Kudos to Some of the Good Apples

by Laura L. Jaeger
WSTLA Trial News, December 1998.

Bad news and gossip in the legal profession seem to travel at lightning speed. Each month WSBAs Bar News and advance sheets talk about attorneys who stole funds from clients’ trust accounts, charged exorbitant fees, mishandled cases, lied to the court and then refused to respond to bar investigators when such misdeeds came to light. For a change of pace, this article will only focus on the positive deeds of some of our fellow Bar members.
Laura L. Jaeger

Many of you already know how much Seattle attorney Lish Whitson has helped women with advance-stage breast cancer by forcing their health insurance companies to cover necessary but expensive treatments. In 1991, Lish and colleagues like Rick Spoonemore started this crusade by representing a woman who worked for the Court of Appeals. Since then Lish has handled some 200 cases, primarily for patients with breast cancer. The insurance companies routinely deny payment on the basis that bone marrow transplants and stem cell support treatments are “experimental” or “investigational.” Lish has fought hard and largely prevailed with many of his clients still alive today because he took on their cases.

One of the many roadblocks these women faced was their inability to afford the bond required for a preliminary injunction compelling the insurance company to pay for the needed treatment pending the outcome of the eventual trial. Lish worked with Insurance Commissioner Senn to amend the injunction rules pertaining to the posting of the bond. Thanks to Lish, there is now an exception, and a judge has discretion to waive the bond if the health or life of the person seeking the injunction is at issue.

Judge Charles Burdell, a Seattle mediator, was nominated for one of the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s Jefferson awards this past year. Every Friday morning, Judge Burdell makes his rounds to A la Francaise and Starbucks picking up surplus or day-old bakery goods. He then delivers them to the University District Food Bank. On Friday afternoons, needy folks line up for a weekly bag of food which includes Judge Burdell’s deliveries. When he is out of town, he enlists his grown children to fill-in for him on his Friday morning trips. He and his family have done this service for 12 years. Judge Burdell also serves on the board of directors of the University District Food Bank.

With your help, this space could regularly be used to describe colleagues who perform noteworthy and positive deeds. For example, you could report on a judge or lawyer who does community service or a colleague who went beyond the norm to make some accommodation to you. Perhaps you know of a case which was exceptional because of the good service the lawyer gave and not necessarily its multimillion dollar result. It will make you feel good to share such news. It will remind readers why they are proud to be lawyers and judges and that we are all in good company.

Instead of focusing on our few bad apples and their miserable misdeeds, let’s have a challenge to catch a lawyer or judge in the act of doing something right! Report on a colleague who did something inspirational or went the extra mile. Tell us about the kindest gesture or deed another lawyer (even an opponent on a case) did for you.

Send your stories to the Trial News or this author at LJAEGER963@aoLcom.