I receive a steady diet of emails from folks critical of Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyer's College. Most of the emails are from anonymous writers. I asked one of them who they were the other day. The response startled me: The writer wouldn't give a name, but suggested that they are still affiliated with the college and were afraid to shed the cloak of anonymity.
Well, that's not quite true.
The writer was not anonymous. Rather, the writer sent a note under a pseudonym, claiming to be Rose Johnson.
Insiders know this hybrid pseudonym packs historic punch. Bob Rose and John Johnson were two of Spence's dearest friends at the time the college was created. Both are dead now. (Note to conspiracy theorists: Spence did not have them killed. Old age and disease claimed them.)
But here's what I don't get: If you care enough to write to me about goings on at the college, why don't you care enough to take a stand of your own? Writing me furtive notes under a pseudonym about your mistrust of Spence, or referring to Rex Parris as a thug, or questioning the financial integrity of the relationship between the college and the Spence Foundation are all issues suggesting a more than modest disagreement about what's going on under the Wyoming skies. I say vote with your feet, not with your fingers.
The writer told me they would miss friends and business opportunities associated with the ranch. Okay, I get that. I strained friendships, and lost friendships, over my decision to leave the flock. When I raised still unanswered questions about goings on at Thunderhead, I rubbed salt in old wounds. When I was "hot" on the DuBois circuit, folks called often from around the country to discuss cases. I even travelled here and there to help a friend on a case. I've let those contacts grow cold, and I miss them.
But it was the principled thing to do. It wasn't smiling by day at the cook house and then slipping off to the nearest Internet hot spot to dash of a note about the latest hypocrisy. If you are upset that some $15,000 has just been spent on a new web page, then don't support the effort. If you think Jude Basile is a well-meaning lightweight, tell him, not me.
Truth be told, I miss plenty about the college. In spite of my public sparring with Spence, I still regard him as a great lawyer. I miss the man even though I am wary of him. The other day I received a nice note from him about something I had written on this site. To say I was surprised to have him as a reader is an understatement. I know I've been a burr under his saddle, but at least when he has something to say, good or bad, he says it.
I have friends still active in the college. I wonder why they spend so much time and effort on a project so far from home. It's sort of like watching a young person go tour the world to get a first-hand look at poverty: Want to do justice? Let me show you a courthouse down the road. Want to ease poverty? Visit any city. But to each their own.
And if you are curious about what Spence is really like, file an application to attend a program he's offering. A youngish lawyer I respect and admire asked me questions about the place not long ago. They were honest questions. I encouraged her to apply to the summer program and my firm has offered to pay part of her tuition if she is admitted. I've had a look and my say about the place; she should form her own views. She just might well teach me something.
There are a lot of crazy, whacked out wannabes wandering around Wyoming this summer, all trying to be themselves, just the way Gerry tells 'em they can. Many lack the courage or insight to sense the irony of their pursuit. But they are at least there under their own name and telling their stories to any who will listen with the honesty they can muster.
Is transparency and honesty too much to ask of those casting stones? I don't mind picking fights with anyone over anything. My record as a cantankerous contrarian is well established and speaks for itself. I don't mind sticking up for the little guy, but I don't care for being used.
Next time someone sends me a note fault-finding the Koolaid at TLC, please sign your real name. Otherwise, your communication might just go unread.