 2019

Vocalese


Two of my longtime lawyer friends have echolalia. It’s a speech phenomenon that involves the imitation of words, sentences, or sounds. Echolalia is common in children learning to talk. In its severe form, echolalia can be a symptom of mental disorders like autism. 

Each of my friends has a very mild version of echolalia. They compulsively repeat the last few words you say in conversation. As with certain hypnotic accents, the challenge for listeners is to resist echoing their echoes.


A few months ago, a cute guy in Vancouver told me “It must be hard to be a lawyer with your stammer.”

What stammer?

Ok, maybe I’ve always had a bit of a stammer that comes out when I’m stressed or nervous. It's never really interfered with life. I’m much more concerned about my PTSD-amplified trichotillomania, which causes me to relentlessly rub my scalp and pull my hair out.

Nowadays I’m well aware that I’m a person who sometimes stammers and who often pulls at his hair. Of course, I’m usually not consciously “aware” of doing either at the time. I assume my two lawyer friends with echolalia are the same – surely they didn’t make it into their forties and fifties without someone pointing out their obvious quirk of speech. 

Here’s a helpful hint from a disabled person:  don’t tell anyone living with depression, anxiety, compulsive disorders, or other mental illness to “snap out of it.”


While I’m in confessional mode, I should also mention that I compulsively hum or vocalize as I go through the day, particularly when I’m in a good mood. 

When I catch myself, I try to identify the song and analyze why my subconscious chose it. Sometimes I’m merely harmonizing along with the jazz or classical music playing in the background. Other times particular people or places will trigger the musical motifs associated with them, like the friend who always inspires “The Way You Look Tonight.” 

Shop clerks and strangers often notice, and usually smile. As with yawning, I’m contagious – I’ll walk out of Trader Joe’s and hear folks humming along behind me.

I generally default into random improvised vocalese, untethered to any particular melody. For some reason, eventually the song fades into “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors. I have no idea what that means.


Last week I picked up my nephew from an appointment downtown on our way to dinner at Grandma’s.

When the elevator doors opened, there he was, smiling: “I heard humming and knew it was you.” 

Apparently when I’m in a good mood I can’t sneak up on people.




Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Monologuing


The best class I took while I was in law school was Harold Bloom’s graduate Shakespeare seminar. For law school credit - Yale really is heaven. 

Professor Bloom was the Pope of Bardolotry when I was a mere altar boy. Thirty years later, my memories of his in-class sermons and catechisms blur with the volumes of scholarly criticism. What I remember best about Hal at Yale, other than his obsessive identification with Sir John Falstaff, was this observation about Hamlet's monologues: Shakespeare's character is revolutionary because he changes by listening to himself think.   


These days I'm the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, “Seattle’s sleaziest bottom-feeding law firm®,” and one of its attorney/private investigators, Patrick Pearce. Defendants collaborated with my former employers at the Washington Attorney General's Office in a discriminatory and unethical scheme to deprive me of the benefit of the disability attorney I'd hired. 

Even though I won in the Court of Appeals, last week I joined Defendants in asking the Washington Supreme Court to accept review of our case. As I wrote in my blog essay “This is what ‘Impact Litigation’ Looks Like,” I try to use my personal experiences to educate folks about the challenges facing people living with both mental illness and a hostile legal system. 

When I was in private practice, I would have been alarmed to have a chatty client like me. (I know I make my mother and my lawyers nervous. Luckily I’m not on Twitter). But I’ve learned to trust my instincts, both as a writer and as an experienced civil rights lawyer. Even when I stumble in my efforts to figure things out, I’m always trying to tell the truth. 


On the other hand, if you’re the only real audience, storytelling becomes “monologuing." 

As Hal Bloom’s Hamlet analysis suggests, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I learn a lot from putting words on a page. However, I’m not doing this solely for my own health. I also write long, sometimes snarky epistles in hopes that someone on the other side will actually read them.

Before his retirement, my father spent four decades as an insurance claims adjuster handling high-value commercial liability matters. He’s been bemused by Defendants’ myopic and reactive strategy. (His current theory:  no one with decision-making authority has read the file yet.) Dad is also a veteran bridge player. Defendants are acting as if they held cards that everyone else at the table knows are not in their hand.
Nevertheless, because I believe change is possible, the impulse to offer second chances is never completely futile.

"If You're Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow," NY Times 7/6/08

As I mark each major milestone in the litigation, my wordy navel-gazing isn’t meant to benefit only myself and my benighted opponents. These monologues also provide raw material for future storytelling and public education.

For example, as I was preparing my Answer to Ogden Murphy Wallace’s petition for review in the Washington Supreme Court, I went back and counted the times I offered to settle my claims out of court for a reasonable but increasingly large amount. On each occasion I also explained why Defendants should stop waiting for more shoes to fall:

            A   $________ (4/14/17)
            B   $________ (4/21/17
            C   $________ (7/12/17
            D   $________ (11/21/18)      
            E   $________ (3/18/19)
            F   $________ (9/8/19)
            G   $________ (9/20/19)      
            H   $________ (10/16/19)    
            
Defendants and their paralyzed insurers and lawyers have yet to respond with a single settlement offer. One of these days I’ll plug in the dollar amounts. For now, I’ve been doodling equations on cocktail napkins:  

a < small fraction of Defendants’ litigation costs so far  

g > 5a

h < inevitable cost to Defendants’ reputation

etc.

Someday, bored professionals trapped in Continuing Legal Education seminars or Adjuster Continuing Education courses will hear about my story. Just like Alexander Hamilton.


In addition to collecting my thoughts, giving peace a chance, and raising public awareness regarding systemic problems with the legal system, there’s one final reason I keep writing long letters for Defendants and their lawyers to ignore:  endless conversation at family meals.

Like my father, my next oldest brother is an insurance claims adjuster. Like me, my youngest brother is a lawyer. My other brother does something mysterious with computers for Google. He's the tiebreaker. 

For the past three years, I’ve regularly reached out to the other side in the litigation and suggested they change their ways. I've also gave them enough rope to hang each other, then tie themselves to the tracks in front of the runaway train. Which brings us to the eternal question:  Who’s stupider, a lawyer or an insurance claims adjuster?



Monday, October 21, 2019

This is what "Impact Litigation" Looks Like


Today begins an exciting new phase in my lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, the Seattle private investigator firm that collaborated with my former employers at the Washington Attorney General’s Office to harm my family and me. 

It’s been a long and winding journey through the legal system. Now I'm in front of the Washington Supreme Court. I hope my case can have an even greater impact in the lives of other people living with disabilities, and other victims of dishonest and unethical lawyers.

A disabled attorney arguing before the Washington Supreme Court

In November 2015, my doctor diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My symptoms were triggered by recent events, but they were rooted in trauma that occurred thirty years ago. Unfortunately, my employers thoroughly bungled their response to my disability. 

My distress significantly increased after my employers hired a purportedly "independent" attorney/private investigator. He was supposed to look into a specific discrimination complaint challenging homophobic bias in the workplace. This investigator was the only lawyer dealing directly with me. He had the last clear chance to avert disaster. Instead, he collaborated with unethical lawyers at the Washington Attorney's Office in a scheme to deprive me of the benefit of the disability attorney I'd hired. Then they schemed to cover up their misconduct.

But the attorney-investigator's ethical lapses were just a marketing gesture to please his agency clients. The investigator's actual taxpayer-funded assignment was to lie to me, to accommodate my employers' prejudices, and to secretly focus his investigation on phony supervisor complaints about my conduct. The final investigation report whitewashed my employers' abuse, and clumsily attacked my character. 

The investigator's name was Patrick Pearce. He's a partner in the Seattle firm Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC, Seattle’s sleaziest bottom-feeding law firm®.”


Like the federal judiciary, the Washington court system has three levels. Superior Court is our trial court with general jurisdiction. After unsuccessfully reaching out to Ogden Murphy’s managing partner in an effort to clear my name, in May 2017 I filed my Complaint against Defendants in King County Superior Court.

Unfortunately, the trial judge quickly threw out my Complaint out on a frivolous technicality. Without reaching the merits of my allegations regarding lawyer-investigators, the judge agreed with Defendants that each of my legal claims was automatically barred by a Washington statute, RCW 4.24.510.

The Legislature passed the “Brenda Hill Bill” in 1989 to protect private citizens like Ms. Hill who voluntarily report misconduct to the appropriate government agency, then face grinding legal retaliation by the wrongdoers. The trial judge in my case erroneously concluded that this law also grants absolute immunity from civil liability for any injuries caused by paid government vendors during the course of their contractual engagements. The lower court also ordered me to compensate defendants as supposed "whistleblowers" under the statute, which obviously would have bankrupted me.

King County Courthouse

The party who loses in Superior Court has the right to appeal to Washington’s intermediate appellate court. The Court of Appeals is an “error-correcting” court. Unlike frantic and under-resourced Superior Court judges, the Court of Appeals judges and their clerks have time to carefully examine the record and the applicable legal authorities. Lots of time.

After a long and painful delay, on September 3, 2019, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a published opinion reversing the lower court’s ruling. The Court of Appeals also vacated the cruel judgment ordering me to pay for all of the other side’s legal expenses. I am grateful for the Court’s vindication.

Washington Court of Appeal, Division I

After the Court of Appeals rejected Ogden Murphy’s arguments, I once again offered to settle my damage claim out of court for a reasonable amount. Instead of responding to my offer, Defendants filed a petition seeking discretionary review in the Washington Supreme Court. 

In most Washington cases, the Court of Appeals has the final word. Like the United States Supreme Court, the Washington Supreme Court accepts only a small number of appeals each year. Unsuccessful civil litigants like Ogden Murphy have less than a ten percent chance of attracting the Court’s interest. Nevertheless, like virtually every other petitioner, Defendants argue that the lower court’s ruling in this case involves not just a clumsy legal error but also a tremendous miscarriage of justice that puts every Washington citizen in dire peril. (Go ahead, read Defendants’ overzealous Petition for Review for yourself.) You and I both know Defendants and their insurance defense lawyers are merely stalling.

Ordinarily, this is what would happen next:  The successful appellant – that’s me – would file an Answer to Defendants’ Petition for Review after thirty days. (Actually, what ordinarily would happen is that Roger would ask for a thirty-day extension – but that was the old Roger.) My Answer would explain how the Court of Appeals got everything perfectly right, and besides this case involves such a messy yet simultaneously boring can of worms that the Justices shouldn’t worry their pretty be-wigged heads over it. On the first Tuesday of March 2020 (or maybe the first Tuesday of February or April), a panel consisting of five of the nine Justices will meet behind closed doors to work through a month's worth of Petitions, Answers, and staff analyses. After discussing a stack of approximately fifty cases, the Justices will vote to hear around five appeals, and deny the other forty-five Petitions. My case would almost certainly be one of the rejected forty-five. Defendants and I would go back to the same old trial judge, and we’d all start the case over from scratch. 

However, as I’ve tried to tell mostly unlistening audiences from the beginning, this is no ordinary caseToday I filed my Answer to Defendants’ Petition for Review – two weeks early

Unlike an error-correcting tribunal, the primary role of the Washington Supreme Court is to answer legal policy questions and provide high-level guidance to lower courts and litigants. But the Court can only make legal rulings when they’re asked to resolve a real dispute between two opposing parties. In my Answer, I therefore joined Ogden Murphy in asking the Washington Supreme Court to take review. I agree with Defendants that this case presents important issues of substantial public interest that should be determined by our Supreme Court.

Another disabled attorney arguing before the Washington Supreme Court

In this case I am both the lawyer and the litigant. But nowadays I think of myself as a writer.

Over the last three decades I’ve written or edited countless Petitions for Review and Answers. For its first seventeen pages, my Answer resembles all those other briefs – properly characterized allegations, accurately cited authorities, transparent and logical arguments, elegant but tediously legal prose. A well-written but normal brief. For example, I refer to myself in the third person as “Plaintiff” and “Leishman.” You can read my entire Answer to Defendants’ Petition for Review for yourself. You’ll probably think it’s boring. 

However, the conclusion of my Answer differs from every brief I’ve ever filed with a court:

At this point I will abandon the third person mask, and speak directly to the justices of the Washington Supreme Court. Not because I appeared before you as an advocate before I was sidelined by my disability, nor because we previously collaborated in the work of the bench and bar – but because as an honest plaintiff and lawyer I want you to know exactly what kind of wormy case this is before you decide whether to open the can and accept review at the suspiciously enthusiastic request of both parties.

Washington courts and litigants would indeed benefit from the Court’s guidance regarding the Brenda Hill Bill, potentially justifying a few additional months of painful delay for my family. But to make the subtext explicit, I am joining Defendants’ request for review because this case also involves two vexing perennial issues:  the systemic challenges faced by litigants who can't afford a lawyer, and the decline in professionalism by members of the bar.

After I settled my employment claims against the State with the help of my attorney Ms. Phelan, I reached out to Ogden Murphy’s managing partner in an effort to clear my name. I naively believed this was all a horrible misunderstanding. In my defense, (1) I was still addled by PTSD; (2) while in private practice I never had the misfortune of encountering faux independent attorney-investigators who lied about their assignments; and (3) I had not yet obtained copies of the Attorney General's Office’s incriminating documents via the Public Records Act. In any event, Defendants responded by lawyering up.

On the surface, this lawsuit appears to be just another factually messy and time-consuming case involving too many lawyers and an impaired pro se plaintiff. Two years ago, distinguished Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner shocked the legal world by announcing his retirement from the federal bench because he “suddenly realized that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it.” Under the circumstances, it is sad but not surprising that a busy trial court judge grasped at the slimmest of reeds to get rid of us. I filed this pro se lawsuit in May 2017. That means that if the Court denies review in the ordinary course of things, I will be starting over from scratch in Superior Court after waitinthree years. Fortunately I have a strong support system, much improved mental health, and appellate expertise. How many less privileged pro se litigants are mowed down each year by the weaponizing of RCW 4.24.510 and similar miscarriages of justice?

This case also demonstrates what happens when lawyers routinely lie and judges do not stop them. Together with their high-ranking collaborators at the Attorney General's Office, Defendants lied to me about the scope of their investigation. Complaint at ¶ 44. Defendants then lied to the Court of Appeals about the undisputed record documenting their misconduct. See Appellant’s Reply Brief at 7-8 (citing Respondents' Brief at 13 n.5). Now Defendants are lying to this Court about the actual allegations of my Complaint.

Like Defendants and their cynical lawyers, I do not expect the Court to accept review of the Court of Appeals’ straightforward and sound ruling. Nevertheless, despite the continuing harm to my family from Defendants’ delay tactics, I hope that you do choose to shine the bright light of justice on this particular story.

As I’ve written on my blog, one of my epiphanies after being diagnosed with PTSD was recognizing that the fight for full inclusion of disabled people hasn’t progressed much further than where LGBT folks were when I began advocating for that community over two decades ago. In particular, few plaintiffs living with mental illness have the capacity to engage in a coordinated campaign of public education and impact litigation. Someone has to do it. This Court should accept review, and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

The Washington Supreme Court

I realize there’s a risk the Supreme Court will reverse my hard-won victory in the Court of Appeals, and stick me with a crushing bill for the other side’s legal expenses. I’m pretty confident that worst case scenario is unlikely – not just because I’m an experienced court observer, but also because apparently I’m the only person who’s actually read all of the legislative history, caselaw, and the undisputed contemporaneous evidence in this case. So far.

In any event, I’m willing to trade that small risk and a few extra months’ delay for the opportunity to shine a public light on the legal challenges facing people living with mental illness and other disabilities. 

I am on a mission.



But I don't want to do it alone anymore.

For many years I was involved in high profile LGBT and other civil rights cases as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. I frequently filed amicus briefs with the Washington Supreme Court explaining how the legal dispute between particular parties had the potential to affect the rule of law and the rights of other community members. When I represented injured plaintiffs myself, I would welcome briefs from other advocates as amicus curiae – Latin for “friend of the Court.”

Today I am sending a public “Dear Colleague” letter to Washington attorneys at various advocacy organizations inviting them to file amicus briefs or letters of support asking the Washington Supreme Court to grant Defendants' agreed Petition for Review. Feel free to forward my invitation to anyone you think might be interested. The amicus deadline is Monday, December 4, 2019. I even submitted my Answer two weeks early just so everyone would have an enhanced opportunity to do their due diligence. 

The members of the bar and our colleagues on the bench pride ourselves on being an honorable self-regulating profession. Please send your organizational and individual message to the Washington Supreme Court – and to the folks at Ogden Murphy and the Attorney General’s Office – that “lawyer” and “liar” aren’t synonyms.


Recently I published an updated version of "My Story So Far." I recognize even my summaries are much too long. But the important stuff isn’t complicated at all.  

The other day an old friend interrupted one of my stories about the endless plagues that beset me, and said “Just give me your elevator speech.” I started my legal career on the 49th floor of Seattle second-tallest building. Elevator rides and speeches could take a while:

·      This case involves unlawful and unethical conduct by two sets of lawyers who should know better:  the Washington Attorney General’s Office, and the Seattle firm of Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC.

·      When I filed a complaint about sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace in March 2016, my former employers at the Attorney General’s Office hired Patrick Pearce, one of the dishonest private investigators at Ogden Murphy Wallace, to conduct a fake “independent” investigation into my discrimination complaint. 

·      At the Attorney General's behest, Ogden Murphy barely acknowledged my actual complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and ignored numerous other examples of the State’s implicit and explicit homophobia. Instead, Defendants whitewashed my employers’ misconduct, and parroted a litany of unrelated and unfounded complaints about my job performance. As wrongfully terminated Judge Patricia Petersen can attest, this is Defendants' standard technique.

·      What made the Attorney General's and Ogden Murphy’s misconduct particularly horrifying was that they schemed to deprive me of the benefit of the disability attorney I’d hired to represent me in my employment dispute after I was diagnosed with PTSD.  

·      After illegally framing and firing me, my former employers at the Washington Attorney General’s Office pressured me into quickly settling my wrongful termination claims against the State.

·      For the last three years, the Attorney General’s Office has taken extraordinary taxpayer-funded efforts to cover up their misconduct

·      Incriminating documents eventually produced under the Public Records Act reveal the likely reason for the cover-up:  Chief Deputy Attorney General Shane Esquibel, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s top lieutenant, left his fingerprints all over the smoking gun emails.

·      Meanwhile, in May 2017, I filed a lawsuit against Ogden Murphy and Patrick Pearce, attempting to clear my name and obtain compensation from Defendants for their role in harming my family. At Defendants' request, the trial judge in Seattle quickly threw my case out on a frivolous technicality.

·      On September 3, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s erroneous decision. The court agreed with me that Washington’s whistleblower protection statute, RCW 4.24.510, does not grant absolute immunity from civil liability for injuries caused by paid government vendors in connection with their contractual engagements. 

·      On October 3, 2019, Defendants petitioned the Washington Supreme Court to accept review of the case. Even though I won in the Court of Appeals, I filed an Answer joining Defendants in asking the Court to take the case because it presents important issues of substantial public interest that should be determined by the Court.

Whoosh, here we are in the lobby.


Once upon a time I worked in glass skyscrapers. Then for a while I had a cozy corner office on campus in Old Main. Now I work at home with three kids, two Aussiedoodles, and PTSD. 

We live in a one-level ranch house, so my elevator speech has to be short:  This case is about what happens when lawyers start lying, and then won’t stop.



Prior blog posts about my lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC and Patrick Pearce:

  • This is what a lawsuit looks like, Episode 3: Party Discovery (6/28/17)
  • This is what a lawsuit looks like, Episode 5: Never Surrender  (10/8/17)