Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Birthday for a Fee?

Gerry Spence turned eighty this year. There will be a birthday bash for him at Thunderhead Ranch this summer. Invitations have been sent out. I got one. And I thought about going, even going so far as to ask a friend for the names of hotels in the area. I've not been to the ranch, home of the Trial Lawyers' College, in a decade. The lay of the land is now foreign to me.

But then I read the invitation a little more carefully. There is a fee of $250 to attend the celebration? That's chutzpah.

I harbor an ambivalent admiration for Spence. He is a great lawyer and a charismatic man. I respect his ability in a courtroom even as I harbor misgivings about the need that compels him to surround himself with admirers. Truth be told, the thought of returning to the ranch to break bread with some of the apostles is chilling to me. Better a long distance Judas than a reluctant Prodigal Son. There are too many skeletons buried in the foothills.

A decade ago I kicked loose from the crowd surrounding Spence. I wasn't content to carry another's mantle. I said some harsh words in public about the man, words I have since retracted in a forum as public as the one in which I published them. Spence and I have made a fragile sort of peace by way of a wary email correspondence. But the wariness wearies me. Perhaps it is best to let things be.

So here's a long distance Happy Birthday to a good man. But please, Gerry, get someone to rethink the fee for attending the bash. Were I in a ridiculing frame of mind, I'd have a field day with that.