Saturday, July 01, 2006

Industry Attorney: Brain Seizures or Problems With Reality and Facts?

And who says attorneys have no sense of humor?

Sometimes when you've been giving someone a hard time -- even if it's deserved -- you start having second thoughts. "Am I being too hard on him?" "Maybe other people think he's a good guy , but I just have this 'thing' about him."

For example, I've been giving Henry Chajet a hard time lately, first because the Patton Boggs attorney has been leading the charge to pass legislation that would hide the latest chemical hazard information from workers, and second because trying to attract people to his seminars on the new MSHA law, based on the boast that he's "helped make MSHA policy as operator-friendly as possible." While I doubt that his self-esteem (or bank account) has suffered from my attacks (assuming he's even noticed them), I do want to make sure that I'm not being unfair.

So it was with great satisfaction (if a bit of nausea) that I learned yesterday, not only have I not been too harsh, but I've probably been much softer on the man than people who have actually worked with him.

Someone sent me a 1994 letter yesterday from an Asst. US Atty to Henry Chajet about differing memories of a meeting they had had in connection with the Southmountain Virginia mine explosion that killed 8 miners. MSHA fined the company over $439,000 and five individuals pleaded guilty to criminal charges and were fined over $2 million, as well as jail time. Chajet represented the company.

I'm having some technical problems posting the actual letter, so I'll just recopy it all here:

April 28, 1994
Henry Chajet
Jackson and Kelley
Suite 400
2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20037

Dear Henry:

I am in receipt of your April 27th letter in which you state that I agreed at the motions hearing to set up 30 witness interviews on your behalf. Either we were attending a different motions hearing and you have confused me with someone else; or we were occupying separate dimensions in a singular spatial setting or I must have suffered an amnesia based brain seizure and cannot remember the hearing, because under no circumstances would I have agreed to work as your errand boy and herd together a group of witnesses at your beck and call.

As in all criminal cases, the rule is very simple -- if the witness wants to talk to you, that's fine. If the witness does not want to talk with you, that's fine also. In other words, there can be no forced interviews and it is totally up to the witness whether or not to talk with you. Of course, the government will neither encourage nor discourage the decision to submit to an interview. You have been a lawyer far too long to have not known this.

Please base any further requests upon a semblance of reality and fact.

Robert P. Crouch Jr.
United States Attorney

Thomas Bondurant Jr.
Assistant United States Attorney
Well, although it's somewhat troubling to see that Mr. Chajet is still having problems with reality and fact 12 years later, it's somehow comforting to know that I wasn't too off base.