Paying Attorneys Fees with Story Rights

D.C. Bar Rule 1.8© says,

” © Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a lawyer shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the lawyer literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.”

Florida doesn’t have a similar rule, but there is case law. The most notorious case involved a 17 year-old, Tina Mancini, who was working as a stripper in Ft. Lauderdale and committed suicide. Her mother was put on trial for child neglect—she drove her daughter to work—, represented by Kenneth Whitman, who coincidentally had an office down the hall from mine and a Jaguar with North Carolina plates in the building’s basement. The dead girl’s mother had no money to pay Whitman’s fees, so she paid by ceding the story rights to him. Her conviction soon followed.

I think the way the Bar came out finally is that the principle is you should not have interests that could conflict with those of your client. That is, a story may be better if the client pleads guilty or is found guilty, or is even executed (see, Capote, In Cold Blood). An attorney is in a position to achieve a result that’s good for the story but bad for the client. This rule makes eminent sense.

There are many State laws which prevent a criminal defendant from writing about his crimes so as to profit from them, but I can’t recall any law which prevents a lawyer from from writing about a case he was involved in. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi is the most prominent example I can think of, but there are probably many others if I bothered to do further research. Robert Shapiro, one of the late O.J.’s “dream team” lawyers, wrote a book called The Search for Justice about the case.

If I were to sell Hotel Arbez, I’d change names and venues, though I’m not sure there’s a hotel anywhere else with a national border running through the dining room. German soldiers were not permitted to go above the seventh step in the hotel, because everything above that step was in Switzerland.


“SIBOR” or sometimes “SAIBOR” means the Saudi Arabian Interbank Offered Rate. It is a measure of the interest rate at which large banks can borrow from one another on an unsecured basis. Like any Interbank Offered rate, it is composed of two factors: the average level of the short-term (overnight) rate and a risk premium.

Don’t Back Down

When you’ve submitted the work as per contract and you’re asked for an additional discount, don’t back down, even though you’re tempted to do so. The siren song of “additional work in the future” is very strong.

It’s easy to say, “you shouldn’t back down” but you shouldn’t

back down. And yes, it’s about the money. It’s always about the money.

When they say it’s not about the money, it’s definitely about the money. A

young Jack-Welch postulant will crow about how the company “cut costs” on

your contract because that’s all that matters. And the good guy who hired

you, who knows better, will shrug and say there’s nothing he can do.

A Curious Case

A Colombian woman was indicted in 1995 or so on a historical cocaine conspiracy case. While several co-defendants named along with her were arrested, extradited and went to jail, she stayed in Colombia and avoided extradition. Let’s call her Carolina. Carolina had stolen the ID card of her sister-in-law, Marta. Marta is blameless, an outstanding citizen.

At some point, Marta found out that Carolina had stolen her identity, resulting in Marta’s being named in the indictment. Of course, since Marta didn’t do anything wrong–we’ll leave to the side the somewhat philosophical issue of failing to report the identity theft to the authorities–she didn’t do anything with respect to the indictment in Miami. Marta’s daughter grew up and moved to Florida. She has invited her mother, Marta, to the US for a mother-daughter weekend. Marta is afraid that if she requests a visa, the indictment will turn up.

Indeed, it will.

Could I talk to the DEA in Bogota and resolve matters? Carolina is, of course, not easily found, does not want to get involved, does not want to surrender, yada yada yada.

I pointed out that no visa is needed, if Marta goes to the Embassy they will be happy to arrest her and put her on a plane to Miami. Her defense of, “it’s not me, my sister-in-law stole my identity” is essentially a “yo no fui defense,” and like any other, will be left to a very skeptical American jury.

It practically writes itself.

Truman Capote, Jane Bowles

Truman Capote on Jane Bowles. Yes, thatScreen Shot 2024 04 05 at 1 55 25 PM Jane Bowles.


More Austin Tice

When information concerning Austin Tice’s whereabouts were offered to the USG in June, 2023–at that time in a cell in the basement of the Iranian consulate in Damascus–they said, “we’re not interested.”

\#AustinTice \#hostages

Austin Tice

As of one year ago, Austin Tice, American law student, journalist and former Marine officer, was imprisoned in the basement of that consulate.


Autorenewing Subscriptions

I just got off the phone with my bank. They put a hold on my credit card because, at 0800 EST, there were three declines. All were from an effort to renew a subscription on Substack. This subscription autorenewed with my old information–and an apostrophe(!) and so it was rejected. Substack attempted three times to validate the card with out of date information. This caused the fraud bells and whistles to go off. The account was blocked.

Fortunately, I’m traveling in the US and so could reach the fraud department. After fending off queries about the apostrophe, why I won’t use their app–if the phone gets lost, so does my money–I was finally able to get the account unblocked.

Were I overseas this would have taken days to resolve, if it could have been resolved at all until my return to the country guarded by Homeland Security. Need I point out that today I have no cash, having overtipped the car wash guys last night? So no coffee for me this morning.

The culprit was Substack. I changed my address since the time I subscribed. Nevertheless, Substack hit my card three times, one after the other, mimicking the actions of a thief using a stolen card. So my bank blocked my card. It took me an hour on the phone to sort it all out, but I could not have done so had I not serindipitously been in the US. I hate autorenewals precisely for this reason. I don’t want a free sub, companies deserve to be paid. But I cannot do business with Substack, it is simply too much risk.

The autorenewal used information on file; information that has since changed. So when the fraud department asked if I had authorized any transactions today–I hadn’t–all hell broke loose. Legally, of course, I had authorized a transaction, one year ago, but I didn’t authorize that transaction for today. Believe it or t not, a one year-old Substack subscription wasn’t the first thing that popped in my head as the cause for my account being blocked.

Autorenewals operate stealthily. Companies don’t want to ask for the money again because people may say no. It’s much easier to take the cash a year after the decision to subscribe was made. The difference is that today’s autorenewal attempt not only ended in a “no,” but an angry one. Because of autorenew, Substack lost a subscriber. I might well have stayed on had they asked me and given me the opportunity to update my information.

Not to mention being confronted–again–with the apostrophe.

Bottom line: I’m happy to send the money for a subscription, but I can’t risk having my account frozen due to Substack’s autorenew practices and multiple hits.

PetroSaudi Series Picked Up by Netflix

Netflix picks up Jho Low, PetroSaudi, 1MDB story:…

#PetroSaudi #JhoLow #1MDB

Lawyer’s Lament

Assange and US “Assurances”

US assurances don’t mean much. See, Sholam Weiss:…

”… by letters dated 8 February and 14 May 2002, the United States provided the State party with assurances that if the author was extradited with Austria denying one or more criminal counts on which the applicant was convicted, the presiding United States judge would be required, on the condition of the Rule of Specialty, to re-sentence him, and that a re-sentencing would permit him to appeal both his sentence and conviction. The assurances, contained in the letter dated 14 May 2002, were drafted as follows:

(1) Assurance on U.S. Law: “If Weiss is extradited subject to the condition that he not be punished for offenses involving false statements to government officials or in judicial proceedings, the presiding United States judge would be required to re-sentence Weiss in order to give effect to the condition.”

(2) Assurance by Expert Opinion, based on assurance # 3 regarding US law: “In our opinion, this would result in Weiss being permitted to file a full appeal on all issues, including the guilty verdict, errors committed during the trial, constitutional issues, and his sentence.”

(3) Assurance on U.S. Law: “Under United States law, a defendant does not separately appeal his verdict and a sentence. Any appeal is from the final judgment, which contains both the finding of guilt and the imposition of punishment.”

(4) Assurance on future U.S. actions in court: “Furthermore, in any proceedings before any United States court, the United States would take the position that the re-sentencing permits Weiss to appeal both the sentence and the guilty verdict.”

Following the author’s extradition, the United States Government filed a motion with the Middle District Court of Florida (Orlando Division) to re-sentence the author in accordance with the order under which he was extradited from Austria (Rule of Specialty). Specifically, the United States Government requested that the Court re-sentence the author on all counts of conviction except Count 93, which alleged obstruction of justice. On 15 August 2002, the Court denied the United States Government’s motion, ruling that the case was different from the vast majority of cases applying the rule of specialty to an extradition as, in all but rare cases, extradition occurs before trial, and the rule of specialty controls the charges for which the requesting State may prosecute a defendant. The Court ruled that a sentence was not alterable at the will of the Government, in accordance with the principle of separation of powers, and that the latter had not cited any authority which would provide the Court the power to modify the author’s sentence. It added that the rule of specialty was being asserted by the Government, not to limit the offences for which the author can be prosecuted but rather to modify a valid judgement of the Court. The circumstances under which a district court may modify or vacate a sentence were strictly limited by statute and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which did not encompass the circumstances of the present case. The Court also referred to earlier United States jurisprudence related to extradition confirming that re-sentencing was prohibited under the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.”…

US “assurances” are meaningless.

#Assange #Assangeextradition

Form Book vs. AI

The ABA doesn’t require law schools to teach a class in “drafting legal documents,” assuming this skill will later be learned on the job. The problem is the hallucinations that plague ChapGPT. This is an AI term of art, colloquially defined as “making stuff up.”

Twenty years ago, would you have forbidden access to form books? West published several such encyclopedias. AI is just a tool like them. If facts can be stipulated, results follow. The problem is determining those facts. And even when there is a known end result, a corpse, the wrong type of plumbing installed, the facts leading to that result are disputed. Courtrooms are theaters of lies. Lawyers and judges have difficulty determining what is a lie and what is the truth; what actually happened as opposed to a made-up story. AI can do no better job. AI has no special insight into the human condition and our propensity to lie when convenient.

Relativity Software Fix

Sometimes software problems are so complex that the only solution is spiritual help. In this case, as all Miami lawyers know, we’ll invoke Eleggua, “the Roads,” the santería orisha whose powers include opening a path and clearing the way.

You’ll need:

  • a cigar and matches or a lighter
  • a bottle of rum (a cupful will do)
  • a handful of coins
  • proximity to an intersection

Walk to the nearest intersection. Light the cigar and blow smoke into the air. Take a swig of the rum and spit it out towards the center of the intersection, taking care to avoid inconveniencing the occasional pedestrian or passing automobiles.

Throw the coins into intersection while mentioning the name of the orisha. Relativity latency problems should disappear shortly thereafter.

Keep in mind that this saint’s colors are red and black; the ritual is more effective if these colors are worn. Some say it is even better to don the red and black collar, or eleke as the saint is particularly benevolent to those supplicants who come to him so adorned.


White & Case and 1MDB

Looks like White & Case has some liability…

The principal White & Case lawyer thereafter went to work for PetroSaudi.

$700M paid into a Jho Low account? Oh my.

#TarekObaid #PetroSaudi #1MDB #JhoLow #WolfofWallStreet #White&Case

Chicago Alderman Edward Burke Convicted

I remember Burke’s run for the office of Cook County State’s attorney in 1980. His ads featured a Chicago Police Department badge—though not a police officer, Burke had somehow finagled a badge—does Chicago have a police reserve? There was some controversy about his entitlement to the badge at the time, much like that surrounding “Sheriff” Herschel Walker during his run for the Senate.

Burke didn’t break bad at the age of 79, his age when a federal jury convicted him on 13 of 14 counts, including racketeering. More likely than not, he’s been a criminal for decades. For 54 years, he has been an alderman. A few years ago, Burke engineered the placement of his own wife onto the Illinois Supreme Court. My guess is that her vote was for sale, like everything else Burke touched. It would be appropriate to investigate every single one-vote case where she was in the majority, to determine whether, in the interests of justice, the case should be reviewed or reheard.

Promises, Promises


PetroSaudi Series Picked Up by Netflix

Netflix picks up Jho Low, PetroSaudi, 1MDB story:…

PetroSaudi #jholow #1MDB

Lawyer’s Lament

Tarek Obaid, CEO of PetroSaudi

Because of the personal injury bar and public defenders, people believe that lawyers work for free. I’ve been trying to convince my doctor, travel agent, mobile phone company and Starbucks that they should similarly work on a complimentary basis, but unfortunately none of them are interested.

tarekobaid #petrosaudi

Form Book vs. AI

The ABA doesn’t require law schools to teach a class in “drafting legal documents,” assuming this skill will later be learned on the job. The problem with ChapGPT is its hallucinations. This is an AI term of art, colloquially defined as “making stuff up.”

Twenty years ago, would you have forbidden access to form books? West published several such encyclopedias. AI is just a tool like them. The problem with AI as a substitute for lawyers is that AI can’t tell when someone is lying and can’t tell when someone is spinning. If facts can be stipulated, results follow. The problem is determining those facts. And even when there is a known end result, a corpse, the wrong type of plumbing installed, the facts leading to that result are disputed

Falling Down

The economic system is a secret game of musical chairs. One day the music stops and you’re left standing.

Story of an Unsuccessful Kidnapping

My client, Tamid, had a joint venture with the notorious ⁜ of Indonesia. His partner was Prince Quetzalcoatl, the son of King Khomeini of Bessarabia. Tamid had a diplomatic passport and performed various high-level missions for the King. Then, King Khomeini died, Prince Quetzalcoatl took over and Tamid was on the outs. The ⁜ venture, which was at least unofficially backed by the King, went to shit. As far as the Bessarabians are concerned, Tamid didn’t steal any money—but the US thinks he did.

A few years ago, Tamid attended the G20 meeting in Shanghai. Prince Charles told the Chinese that Tamid was a “terrorist financier” and should be arrested pending extradition to the Kingdom. The Chinese arrested him, held him for a while, became convinced that Tamid was no financier of terrorism and so let him go. The experience was unsettling— pulled off the street, a black hood put over his head, an extra-judicial Chinese detention. That sort of intervention could shake anyone.

As a result, Tamid has full-time, armed security at his home in Paris. The 5th, of course, a neighborhood known for ghosts. An ex-(French?) commando, with an M-16 always in arms’ reach.

Let’s throw a few more details into the pot. While Tamid was not an intelligence officer when he was working for the Bessarabians, let’s just say there’s a lot of blurring at that level. So throw in a Bessarabian intelligence network operating in Türkiye and maybe Iran as well. And Lebanon. Tamid is in the middle of this.

Tamid’s company performed an offshore drilling contract for Bolivia in Bolivian waters, the hojas de coca project. For some reason, Bolivia declined to pay. The company demanded an arbitration and though it took several years, won the arbitration. Bolivia was forced to pay $32,900. Because of interest, the sum has grown to $34,000. Bolivia wants it back.

Back to Paris.

Tamid’s bodyguard asks for the weekend off. Tamid agrees. While his bodyguard is away, Tamid goes to a bar in Geneva. There he meets a Venezuelan woman. They chat. Tamid is drinking. She is too. One thing leads to another.

Next, Tamid is in an apartment. His mind is fogged. Scopolamine? He “frees himself, and escapes.” Unfortunately, I don’t have more precise details. There were men around. In his befogged state, Tamid couldn’t identify what language they were speaking. Tamid speaks fluent English, French and Arabic. He does not speak Spanish or Farsi. He leaves the apartment. Outside on the street, his phone rings. It’s the Venezuelan woman, begging him to come back. He hangs up. She calls back. Threatens him that they will try again. Tamid goes home.

Extrajudicial murder is a popular way of settling differences these days. The practice has a long history. In the 70s, Pinochet and Letelier. Then Somoza in Paraguay. The Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov assassinated with an umbrella weapon in the heart of London in 1978. More recently, Putin killing Litvinenko in the UK by poisoning his soup with radioactive Polonium. Putin’s next effort on UK soil failed. Ramzan Kadryov, the leader of Chechnya, is believed responsible for recent political murders in Austria, Germany and France. And of course, there’s Khashoggi.

So, what happened? Was it the Syrians? The Saudis? The Iranians? Sikh separatists? Paris is the seat of the International Commercial Court, so anyone can go there, anyone has an excuse for being there. Or was it merely a non-political criminal gang?

I believe it was the latter: a South American gang–a gang as small as two or three women and their pimp. Prudent kidnappers follow a set of rules. What are the rules for a successful kidnapping?

The first rule is to take away the victim’s phone. That prevents calls for help. Tamid has more than one phone, but would he carry more than one phone while visiting a bar?

The second rule is to secure the target. This was done poorly, so I have to assume amateurs were tying the knots. Zip ties are easily managed; supplies of duct tape can be purchased locally without raising suspicion. If Seal Team Six was constraining a target, that target would not be able to wriggle free absent extraordinary circumstances, none of which apply here.

The third rule is to monitor the target. Tamid couldn’t have freed himself from his bonds if he was monitored.

Finally, once the target has escaped, you don’t call him on the phone, begging him to come back. How do you know he won’t come back with the police and a SWAT team?

The threat to try again is a problem. Or is it? Won’t Tamid now be on his guard when meeting strange women in bars? The plan might have worked once, but it won’t work again.

I don’t doubt that Tamid is a target. After all, he’s linked to both ⁜ and ⁜. The Bolivians have a motive.  That gives all of them a reason to use extreme methods of persuasion.

Who else? Anyone else who unsuccessfully invested in his company—but are there any real victims? The Bessarabians might be afraid of the tea Tamid might spill, but would they mount an operation using Venezuelan women? Unlikely. Our guys? That is, the USG? No—he’s happy to walk in the front door. So I don’t think it’s any of these.

Venezuela has been at the forefront of new kidnapping techniques: one of these is the rapi-secuestro: you pull someone off the street, find out who he is, and then demand a few thousand from the family. There are many targets.

My guess was that this operation was not an operation at all but a crime of opportunity where the woman in the bar planned on just lifting his wallet, so there was no need for elaborate securing of the victim or following the other rules of kidnapping. She figured she could milk him for more money and that’s why she asked him to come back.

She could pass off the scopolamine as, “you had too much to drink.” I don’t think there was even a locked door—a befogged Tamid was in no shape to pick a lock. Assuming he was locked in a bedroom, knocked on the door and someone opened it, the excuse for the locked door could be she was worried he might fall and hurt himself. “Come back and I’ll take care of you, I’ll get you home tomorrow.” Any men around are the boyfriends of her roommates or her pimp, not Bessarabian or Singaporean operatives.

And of  course, there’s the possibility that much of this story is simply invented to avoid embarrassment. “Yeah, honey, the reason I didn’t come home last night is because I was kidnapped by Venezuelans.” Sure.

Certain details were obfuscated in this retelling; the names of the countries involved were changed or made up, Tamid does not exist. 

I am not here. I did not say these things.

Run Like a Demon

Q. We need our special teams receiver to run like the wind after catching 4th down punts. Can we invoke the aid of Pazuzzu, the Sumerian Lord of the East Wind Demons?

A. While not specifically a deity, Pazuzzu is otherworldly enough to qualify under the Court’s rule in Bremerton. His aid may be invoked on 4th down, kick-offs or wherever else appropriate. Caution should be exercised however, since many believe that Sumerian demons tend to linger in the area after the expiration of regulation time.

Thoughts On The Grift

Given the interest in the subject, it is strange that there is not a more fully-developed literature of the con, the uniquely American–or is it?–storytelling with a purpose, that is, to divest the unwary of their cash.

There is, of course, Jim Thompson’s The Grifters and the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film, The Sting. Wasn’t the fence painting in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer a tale of grift? But given the prevalence of the subject in real life, one would think that stories about grifting, whether high or low, would be afforded their own literary genre.

There is a rich vein of such stories to be mined–they are never-ending. In modern times, one might be tempted to begin with Charles Ponzi, but there is so much more. There’s Zzzz Best Carpet Cleaning, the salad oil scandal. Anna Delvey a/k/a Anna Sorokin (Netflix’s Inventing Anna). There’s even a Vietnamese Anna, Tina Duong, who hired extras to portray wealthy relatives she did not have and an aging soap opera actor to give her away at a trigamous wedding to a young man who had failed to do due diligence.

There’s Samuel Bankman-Fried and Bernie Madoff; Jho Low and Elizabeth Holmes. Let’s not forget Ft. Lauderdale lawyer, political donor and University of Miami booster Scott Rothstein. His scam was discounting non-existent settlements to investors, promising a high rate of return. Until the scam was uncovered, he was regularly consulted by those who make our laws and granted sideline access to football games, perhaps an even greater honor in Florida. He flew to Morocco on a private jet after tasking the firm’s associates to come up with a list of countries that had no extradition treaty with the United States. Instead of flying to Israel, where he might have been safe, he returned to Florida and a long prison sentence.

Remembering other South Florida lawyers caught up in such matters, the bankruptcy of ESM Government securities caused a run on Ohio banks and led to the suicide of Stephen Arky, who claimed innocence. At least suicide removed the possibility of his indictment.

The point of all of this is that I am extremely cautious when it comes to deals which promise much but which are not conventional. There’s always an explanation. I am particularly sensitive to the possibility of the grift. I am not special when it comes to the con; people have tried to con me in the past. There have been times when I cursed my naïveté for almost falling for a scam.

One of the characteristics of a scam is that the terms of the deal are always changing. Experts and consultants are never fully paid. The bare minimum is rationed to keep them from resigning–and they are usually never the first firm brought on board.

To represent my clients effectively, I have to believe them. Once I know they are lying, I am no longer capable of convincing others that their story is true. Paradoxically, this means that to be effective I seek to have as little contact with my clients as possible. For me, “spin” does not make a story better or more palatable. When my client spun a detail, I always assumed it was to cover a lie.

For a while I had an office in an outbuilding at 1870 S. Bayshore Drive, a converted mansion in Miami. There was a staircase leading to the second floor; my office was on the first. The groundskeeper brought his teenage boys to help him and they would often relax, sitting on the stairs. One day I saw several spark plugs there and wondered what the boys were doing with them. I later found out that spark plugs are used by thugs to break windows of cars. If the thugs are stopped by the police, a spark plug is a dual use, and so an innocent item, that by itself is not probable cause for arrest. I felt the fool and never looked on his children in the same way again.

On another occasion I flew to Atlanta for a parole hearing. My client had promised to pay me, after he was released on parole. Surely he would be back on the street and be able to get funds owed to him so as to pay me. His parole was denied and I wasn’t paid. In another case, my client had shot a man after a drug delivery was botched. By the beginning of that death-penalty eligible first-degree murder case I still hadn’t been paid. “Did you bring the check?” I asked the family. There was no answer. I tried that case just to stay in shape, but it was my choice.

So I am particularly sensitive to clients that have not paid. I don’t even like wasting time talking about clients who will pay, who are going to pay, how payment is just a moment away especially when these discussions take place months after payment was due.

They talk about how Steve Jobs had a “reality distortion field,” but Jobs had–though he put it to legitimate use–what all grifters share: a storytelling expertise that would put Hemingway to shame, the ability to describe dreams with such detail that they seem real, so real that they become real until that inevitable moment when harsh reality shows the dream to be but an illusion.

Really, what is more American than the grift? George Santos “embellished” his resumé, not worrying about the fact that identity politics trumps even outright lies. Santos claims to be Jewish, biracial, and finding one box unchecked, gay. He is Latino enough and there are Holocaust survivors, albeit imaginary ones, in his family tree. A claimed 9/11 death in the family makes up for a lack of military service, and when the New York Times finally looked into his background and uncovered his failure to graduate from college only means the fact that he is a high-school dropout was lost in the noise. Shilling for sympathy, Santos had his mother die twice. He started a charity for animals and pocketed the cash, knowing that dogs and cats can’t file fraud complaints. He is an accomplished shameless liar, as any good grifter must be. None of this prevented his election to the 117th Congress. If anything, he is the perfect candidate.