I

ways of breaking politicals. That's when I became inlerested in dope. If they couldn't bust a guy like Plamon-don from (he While Panlber Party for his political activities, whiclt were driving the government crazy, they would plant something on him.

"Tve been an opponent of Ibis government almost as long as I've had a familiarity with it. The reason that I'm interested in defending people charged by the government with dope is because I want to undercut the government's political base and their use of dope as a phony enemy» The enemy's not dope. The enemy's the goddamn police force."

Kennedy started practicing law in 1963, exclusively handling personal injury work. He left that job a few years later to become staff counsel of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee in New York, where he gained a reputation for military and draft work. It wasn't until 1969, when Kennedy moved back to San Francisco, that lie got heavily involved in dope cases. And after he took over Leary's appeal in 1970, the dope cases flooded in.

While many lawyers have handled cases outside the U.S., Kennedy and partners actually developed an international practice, setting up and operating an office in France for several years (run by partner Michael Tigar). "It was a paralegal, quasi legal job*" says Kennedy. "In most of the foreign experiences, you don't end up in court.. What you're there to try and do is develop as much pressure as you can to get the individual out. We bug the congressman; we try to gel the parents lo contact as many influential people as they can; we bug the Senator, the ambassador, the counsul; we try to develop local pressure. It's really more of a political than a straight legal activity.'.'"

But Kennedy has taken cases into overseas courtrooms* too. In one case in Sweden, his arguments were simultaneously translated into Swedish by an interpreter specially tiained in technical law terminology. Some of his bigger U.S. cases have had an international flavor, as well: charges have ranged from smuggling hash in Himalayan bear cages from Nepal to smuggling hash plates-made lo look like fine China-from Afghanistan. Kennedy was chief counsel on the biggest acid conspiracy case-the Sand-Scully case. And he and Tigar represented Michael Boyd Randal |7 one of the Brotherhood of Elernal Love defendants-filing „ 75 separate suppression motions in that case alone.

Kennedy's seen some significant changes since he tried his first dope case. "There's been an increased tolerance in the judiciary, an increased tolerance among juries and the citizenry abroad, an increased vicjousness on the part of the police and increased imagination on the part of dope dealers."

It was his clients who turned an old townhouse into the beautiful offices Kennedy now occupies. They laid bricks, put up wallpaper, put in floors and walls and planted flowers. Inside and out, the house is bright red: red desks, red typewriters, red clock, red saloon doors, red woven waste basket and red dictating machines. A bright red sign planted in the lawn out front reads: Michael Kennedy, Attorney.

Michael Stepanian

Across town, there's no sign outside the old white townhouse, but inside there is. "Drugs" flashes a neon sign in two-second bursts. Beyond is Michael Stepanian, a big, affable, boisterous, flamboyant Armenian bear of a man.

Stepanian's office reflects his characters huge room, high-backed chairs (from an early client),, a squash couitsize desk, c h a n de^, I i e r s , fireplace-it looks like Texas.

Stepanian-droopy mustache, curly black hail', red bow tie, black vest and suit, over white shirt, huge ring, stogie in one hand, beer in the other, feet on the desk, body rocking forward and back in the big leather chair.

A book (Pot Shots), lavish parlies, articles in the rock press, a position^ on NORML's advisory board and a voice which, some contend, was responsible for the last San Francisco earthquake have made Michael Stepanian one of the best-known dope lawyers in the U.S. "I got my first dope case in January of '65 and tried it in J

'66^ Stepanian booms. "It was a very |

famous case in Marin County in I

which the defense was. ll was my |

brother's pants' (where the dope was |

When the Haight became the place i lo be, Stepanian was I here. "We did j hundreds of cases in 1967 for the j

Haighl-Ashbury Legal j

Organizalion-HALO, it was called. í

We gave free legal aid, and they paid ]

the renl on a big house and the Grate- | ful Dead practiced upstairs. We did a J regular job during the day, working \ like regular people. Then at night we \ went to the Haight- Ash bury, and there ¡ were hundreds of kids represented ] and we did millions of cases. Any- : body who we represented that sum- \ mer gets a free ride here, automatic, * no matter whai..Thai!s our policy. }

"I got three rules in order to repre- j sent somebody. Three rules. I never i deviate from them in all these years. \ One, they can never tum over on any-one else. That's the rule. Two, they never run away. Three, they never lie 'j on the stand. And four; which is a j subsidiary rule, they don't drive me j crazy with phone calls. ,

"We don't represent punks. He's got j to be a good old boyar woman. If he's j an asshole, forget iU There is nothing j that wiJl make me represent an ass- ; hole. Thatts why I don't do organized * crime. We don't need money in San , Francisco. We're kinda cooL. I walk j down the street happy. So I mean ; what? I mean what? I need $3500 to represent some asshole who's gonna drive me crazy and give me trouble sleep in' at night? Forget itx We don't need money. A six-pack of beer is only $1,25."-

Stepanian was a high school tough until truancy and terrible grades got him kicked ouL. After jobs at assorted folk clubs, he finally finished school at Boston University and ended up in San Francisco in 1965.

Since then, he and law partners Brian Rohan and Kayo Hallinan have handled rock musicians, underground cartoonists, artists, and smugglers in places from Puerto Rico to Jamaica, Tijuana to Baltimore. When the lime came to divide the practice, Stepanian took the dope cases (as did

Hallinan; Rohan took the artists and rock siars). "Ifs fun for me, I get inio interesting smuggling networks. I meet new guys, different entities, different concepts. It's good, the clients are cool* I like the guys, I like the women, it's fascinating, I know iu I know what's happening. And I'm honest.!1

Mike Metzger

"I really do not want to be called a dope lawyer/1 says San Francisco attorney Mike Metzger. Talk with him for an hour1 or two and you discover he really isn't one. He's a very tough, aggressive criminal lawyer who happens to be handling drug cases right now and may do something completely different a year from now. Metzger wants to keep his options open.

With a touch of grey in his hair and dressed in a bleached denim shirt, jean bellbottoms and white sneakers, Metzger looks like the man in the Marlboro ads. And like the Marlboro man, lie's tough, rugged and relentless.

Metzger got his start as a New York DA in 1963. Over the next five years, he captured headlines again and again, handling some of the stickiest cases in the office. Brothers of legislators, aides to judges, corrupt ciiy officials and Mafia chieftains all fell before Metzger's zeal. "I was a knight on a white horse, working for the people," says Metzger.

Then he moved to the U. S. Attorney's office in California, where he suddenly found himself prosecuting J 8 year olds for not registering for the draft or for doing dope. "It just didn't set well with me. That!s not what I'm all about,"

Metzger had already turned down his father's mulU-mill! ion-dollar ironing board cover business. "I could have made a lot more money than I could ever make as a lawyer, but I was uninterested in the product.?* So when the prosecuting business became distasteful, he opened his own office the next week.

His first client was Jim Gurley, lead guitarist of Big Brother and the Holding Company. "He and his wife had been up in Sonoma County on the Russian River and he had a heroin habil and she did too and they both shot up and she died. So they charged him with homicide. We walked him.'*

Metzger proved to be as able a defense lawyer as he had been a prosecutor. He came up with one hypertechnical-legal defense after another, plus the occasional spice of a courtroom surprise. In one of those, he convinced the judge to make an unprecedented ruling and require the chief prosecution witness-a narc-to undergo lie detector tests.

The narcs had hated Metzger before, but this was too much. They busted him. "They made up an informer who had made up a story and got a made-up search warrant and planted some made-up evidence. Ultimately the case was dismissed. It was an interesting experience."

Metzger currently has law practices in both California and New York. He has tried cases all over the country and handled cases in France, Crete, Greece, Spain and Colombia. "Guys get ripped off all the time overseas," Metzger says grimly. "The advantage of having a decent American lawyer who's concerned about the guy is that he's going to go over and he's going to rap with this lawyer and he's going to say,'Stop the shiC Because most lawyers overseas are full of shit They don't really practice law-there is no law. Everything is in one book."

Metzger claims to be the father of the three-species defense. "They're all based upon the original work that we did in T7L which was convincing Harvard professor Richard Sehultes that there was another species of the genus can nab is-that it was a multi-species genus. And lhaCs where this whole thing came about..* Metzger won an acquittal last year in Miami with the defense and is currently using it in a California appeal..

Metzger glances down at his D.A. badge, mounted on a desk plaque. "It's hard to be a lawyer and do any kind of decent job/ he says. "When you stait doing a volume business, your qualiiy is going to be shit.. It's either Wool worth's or Saks Fifth Avenue. There's nothing in between.'"

George Goldstein

The story in Philadelphia is that George Goldstein has never lost a case. "It's a vicious rumoC says Goldstein with a laugh. "The only lawyer who's never lost a case is Perry Mason. That's because his clients are never guilty/

Goldstein looks like a snowman come to life. Bald on top, his fringe of hair extends to his collar. He's a cherubic guy, delightful and quick, with a tremendous sense of humor. Like many attorneys, Goldstein takes a patriarchal attitude toward his clients: dope is trouble-stay out of it

His office is a very tasteful and expensive brownstone in the old section of Philadelphia. Clients have noted that it looks more like a head shop than a law office. Hookahs and coke spoons, hash pipes, rolling papers, vials, sniffers and snorters are all on display, the implements of his various cases, used for demonstration in court. The office itself is appointed with a melange of Brazilian leather, African woods and old, expensive brass and silver.

Goldstein tried his first drug case in ] 964, two years after he began practicing law. Dope work didn't become a significant portion of his caseload though, until '67 or '68. Since then, he's been called on to handle cases all over the country.

The one client Goldstein won't handle is the smack pusher. "I was involved as a founder of HELP in Philadelphia (a local youth crisis hotline) and was chairman of the board for two-and-a-half years. As a result, of that-helping people with all kinds of problems-we do not represent heroin pushers unless they are junkie -victims. We felt it would be hypocritical and bad karma."'

Goldstein has tried cases involving large quantities of neatly every kind of drug. "One case that I won involved 3Dsowe pounds of hash where the police claimed there was a fire somewhere. They went with the file men to an apartment where they claimed they sine lied burning hash or something. They went in, and we had it all thrown out..

"We're prepared when we go to court," says Goldstein. "We're prepared on all the issues and all the angles. And we don'l cop pleas."

Bob Knott

Bob Knoll, lives in a 120-year old adobe house on a small farm near Albuquerque. He milks goals, raises chickens, geese, and vegetables and makes his own cheese and yogurt:. He's also a dope lawyer. His office downtown-a six-foot red hop desk, carved oak furniture, a cui-crystal chandelier, bay windows and Ming Dynasty furniiure-is directly across from the Albuquerque narcotics division.

One of Knott's current cases has been called the largest drug bus! in history. It happened in Seattle. "The papers refer to it as the Northwest Connection," says Knott, with a sweet southern . drawl.. "They say it was a $1.6 billion drug operation-amphetamines, cocaine, grass, hash. The narcs said they were dealing in a half a million amphetamines a day. So the scope's enormous."

Knott's also handled one of I lie largest marijuana busts in the country. His client, along with a half' dozen others, was accused in Seattle of moving 55,000 pounds of marijuana-21% ions.

Knott grew up in Albuquerque, but left for a California law school-. In 1966 lie became a prosecutor in lite D.A.IS office. "I didn't handle any prosecution of drug cases, though" says Knott.. "I had an understanding when I went in that I would not have to handle drag cases.!''

Knott did handle ding cases-as a defense lawyer-almost as soon as lie left "Il was exciting to me and I'd sort of been a rebel, you might say. Not really intentionally, but 1 didn't want the system 'to mold me into what they wanted. I was told to cut my hair-that I might get disbarred. So I grew my hair down to my waist.. I figured if they're going to disbar me over my hair length and the fact that 1 ride a chopper motorcycle and drive a Rolls Royce-it .. was a gold Rolls Royce with a telephone in i( .. .*

Knott does most of his own invests gative work. In one case he solved a murder his client was falsely accused of. "Il look me two days, I rented a plane, flew to Colorado, ran down a guy, ran down leads. I let my beard grow, posed as a junkie and tried lo make a score of heroin in Corches, Colorado. Thatli how I got the guy."

Knott; has also handled Mexican cases. "Money doesn't buy you out of anything in Mexico," says Knott.. "You can put down $50 million and you won't get oul unless you have llie right people working for you. If you can turn, the President's ear toward you-Echevarria-or the attorney general will. hear you, you're going to gel some results. If you don'l get your story lo the lop people, you're just going to be peddliog backwards.".'

Henry Florence

Phoenix attorney Heury Florence practices in the Southwest, too-almost exclusively there. In fact, most of his practice is confined lo Arizona. That has its advantages, one of which is the informant defense.

"When you deal wilh a big case, you're also dealing wiiji informants that are in a serious position of actually being burnedsays Florence. He sounds, his voice alone, veiy impres-sive, very heavy.. "The informant is someone who has been in the home of the resident within 24-48 hours prior to the issuance of the search warrant."T

"You handle the volume I do, I have what I call my master list of 60 lo 70 informers. I'm probably the only person in the slate llial knows. When I have determined who I he informant is, I will go to the officer in charge of

I he investigation and say, "Officer So and So, I might subpoena Sam Jones in the case. If you'd ralher me not subpoena Sam Jones, I'd appreciate it if we might get a dismissal in this case."' Florence smiles, "I've had six cases dismissed because of the information I had on one informant alone!"

Florence began practicing law in Window Rock, Arizona, in 1962. He was hired by the Navajo Indian Tribe to defend Indians at the lime and was forced by sheer volume lo run his practice like a legal clinic. A year la ter, Florence moved to Phoenix to become a prosecutor, where he tried his fust drug case.

In 1967 Florence changed sides. "We had a girl working for us whose step-dad was a rather notorious alleged dope dealer. He got arrested, so she asked me to go see her dad, whose name was Jack the Bear, and I undertook his representation. Something like two years later, we were still in preliminary hearing. This was in the days when a preliminary hearing was a half-hour proceeding and a walkthrough. So the word got oul that there was somebody who knew how lo defend somebody."1'

Florence has a flamboyant look about him. Maybe it's the red hair, gigantic handlebar mustache and twinkling blue eyes. Or maybe it's Ihe office, done in wild yellows and blues, and the Italian sofa and plants everywhere. Or maybe it'fe the orange Porsche 911-Tparked oul front..Whatever the reason, llie effect is heavy duly. Says Florence, "We call, ourselves dope lawyers, OK?"

David Michaels

David Michaels' New York office is littered with legalization materials, newsciips and brochures. A dozen books on pot vie for space on his shelves. Michaels is the guy who brought Amorphia lo New York years before il merged with NORML, As a New York Slate Bar Association sub-chairman, he drafted iis positions on decriminalization and study of sale. "Too many attorneys are all. too' willing to see higher penalties enacted and lo play little or no role in changing or improving the law. I disapprove,',"' says Michaels.

He stalled in civil law on Wall. Street, but found himself being increasingly drawn to criminal work and drug law. He served as drug and criminal counsel to the Woodstock Festival and became editor of a shortlived legal periodical called the "Drug Law Bulletin" -ibe first effort lo bring together ihe field of drug law across the country. When he couldn't stand Wall Street any longer, he dumped his job and, after a brief stint at legal aid, opened his own practice.

"Dope law is a field particularly concerned with the dividing line between freedom and repression. Lester Maddox once said that the jails aren't going to get any beuer until we put a better class of people in them. But I am fond of saying, "You meet better people in criminal law than in corporate law%!

Joseph Oleri

"I was the first and I'm the best,"» says Boston attorney Joseph Oteri, leaning back in one of the plush chairs of his modernistic Boston office a few hundred feet from the courthouse. "The first case brought in the United Slates to legalize maiijuana-1 brought it. And James D. Su Clair-who was President Nixon's special counsel-was appointed by the government as a special prosecutor to prosecute the case. It was the first real airing as to what marijuana was all about.

"The defendants were Joseph Weis and a fellow named Leis. Wers atid Leis/l Oteri laughs. "I blew $26,000 of the finn's money on it-tbe kids didn't have a quarter. We brought in experts frpm all over the world. It was all a pretrial motion to dismiss. And then we took it to the appeals courts-

and, of course, lost it all the way. But as a result of that we changed the laws in Massachusetts, reducing marijuana-inclucjing sales-fiom, a felony to a misdemeanor level," That was in 1967. Oteri had been practicing law since 1958 and trying pot cases since '64 or '65. He grew up in Boston and almost became a priest, but "I didn't have the strength of character." He went into the Marine Corps, instead, becoming a legal officer during the Korean War. Tnal led him to law school. It took a different set of influences to lead him into dope law.

"I got interested in marijuana because all the kids used to left me there was nothing witxtg with it You've got to remember my background, fm an Italian Catholic, Jesuit-educated, and a Marine Corps captain. For Christls sake, I thought marijuana-you shot it in your arm and became an addiaL.. What the helL did I know about matir juana?"

He soon found ouL A couple of kids supplied him wijji a book on pot.. It aroused his intellectual curiosity, so much that lie spent the next six mom lis studying with Dr. Joel Fort, a leading expert on marij.uana. "We came to the conclusion that marijuana was a relatively harmless substance. And we decided that we'd change tbe insane laws."

So Oteri tried the Weis and Lets case and many more, all over the country. He started writing articles, gave about 60 lectures at coHeges, appeared as a guest on almost every major talk show (including a two-lioui1 marijuana special on the "Today

Show") and spent a year playing the first advocate on PBS's "The Advocates" TV series.

Someliow Oteti still found time to practice dope law as far away as England and the Caribbean. He filed an amicus curiae brief in a Tim Leary case which led the Supreme Court to throw out the presumption that all grass is imported. Oteri is currently handling a case involving over 100 tons of pot and a Supreme Court challenge to IRS seizures.

i consider myself a bridge between the outcasts and soeiety. My function is to see that the outcasts don't get fucked by soeiety." Oteri t hough tfully-

strokes his full salt-and-pepper beard.

"They'll- probably land on me, one day," he continues. "It's the price you pay. I think every good trial lawyer in the United States has been indicted and tried at one time or anotber-Earl L Rodgers, Clarence Damow, Lee

Bailey." Oteri pauses and chuckles. "It adds an element of interest to your work. It's not a place for the weak of heart, I'll tell you."

"I think it was Webster who said,

'For a trial lawyer, an unpopular cause is a post of honor.'- I don't say that very often, because it sounds very pompous, but it's one of Hie things most good trial lawyers live by. And you certainly can do more for free-

Continue reading here: Choosing A Dope Defender

Was this article helpful?

0 0