News & Events

Overcoming Our Mistakes


June 29, 2016

Dear Clients and Friends,

                       
Over the course of the last several years, it has been my practice to send an annual letter to our clients and friends. The letter has served as a valuable means by which important information is communicated to those we serve and of whom we are indebted, because of the invaluable contribution they have made to my life and the life of this company.

 
Unlike the letters in past years, this missive is more personal. Although many interesting developments have occurred in this company during this past year; some unpleasant and some exceedingly joyful, I have decided to publish, here, an open letter I wrote 10 years ago in response to a Seattle Times article. Like most things in life, it took some time to comprehend these events and how they should be interpreted, I can now say that I am abundantly grateful for the lessons and challenges of my past and I hope, through my story, our clients and others will never stop believing in themselves, never stop improving and never stop forgiving others for the mistakes they’ve made. Here is my story:


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Bradley Marshall’s Response to Seattle Times March 24, 2006 Article


To Whom It May Concern,
 
On March 24, 2006, the Seattle Times spent a significant portion of the front page of its newspaper, above the fold, publishing the “fruits” of the negotiated peace with the judges of King County.  Although Judge Michael Trickey had ordered unsealed a certain case in which I had been a party some eight years ago, and although the Seattle Times had not yet seen its contents, they took it upon themselves to write what I can only term an expose about me.  This expose went much further than simply this one case file and discussed several other matters, which I have encountered in my years of practicing law.

I am sending this letter to each of the Superior Court Judges in King and Pierce County, as well as the United States District Court Judges of the Western District of Washington.  I have appeared before most of you and some of you on many occasions.

The press in a free nation plays an important role, which we all must appreciate.  James Madison, the fourth president of our nation wrote to his friend W. T. Barry in 1822, “[a] popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”1   In order to remain free, a free press is necessary.  A free press means that information is disseminated to the general public.  It means that we, the public, then have the knowledge and the means of power necessary to function and to fulfill our duties as a free citizen in a democracy.

The press is also important to our everyday lives, as a source of our daily news, international, national and local, as a purveyor of the most recent sporting events, as a beacon of today’s weather and as conveyer of our business and financial reports.   

The Seattle Times Effort to Unseal All Sealed Court Files in King County

The Seattle Times has taken it upon itself to investigate and to demand the unsealing of approximately 420 King County Superior Court files that had previously been sealed by court order.  Towards this goal, the Seattle Times has moved immediately to unseal approximately 22 of those court files.  I found myself in the unfortunate position of being a party to one of the first court files to be ordered unsealed.  That is sort of like winning the lottery in reverse.  And more unfortunately, the Seattle Times chose to write a rather in depth article about me and about some others whose court files are being unsealed.  For some reason the Seattle Times decided to publish an article, which went much further than simply the subject of the court files they sought to unseal.

The March 24, 2006 Seattle Times Article

The March 24 article written by Ken Armstrong, Cheryl Phillips and Justin Mayo, all staff writers for the Seattle Times, said some pretty harsh things about me and about my practice of the law.  Quoting the Seattle Times article, “. . . disciplinary records and lawsuits — some sealed, some not — do not flatter Marshall. They allege dishonesty, malpractice, domestic violence, harassment.”

Far be it for me to deny the press the right to print stories and the public the right to know what goes on in the world, including in our own little corner of the world here in King County, including what happens within our King County court system.  But, I can be disappointed in how the press utilizes their powerful tool.  

I believe the Seattle Times was flat wrong about some things they printed about me, premature about others and they surely did not give us an opportunity to add input or to respond.  In fact, the Times has flatly refused to allow me to respond in print or to even purchase advertising space to print my own response.

What Was the Seattle Times Motivation concerning the March 24 Article?

Why did the Seattle Times consider this story to be so important that it dedicated a good portion of the front page of its newspaper, above the fold, to it?  Is it because I am considered by some to be controversial?  Is it because I am an activist civil rights attorney, seemingly always in some battle with a local police department, whether it be here in Washington State or as far away as in Florida, suing that department for killing another African-American man who was too young to die?  Is it because I defend employees against discrimination in the workplace and against their wrongful termination?  The later has brought me face to face with the Seattle Times in lawsuits against them.  Two of those cases involved sexual harassment committed by the Seattle Times and its management.  On all three occasions my clients won settlements.  

Why did the Seattle Times decide to go against their usual policy and discuss a pending matter presently before the Washington State Supreme Court as if it were already decided?

Now I am not suggesting that the Seattle Times wrote this story as a vendetta against me.  There is no question our court system functions better when justice is dispensed in the open with a public eye upon it and that is what the Seattle Times seems to be accomplishing.  Also, to be fair, the Seattle Times has helped my clients on many occasions by making public what local governments or police departments wanted to keep swept under a rug.  Further, I am not suggesting that I am perfect and the Seattle Times is somehow wrong for wanting to make public my court file, as well as all 420 of these court files.  I have made mistakes.  I will be the first to admit it.  If I could go back and undo some of those mistakes, I would.  But, like everyone else, I cannot undo past mistakes.  I must simply live with them and hopefully learn from them.  I hope that as a person I have grown over time and that I continue to strive to be a better person.

Also, I would like to make it clear that upon further reflection, I feel Judge Trickey made the correct choice by deciding to unseal some of these court files including mine.  I will not ask the court to reconsider its order nor will I seek to appeal the court’s order.  At all times that I have appeared before Judge Trickey, he has shown himself to be fair and impartial and with a superior understanding of the law.  In fact, most courts that I have appeared in front of have bent over backwards to give my clients a fair shake and a full airing of their complaint.

Who Is Bradley Marshall?

Now, I would like to take this opportunity to tell this community a little about me and to explain some of the negative things discussed by the Seattle Times in their March 24 article.
    
Many of you know me as a family man, as a friend, as a teacher, as a student, as a mentor, as a mentee (if there is such a word), as a player agent, or as a lawyer.  

I have been married to my wife, Cynthia, for twenty years.  Together, Cynthia and I have raised our two sons….  I am a Seattle native, having grown up in the Holly Park Project and Cynthia is a transplant from New York, who has been a Washingtonian for approximately 20 years.  

Cynthia and I give annual scholarships to deserving inter-city scholars in our community.  In the past, I have sponsored little league teams, hosted and spoken at informational seminars and actively participated in several local non-profit organizations.

As a teacher, I have taught as an adjunct professor at the University Of Washington School Of Law.  I am currently an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University School of Business and Economics, where I have served with distinction.  I have also taught at other colleges as a visiting professor

I am a professional sports agent for NBA, NFL and MLB players.  I am presently representing several active NBA players, as well as many ex-professional athletes.

I am a lawyer.  After graduating from the University of Washington, School of law, I have practiced law for almost 20 years, handling approximately two thousand cases during that period of time.  I have been known for taking controversial cases, always fighting hard for the rights of racial minorities, of women, of the disabled and for gay rights.  I have committed myself to doing more than my share of pro bono work.  In 2005, I received an award from the Washington State Bar Association for my pro bono work.  I have spoken before the Congressional Black Caucus and appeared on a number of radio and television talk shows including Armstrong Williams and Bev Smith, discussing the subject of racial profiling.

My law practice has mainly consisted of fighting for the “little guy”, those people who are under-represented in our society.  I have represented individuals against police departments, state and municipal governments and corporate employers in Washington, California, Arizona, Missouri, Connecticut, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Michigan.  One characteristic in which have I prided myself over the years is that I do not give up.  

The case of Kowalow v. Correction Systems Corporation was one such case.  In this case my client was subject to gender and sexual orientation discrimination over an extended period of time.  We filed in United States District Court, where the case was dismissed.  We filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where the dismissal was upheld.  We then filed a complaint in King County Superior Court and again the case was dismissed.  We then filed an appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals, who reversed the dismissal.  Correction Systems Corporation then agreed to settle the case for a sizeable sum.

In the Estate of McCord v. the of Monroe Police Department, et al, we filed a complaint against the City of Monroe, the City of Monroe Police Department, the City of Bothell, the City of Bothell Police Department and several individual police officers from both departments.  We represented the clients through a coroner’s inquest pro bono and continued with our representation into litigation.  In our lawsuit, we alleged among other causes, claims for violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for wrongful death pursuant to Washington’s wrongful death statute.  Despite great odds, we settled the case for a sum, which the survivors of Mr. McCord felt justified bringing the lawsuit.

In the Estate of Thomas v. the King County Sheriff’s Department, et al, we filed a lawsuit against King County, the King County Sheriff’s Department and Melvin Miller, the deputy sheriff who shot and killed Mr. Thomas.  Again we represented the Thomas family in a coroner’s inquest and continued on with a lawsuit against the above named defendants.  In this lawsuit, we also alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Washington’s wrongful death statute.  Although we did not prevail in trial, a lot of publicity, including that provided by the Seattle Times, helped shine a light upon the plight of the Thomas family in this matter and the actions of the King County Sheriff’s Department and the individual deputy involved in the shooting.  It is my hope that the fact that we brought this lawsuit, the fact that we fought long and hard, the fact that we brought this case to light will discourage further wrongful shootings of young African-American males in our community, something that occurs all too frequently.

In the Estate of Salter v. Epstein, et al, we brought suit against the State of Florida, the Florida State Department of Corrections, the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution and several individual medical providers for causing the death of a man who while incarcerated, contracted pneumonia and as a result of negligent medical care died.  We sued the named defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Florida’s wrongful death statute and received a settlement of more than the survivors of Mr. Salter has expected.  

These lawsuits are but a representative few of the many cases in which we have been involved and on most occasions obtain more than satisfactory results for our clients.  

My Response to the Negative Reports about Me Contained in the March 24 Article

The Seattle Times article contains four negative matters about me, two complaints to the Washington State Bar, the present case, which is the subject of the Seattle Times motion to unseal and Judge Trickey’s recent order unsealing the court file and a matter of domestic violence in Pierce County, in which they are simply wrong..

The first bar matter the Seattle Times mentioned, concerns a matter, which arose in 1992, approximately fourteen years ago, in which I instructed a legal assistant to sign a document to be submitted to the court with our client’s signature, in which the client had authorized the signing by telephone and in which the phrase “pursuant to telephone authorization” was to be added to the document.  The legal assistant left off the phrase “pursuant to telephone authorization” when the document was signed and later filed with the court.  When the bar matter finally came to resolution in 1998, as the Seattle Times says, the bar “scolded [Marshall] for refusing to accept responsibility”.  Unfortunately, that is the normal position of the bar in nearly all cases where an attorney contests the alleged complaint, as I did in that case.  

The second bar matter concerns approximately fifteen African-American and Hispanic longshoremen from Seattle and Tacoma.  In December 1996, another Seattle area attorney, Mark Wheeler, and I took on the fight of these longshoremen as they rebelled against rampant racial discrimination within the longshoremen’s union, their union locals and several maritime companies and trade associations.  Mark Wheeler and I took on this fight even though the longshoremen were only a few days from the expiration of their statute of limitations and after several other Seattle area attorneys and law firms had refused these men’s fight.

In order to help these longshoremen’s case, I expended well over a thousand hours of my time and spent tens of thousands of dollars of my own money to cover these men’s litigation costs.  

Later, after ten days of trial, when the case was successfully settled, Mark Wheeler and I received our agreed upon contingency fee, plus the agreed upon return of my out-of-pocket expenses.  Mark’s and my share of the contingency fee was substantially less than what we would have received if we were billing at our normal hourly billing rates and it was less than the forty percent contingency fee the longshoremen had agreed to pay us.

The final result of the Jeffries lawsuit, including ten days of trial, several days of mediations, long negotiations and a final settlement completed by the other attorneys and myself was that the longshoremen settled their lawsuit for an $800,000.00 cash settlement (over $57,000.00 apiece) and promotions for several of the men, including those who filed the underlying complaint in this matter.  

Also, as a result of the Jeffries lawsuit, we obtained dramatic changes in the dispatch system from a subjective to a rotational system, so that it could not be based on racism and nepotism to the same extent that it was before; in the grievance system, which was revamped and a new grievance system was put into place, which greatly expedited grievances; in sensitivity training, which was instituted for supervisors and workers alike; and in a training program, which was put into place so that longshoremen would be able to work up and down the entire west coast.
 
Two and one-half years after the longshoremen’s case was successfully settled, after the longshoremen had received and cashed their settlement checks, after they had received promotions they sought, or received better paying jobs, and after several racially discriminatory union rules and practices had been revoked or modified, all as a result of our work on this case, three of the fifteen longshoremen filed a bar complaint against me.  They filed their complaint only after Mark and I had successfully sued the three for fees owing to us, which these three men had refused to pay.  

I believe the complaint to the bar was retaliatory in that it was made only by three of the fifteen longshoremen, only after Mark and I successfully sued the three for fees owing to us, fully two and a half years after the settlement of the longshoremen’s lawsuit and it was filed against only me and not against Mark Wheeler or the other two attorneys directly involved in the underlying litigation, Justin Zaug or William LaBorde.

Using a scattergun approach, the bar filed 10 charges against me, arising from this matter.  Of the 10 charges, 4 were found to be completely without merit and dismissed.  But now, almost ten years after I accepted the longshoremen’s case in 1996, more than seven years after the case settled, after a lengthy hearing relying upon foggy memories from 7 to 10 years past and based upon facts that were all vigorously contested by me, the Washington State Bar decided by a very narrow 7 – 6 vote that they want to take away my license to practice law.

Interestingly, of the seven Board members who voted to take away my license to practice law, four are non-lawyers.  All six, who voted that I should be allowed to keep my license, were practicing lawyers, more aware of the intricacies of practicing law than most laymen.  In fact, of the nine lawyer Board members, only three voted to take my license.  The chair and vice-chair voted not to take away my license to practice law.

What is strikingly clear from reviewing the transcript of the hearing in this matter is that the bar’s witnesses testified one way when asked by the bar’s attorney and after thorough preparation by the bar’s attorneys, but each testified dramatically differently and the opposite of their direct testimony when cross-examined by my attorney.  Unfortunately, the 7-6 majority of the Board decided to accept the testimony elicited during direct examination by the bar and reject or ignore the testimony given during cross-examination.

Fortunately, I have received overwhelming support from my friends, colleagues, clients and many other well-wishers.  I have received support in the form of telephone calls, personal messages and letters from a United States Congressman, community leaders, judges, attorneys, college professors, pastors and other religious leaders, as well as many of my clients.  

As I said, the present status of this matter is that the Washington State Bar has by a very narrow 7-6 margin voted to take away my license to practice law.  I am appealing this decision to the Washington State Supreme Court, where the matter is now pending.2

My attorney, Phil Talmadge, and I are optimistic that the court will ultimately rule in my favor, that I will continue to try to make the positive contributions that, in the past, I have attempted to make and that I will continue practicing law and keeping up the fight for the rights of the “little guy”.   

The third matter is one in which the Seattle Times states that a, “lawsuit accusing Marshall of sexual harassment was filed in 1995.”  This is the present case, reported by the Seattle Times, in which after settlement by all parties and as part of the settlement, Judge Trickey ordered the court file sealed, but now with the power of the press involved, ordered it unsealed.  This matter involved an employee who had been terminated and after her termination filed a lawsuit against me claiming sexual harassment.  The case was settled for what is termed by lawyers as the cost of litigation and sealed.  Many cases are settled in this country for what is termed “the cost of litigation” or “litigation costs”.  Another term for this is “nuisance value”.  It basically means that a defendant in a lawsuit is willing to settle a case for the same amount of money that it would cost him or her to litigate the matter, but with the benefit that the litigation ends.  That is what happened here.  It was never determined by a court or a jury that I had actually done anything wrong.  I agreed to pay the cost of litigation, an amount less than $15,000.00, in order that the case would end.

The fourth and final matter, which the Seattle Times claims occurred is one, in which they claim that, “[t]he same year, Marshall was sued [,] [a] woman accused him of domestic violence in Pierce County Superior Court. But the two sides asked that the matter be dismissed and the file sealed. A court commissioner went along, making this sealed file No. 2 for Marshall.”  Here, the Seattle Times simply got their facts wrong.  This did not occur.  There is no woman who accused me of domestic violence.  

Although both Cynthia and I believe the goals of the Seattle Times may have been lofty, do we believe the Seattle Times did anything wrong?  Yes.

What did they do wrong?  

First, the Seattle Times assumed my guilt in the court file they sought to unseal.  But, they were wrong. There was never a determination of either guilt or liability.  I settled the lawsuit against me, which was not the first lawsuit against me and certainly will not be the last, ask anyone in today’s society who is controversial and known to the public.  I settled this case for what is considered by most lawyers to be nuisance value.  But, the Seattle Times, relying only on bare allegations, found me guilty without any thought to my right to due process, my right to a neutral arbiter of my guilt or liability.  Let me make this perfectly clear, I was not involved in sexual harassment.  

What are judges to do in this situation?  Can you imagine the article that would run on the front page of the Seattle Times if any King County judge stood up to the Seattle Times and denied their demand to unseal anyone’s court file.  There would be hell to pay.

The second thing the Seattle Times did wrong was they decided that they should determine my guilt as to the pending bar matter presently before the Washington Supreme Court.  This is a pending matter.  The Washington Supreme Court has yet to rule.  Why not just declare me guilty now.  Why worry about such trivial matters as due process?  

I intend to show the Washington State Supreme Court that I did not violate my rules of professional conduct.  

The third thing the Seattle Times did wrong was in its rush to judgment of me; they failed to get their facts straight.  Instead of getting their story the old fashion way, by working it, they decided to accuse me of an act of domestic violence in Pierce County.  Cynthia and I live in King County, not in Pierce County.  We have never lived in Pierce County.  Cynthia, my wife of twenty years and our two sons can tell you that I am not a violent man.  Maybe the Seattle Times should slow itself down just a little bit and attempt to report its accusations accurately.  I want everyone to understand, I am not a violent person and I have not been involved in a case of domestic violence in Pierce County.  

Fourth, the Seattle Times, in its zeal to assure an “open” judicial system, seems to have somewhat forgotten its responsibility to fair journalism.  “The function of the press in society is to inform, but [unfortunately] its role in society is to make money.”3  The unsealing of these court records was not a story that was generated by an outcry of the public.  It was a story that was generated in order to sell newspapers.  Unfortunately, we are seeing this trend throughout our country more and more. The newsrooms in our television stations have turned into profit centers and not news centers. The same is happening with our newspapers.  My biggest complaint against the Seattle Times is that when I asked them to allow me to print my version of events, the Seattle Times said, “No”. Just possibly the Seattle Times might want to consider a new motto, “[f]reedom of the press is guaranteed [but] only to those who own one.”4   I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, but . . .

When things start to get tough, when God seems to allow a curve ball to be thrown at us, when great obstacles get in your way, I firmly believe in something once said by Norman Vincent Peale, “[s]tand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven't half the strength you think they have.”5

I firmly believe that we must fight our fears.  Harry Truman said “[w]hen even one American -- who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.”6  I will not be forced to close my mouth.  I will always fight.  I will always persevere.

I firmly believe that it is important that we all stand up for our rights.  If we do not, no one else will.  This is truly the spirit of our nation, the spirit of our founding fathers, the spirit of the civil rights movement.

Last, I firmly believe in faith and encouragement of others.  A past president, who has lived a life in a way that we all would be proud to emulate, is Jimmy Carter.  President Carter, in many ways is a controversial man.  Some people seem to love him, other dislike him.  But, Jimmy Carter is a man of the utmost faith.  This is one of my favorite quotes and one that I strive to live by:

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I'm free to choose what that something is, and the something I've chosen is my faith. Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands -- this is not optional -- my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference. 7

Thank you all very much for taking the time out of your busy days to read my response to the Seattle Times.

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Many of our clients have experienced the tragedy of false accusation and real and lasting threats to their person and profession. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of employment litigation, my story should remind us that no matter who we are or where we come from, we all make mistakes in the middle of good intentions and we all have the ability to overcome mistakes. We are all a part of something greater---something more consequential---we are part of the American family. My experience has taught me that in a country where every race, age, faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; we share common hopes and a common creed; we share a common destiny; and that destiny can only be realized if we understand our own humanity.

Very truly yours,

Bradley R. Marshall                
Attorney at Law




1 James Madison, fourth president of the United States to W. T. Barry, Aug. 4, 1822, 9 Writings of James Madison 103 (G. Hunt ed. 1910).
2 [In 2009, I was eventually disbarred by the Washington Supreme Court. Although eligible for readmission, I remain contemplative as to whether I wish to be readmitted.]     
3 A.J. Liebling A.J. Liebling, 1904 – 1963, American journalist who was closely associated with The New Yorker from 1935 until his death. He was one of the best-known, most entertaining, and most widely admired journalists of his generation in the United States.
4 A.J. Liebling
5 Norman Vincent Peale, 1898-1993, American Reformed Pastor/Speaker/Author
6 Harry S. Truman, 1884-1972, 33rd President of the United States.
7 Jimmy Carter, 1924 - present, 39th President of the United States.