Alisa Richman and Marc Richman
DescriptionAlisa Richman (40) talks to her father Marc Richman (74) about his career as an attorney in Dallas and their shared work.
Subject Log / Time Code
Recording LocationDallas Public Library, Oak Cliff Branch
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00:05 My name is Alisa Richman. I am 40 years old. Today is Friday, October 25th. We are in Dallas, Texas and I am interviewing Marc Richman who is my father. I am Marc Richman and I am her father and it is Friday, October 25th in Dallas, Texas.
00:28 How old are you 74 years old?
00:36 I wanted to ask you a little bit about your legal career, which has been very interesting because you started out doing mostly criminal defense and civil rights work. Is that right? How did you get started out doing that kind of work?
00:52 Well, my father was also a lawyer buddy owns and drug stores and one day when I was about 17. He asked me yet. What I plan to do or what I thought about doing for the rest of my life or had I given that any thought and I said, I'll just go work in the drug stores with you and he said yeah, that's okay. But you said you really should learn something that nobody can take away from you and I said, well, what do you mean by that? He's well, you should learn be a doctor lawyer of dentist EB a finish Carpenter or welder, but just something that
01:35 You can work for yourself that nobody can ever take that away from me. I can take the drug stores away from me. If I sell them which by the way parenthetically he did do and he must have known that at the time that he was going to do that because that's why he gave me that advice and I had a brother-in-law I was a lawyer and I went to work I said, I'll go to work with Fred time. He's my brother-in-law and I went there and I worked about two weeks there when I was 17 or 18 years old and that law office and I went this is what I want to do.
02:11 And that's really all I've done when that's not all I've done. I have been a lawyer since.
02:21 Since 1970 but I went to work for a law firm in 1963. I have been several other things in addition to a lawyer but that's that has been my primary method of making a living and it has been a wonderful life family who had one career all along and knew that was what they wanted to do. I think yeah, that's that's was a gift. It has been a gift for me and it is a settling thing for me because I can always fall back on that. I knew if I did other things which I did do many of the things I always knew I had that to fall back on and it was always very comforting and I have really enjoyed the practice of law. It has been intellectually stimulating. It is fed my family. And the finest people I have ever met or a lawyers.
03:19 And and judges and people involved in the
03:26 In the law and I've got to do a lot of things that I never would have had a chance to do had I not been a lawyer and I learned about the diamond business by representing people of diamond business. I learned about the airline business representing Airlines learn about the hotel business representing hotels.
03:49 In my earlier career practice lot of criminal law and I represented the Black Panthers and the Bandido motorcycle gang skin flick theaters early in the time one that was a big deal and I represented the Banshees a number of the motorcycle clubs and just got to meet a lot of different people got to do a lot of different things and it's just been a great life so far to the law to talk about this talk about that a minute because you always said you'd never be a lawyer. I was a trial lawyer in and you always said I'm not ever going to do that. I was kind of surprised and I never pushed you in that direction. I was kind of surprised when you told me that you wanted to do that then the talk to me about that. What caused you to make that decision?
04:48 Well, I had been working in it have corporate finance and I really kind of liked working in the corporate world, which was not your thing. I know but I liked it and I think I did well there and it was successful but it was the kind of situation where once you learn your job. It's really interesting when you're engaging when you're learning the job. But once you've learned it, then it kind of becomes boring until you get promoted.
05:13 And then you know the higher up you go the longer it takes to get promoted and I am not very motivated when I'm bored. So I wanted a job that wasn't waiting around half the time being bored and you always spoke very highly as you just did about being a lawyer. So I thought maybe I'd like a project-based job would be better for me. So it worked out.
05:36 Pretty well. I think I miss some things about my old job. But what do you miss about your old job I miss.
05:45 The structure of having a boss who can tell you what they want and we Appliance now, but obviously it's our job to interpret for them and and help them decide. What's possible.
05:59 So that really know what to ask for and I missed the Solitude of being able to work in a spreadsheet by myself for half a day, and I'm constantly being interrupted Now by
06:11 Phone calls and emails people coming in. So I'm just that it's hard for me to focus. Sometimes the people aspect of practicing law is what I really have enjoyed the most getting to meet people and getting to deal with people. My dad told me when I was younger than people like you you always do. Okay, and I have been very successful.
06:37 In that regard because I really like people and they apparently can tell that I like them. So they like me back and returned and that's worked out really well for me and it seems like it worked out well for you because everybody I talk to about you says that same thing with a likeable intelligent person you are and how much they enjoy being around you. I thought that's that's a special deal for me cuz you know, you're my daughter.
07:06 Yeah, we're people people I guess you could say and it's not right but it's made my life full and it's one of the things that's helped my practice, you know, I represented everything from
07:24 Axe Murderer and baby rapers to judges and people share us constables a large private part of my practices representing public elected officials city councilman and going from one swing to the other is kind of interesting, but it will if that's what's really made the practice. So interesting. I really don't know what's coming to the door could be an airplane crash in Peru or it could be so much criminal work anymore because I represent the sheriff and a constable and I became a police officer which kind of put a crank on my criminal work helping the sheriff and drafting warrants and helping him in court and legal liaison officer for the sheriff in the Constable represented a lot of them over the many years.
08:24 County when somebody dies or somebody seriously injured in jail and they sue the county I generally represent the elected officials the sheriff or the deputies who were involved and when they get sued that I do that it's kind of strange going from the Bandidos to the deputies, but it was it was a transition that that happened to get was in my early career was representing. Like I said the Black Panthers and the Motorcycle guys and Sue in civil rights cases suing the government on civil rights cases and those days there was it was before my nail case. There's a case called my now and monel was the first case that made the cities and counties in governmental entities liable for monetary damages prior to that you could sue the county or you could sue the city.
09:24 That all you could get was injunctive relief, you know, the court would say, okay how you really shouldn't have killed that guy. So quit killing guys in jail, and there was no money or no, no way to get any money from the municipal at or governmental entities. And when that case came out that is the United States Supreme Court case and they said that governmental entities are people and so editor covered under the 1983 statute. And so they're liable for damages that kind of changed everything. So I had sued some of the County's for that and some of the practices some of the jail practices and all and some of the police officers who wanted their conditions changed and they wanted them to pay raises and I want better working conditions overtime pay and things like that. And so they wanted somebody who wasn't afraid to sue
10:21 The government and so few of them came to me for Union some of the Union Sheriff Union Gas came to me and asked me if I would represent them in a lawsuit against the sheriff in that in the County's and I did that and what we had some success in doing that and then that was that your first time representing a police officer and the union case. Yeah. That was my first time before that. I was spending my time soon them but actually they wanted somebody who wasn't afraid to sue the county. So I I didn't and the sheriff and I was successful and then the sheriff needed some help on some things and so he asked me if I'd represent him against the county to get pay raises in to get conditions in the jail and some of the other things and I agreed to do that and I was had some success success in doing that represent of the sheriff and the count
11:21 Animals and then energy again, but sure who was the first sheriff you represent was asherah poles or before that it was I was probably Clarence Jones. It was only share for one year, but the first sheriff that I represented a great deal was the first Republican Sheriff entech to sense their reconstruction fell by name a Carl Thomas till I fall guy and he he got elected actually on the because he was Republican. He was not a well-known figure here, and I'm represented him.
12:02 And then against the county and then by the county start a fire in me, and so that's where I am. Now. I'm working for the county. We used to joke about that. That's a went to the dark side of the force. When I started representing the county that work to those people are good people and they it's a big leg up when you represent the government because the king is always right and so it is very very difficult to succeed and a case against the government and so from that side of it it it was a different deal because break only when you're selling them in your the plaintiff
12:53 That you frequently don't get paid and it's just one of those things you take all of your labor of love and because you're not going to get paid and when you're on the other side representing the government you don't get paid a lot, but you do get paid and you're going to get paid Win Lose or Draw. So that's going to change to what does your practice is basically a collection practices. Yes, you have a very broad practice and I have a very specific practice which is one of the ways in which we are very different but I want to talk more mine's boring to talk about. I mean, I like it but it's not interesting. Yeah, you're obviously. Thank you. So when you started representing the counties in the government government agencies that that that cut down on your criminal work did away with it. I have some words to work for me and they do some small stuff, but I really can't try that again. It's difficult for me to do that and
13:53 Again, I represent the sheriff and a lot of the constables in some of the judges and so it's it's just a conflict for me to be involved in criminal cases. The truth of it is that was my first love and I really do always like criminal law because it was there was always was always different and I was always there's always something to say, you know, you can always find something to say and then I do a lot of people don't understand how you can represent somebody who you know did what they were accused of doing but almost everybody has something to say about why they did that things don't happen in a vacuum and you can help them by explaining why they did what they did even if they're the ones who did it and occasionally you find people that didn't do it and that are not guilty that happens more often than you'd like to thank actually
14:52 Yeah, well that's been made clear by then Edison's project Mark we have here where a lot of people have been exonerated on DNA evidence for cases that it is a proclivity of police officers to show up and make a pretty quick judgment as to what happened. And if they figure that defendant J. Did this they pretty much
15:25 Do the investigation with an I that defended OJ is the guy that they're looking for and if frequently if somebody comes up and says I saw a defendant January 4th the five foot five white guy and somebody says right after the gunshot. I saw a 6 with two black I ran out the back door. They don't even write that down because they're pretty sure that defended OJ did it and they do the investigation with that in mind and unfortunately it really 98% of the time. They're right. They come to the right conclusion 98% of the time and into percent, you know, there's a million criminal cases a year.
16:18 Help them all over the United States 2% A lot of people who who catch a bad rap and it's funeral and and there's like I said, there's explanations a lot of times but Walt done something but there's an explanation of why they did it.
16:35 You had all speaking of and representing people who you know did some bad things used to represent a lot of biker gang guys, right and their criminal work. Didn't you have a case where you thought the government was kind of snooping on you and one of those cases federal judge in San Antonio and Judge Woods was assassinated by
17:08 I feel about the name up for well. It's actually Woody Harrelson's father who did the assassination but at the time they were of the opinion that the Bandidos did that and they knew I represented him so that FBI came to me and said, you know that they wanted me to
17:27 Find out who it was a did that and they said tell all of the bandito chapters that will clear every case. They have will go away. If I just tell us who killed judge was cuz they were pretty sure it was the Bandidos again. It was not actually the Bandidos, but they were sure that it was and
17:51 So when I went to the collapse and they all said no, I wouldn't ask but everything to do with it and I can pay that back to the FBI. They start filing cases on all these some of them are just terrible cases, but they just started loading these guys up with criminal cases mean terrible. Like they were not they were cases that they could improve but they just filed them anyway, and some of them just weren't good cases. And so I was trying one of those cases and which later got reversed for the got convicted cuz he was a Bandido and he was he was evil looking guy and that the crime was a pretty serious crime has a murder and later got reversed because there wasn't enough evidence to convict him, but he was a Bandido. It was a murder the police already did it and so they convicted him. It's one of those.
18:51 Cases Betty White during that trial the FBI used to come into my office at night and read the files and look at stuff and I I thought it was a cleaning crew going through so I put some money in the drawer was waiting to see if the money would disappear another money disappeared when I finally figured out who it was it was getting in their eye and we're getting towards the end of the trial and I left the file on the table on my desk actually and I put a sticky note on there and I said that when you finish reading it, would you please put it back in and alphabetical order in the file cabinet? And they did it the next morning. It was kind of thought that it did it do whatever they want to do and they could pretty much could do whatever they wanted to do. They did they took pictures of everybody in my
19:48 Coming and going out of my office and they put a pin pen register on my phone which doesn't have the conversation but it rent it writes down every number that was called. So that was kind of interesting. I found out later because I represented an FBI agent who told me about all of it later. I rather suspected that's what they were doing, but it was all and all kind of work out in the end. I guess like it does.
20:19 Do you miss doing that kind of work very much. I really do like it. I really do like it.
20:28 All of the people are characters in their interesting people and their
20:34 They're in their own way. They had sort of their own code about a lot of things. It's pretty much I've seen a lot of the Bandidos go to prison because they wouldn't testify against any of their brothers and they could have walked in on the stage of students at nope. Not doing that. There are some to do it and when you're looking at life in prison or a long stretch imprisoned and tends to loosen the tongues of most people do you see that political particularly in these politics in the recent what's going on in Congress and the investigation of this Administration? It's going to start that once they get the ball rolling the first two or three guys it start testifying about it then, you know, first guy to the dinner table gets the most meal. So then everybody starts turning
21:34 And wants everybody starts turning the deals over pretty much that's how they solved 99% of all the the big drug cartel transactions and all that. They start getting mid-level guys turning over people and they just go up the chain. That's how it works.
21:54 When you are doing this work when you were younger and when my sisters and I were younger you were doing all this criminal defense work your mother-in-law. My grandmother is very proper Southern lady and I'm sure there were a lot of people who thought it was odd that you were doing. That kind of work. Did you ever get any flak from your parents are from your in-laws about the kind of work you did and who represented? No, not for my parents and not for my in-laws my mother-in-law. I have another one of the fortunate aspects of my life. I even love my mother-in-law and my father-in-law they were wonderful.
22:32 Know there'd be a lot of snide comments. You know, there's a nice Jewish boy doing all this criminal work you go to parties and things like that and people would go. Well, you're a criminal lawyer, you know, like that was you like you had a tail or something like that and you know you by became defensive about it early on and then I quit worrying about it, you know, I was so I'll be doing what I love doing it occasionally. I was helping people, you know, and sometimes you're not sometimes you just prolonging the inevitable you have some clients, you know, they get in trouble and you get them out of trouble and they get in trouble again to get him out of trouble you go. You know, that's one of the b-back boys. He's going to be back and least. He's going to keep going till he can't go anymore, but most criminal defendants.
23:25 If I get a break, it's it makes a big difference makes a big difference in their life. I have two or three people who I consider to be some of my real successful deals kids generally children kids 17 18 19 20 year old kids and made a really bad mistake by a quirk of Fate you are able to really help them and not not have a criminal record. One of them is right. Now, I see him all the time. He's a CPA and then there's another one who was
24:03 Went to Country Club stole some stuff at the Country Club and we worked out something on that name now is owns a large insurance company, you know what those kind of people in they they they took the hint.
24:19 And a lot of most people I would say most people to get in some kind of trouble don't really there's a hardcore Cadre of criminals are just going to be criminals and there's nothing nothing you can do about that. But most people they just made a mistake. I would say 60% of the people have made a mistake a bad mistake bad judgment or whatever and they're not really going to do that again, probably and they're not going to be a continuing problem.
24:52 So but when you get catch a felony conviction is really Alters your life completely can't get it really good job. You can't I don't even think you can be a barber. If you have a felony conviction. It's it's it's it's a fight on some of us before even when they did what they did.
25:12 If you go down there and try to speak up for him and try to get somebody to give him another chance. That's a large portion what you do when you're in criminal law, you know, it's not like as exciting. It is on TV the guy that jump up in the audience and confessed to the crime that happened in the old Perry Mason series, but it didn't really happen to life like 40 to 48 minutes into Perry Mason. I think usually is exactly what happened. What it's like a hundred cases and that's for every hour of trial you have a day of preparation and it's it's a it's most trials are designed not be exciting particular civil trials cuz you've done a lot of Discovery. So boring. Yeah, it is terrible to take a position. So, you know what everybody's going to say and you know,
26:12 You read all the documents. You know what they say. That's why I 98 or 99% of the civil cases. No really go to trial wants everybody discover. What the what's going to happen or discover? What's there and you find out what their defenses are or what their claims are.
26:32 People settle the case which is out of me. Yeah. Yeah. I have a lot of people who say they want to come watch me and Court when I have a hearing or something and I say no no, you don't so boring going to be waiting for 45 minutes when everyone else goes first, and then I'm going to go up there. You're not even going to be able to hear what I say. The judge is going to sign a piece of paper after 4 minutes and then we're going to leave it's not no one's going to be beating a table saying you can't handle the truth at all.
27:00 And I as well, you don't know cuz you're not on any social media as we like to discuss frequently. You don't understand why people post everything on social media, but I take pictures of all the courthouses in Texas where I go. So I travel you know what to do no work all over the state. And so if I go to a smaller County, I take a picture of the courthouse and always posted up and people always think it's the only time traveling and on a glamorous exciting life it is but really are just, you know, try not to get lost on a country road somewhere hoping to get to the courthouse on time hoping you're not going to get home town by the local guy who's brother-in-law of the judge.
27:40 Yeah that happens. If it does it's has happened to me and I'm sure it will happen again in the future. I've been on both sides really bad because generally if you if you go out of town, you don't know the judge and the prosecutor is and all and you just some big town lawyer that showed up to help this guy in so they don't generally catch you a lot of slack in civil cases. It's kind of the same way because of civil cases for the judge. He's particularly in small counties. The judges have their guys at practice in front of all the time and contribute to their campaigns and you know who put out yard signs and who talk to their friends and say, you know, you need to vote for judge smithing and when I show up from Dallas and I'm a hundred and fifty miles away from his County and although I'm not
28:40 Marv any benefit to him and I'm just there to try the case. And so sometimes that's the case that particular if you have a local lawyer and many many times judges are really pretty fair. I agree. Some of them don't always do the right thing, but honestly try to do the right thing, I agree and I think you telling me about the stories about getting home town and you know going into it a little tiny place with the big city lawyer, which a lot of smaller towns are considered the Dallas lawyers big city lawyers, Dallas and Houston lawyers that it's made it easier for me to do while cuz that's part of what I really like about the job is you got to figure out what that person you're talking to if it's a judge or if it's opposing counsel or if it's a pro se person who doesn't have an attorney on the other side. What do they want? And how do you give that to?
29:40 As best you can also making sure that your client gets what they want and it's almost like a little puzzle when you go into a little town cuz you don't know what kind of Judge that judges or what kind of courtroom the running, you know, is it formal do you check in with a bale of first never approach the bench or is the judge not wearing a robe and having a conversation with everybody in the courtroom before the hearing starts that makes it fun to not know a little bit and to figure out on the Fly how to best get to the result. You want the sheriff in Fort Worth. They indicted this year from Fort Worth the number of years back and I represented him and I still laugh about it the prosecutor I want whenever they were introducing everybody and then we had a jury panel in there. He was going this Dallas lawyer over here like 35 miles away.
30:40 Real cuz you're from Dallas, but the people in Fort Worth in those days. That was that they did not really much care for Dallas and they thought Dallas didn't care for them. But the fact that matter is the people who judges in Dallas don't care. If you're from Fort Worth and neither do the jury, but some of the small counties that it is it is a different circumstance and it's a it's a lot of fun to try cases. I know people don't understand how lawyers are kick the table and jumping talk bad and stick their finger in other lawyers face. And then after it's over, you know, they go on to something else about two or three percent of the lawyers in Dallas try most of the cases. So there's like 10 or 12 big Insurance defense lawyers when I was a plaintiff's lawyer doing planets work you end up knowing them all cuz they represent the insurance companies. And so while you may have hotly-contested lawsuit when you was over you'll have a beer with a guy, you know,
31:40 Another case with him next week and you're going to probably settle that case you don't try but one out of if you do 20 and so is everybody zip guys who try a lot of cases treat each other with dignity and respect as a general rule. That's not hard fast rule, but as a general rule and you can trust us gas believe it or not. I can go into 1 of a fraction criminal law I could walk into a courtroom make a deal on a guy's life shake hands on it and I had a deal today. I was a deal he was going to keep his word on the deal. You can be in divorce court and have have it written down with fingerprints on it and swear to it in front of your notary public and they sometimes don't that doesn't work and that's not enough but it just to know my practice area since it's so small as the same way. It's a lot of the same lawyers.
32:40 A lot of lawyers who represent the big Banks who I deal with on garnishment cases on your word is your bond among them because we have cases together all the time and you would never go sideways on a deal that you'd agreed to plus you can call them and say hey, I've got this other guy on the on the other side of this case. Do you know anything about him and and you can usually get a good answer of yes, you could hear you're in good hands you guys will work this out or get everything in writing never the case maybe which makes it a lot easier to practice and I was in high school and I start working in that's okay. You can go over the courthouse and if the lawyer tells you something you this is pre Watergate lawyer tells you something, you know, it's okay you you got to do then worry about it. If it is the general it'll be the truth and you can rely on him stick behind that now it's going to be careful get everything in writing and I think the
33:40 Cause of that he was there a lot more lawyers and since they're a lot more lawyers in a general area. You don't run up against the same lawyer each time. So you don't suffer the consequences of being a jerk because it's a new lawyer station. Is it is it greatly enhances the likelihood of people treating each other with more dignity and respect and truthfulness and honesty and and I think judges since the judges in Texas are elected they put up with a lot of stuff some of the stuff that you see in this state courtrooms. You don't see the federal court rooms, cuz of federal judges have a job for life. And and if you have a chat with a lawyer misrepresents something that they just they'll just unwind on you if you do that and I actually like that better now, that's how it should be.
34:40 Agree with you 90%. I know we've discussed this before but people who make lawyer jokes just not funny to me because lawyers who I work with are some of the most honest hard-working people that are out there are trustworthy people. So it's not that I don't have a sense of humor about our profession. It's just that it's not doesn't ring true to me when people talk about lawyers being thieves and cheaters and I had lawyers that were jerk, but you know what I had plumbers that were jerks I've had accountants that were jerks. I've had do you know welders that werger clients that was so I'm it's legal profession. Is it free of that certainly, but it is it is less prevalent than most people think
35:28 I always start out when I talk to a lawyer and it and I'm beyond high-level cases death in the jail case, you know, those are big cases and you'll get lawyers coming in from Chicago or New York and by and large every one of those guys, you know, you talked to him and I can look let's do this all stuff the easy way, you know anything that I know you're going to get what you're going to get at. You don't even have to file motions and vice of reveal do that. I'll do that and we shake hands and definitely tell works out cuz everybody a lot of slacking saves everybody a lot of time and dealing with really good lawyers is better than dealing with bad lawyer. That's much easier you're going to get anyway and bad lawyers don't have any idea what they're doing and they make everything five times harder than it needs to be.
36:25 Ave a all the great new for grandkids, who do you think is most likely to be a lawyer keep it a fourth generation going
36:36 I don't know. They're all too young for me to make that determination and I probably won't live long enough to see any of them. Go to college. So I don't know. I don't know. I never thought you'd be I can't tell you how proud I am that you are and you're a great one, but I never thought you'd be you always said you didn't want to do that. You see me, come home dragging my code through the back door with me and try on you and I'm not going to do that. I don't remember that but I still don't want to be a trial lawyer and I'm not and I still don't want to do that. I love going to trial the what I don't like is having to memorize 3000 pages of stuff to get this trial. That's what I'm my walk to is sliding away at 75 for that. I'm probably cognitively and I am probably able to get up on my hind legs and do better than I could when I was 35.
37:36 And knowing the law and and know the rules and no one had to use the rules but the bigs try and big stuff is just so time-consuming it like I said, text Ed J A preparation for every hour trial when you finally decide to retire and will be a huge loss for me. I know.
38:03 Okay, I have really enjoyed having you downstairs or what we have different Law Offices. I have always enjoyed having you downstairs or we can go to dinner. I practice law with my dad for 20 years if it was.
38:22 Maybe the best 20 years of my practice.
38:30 All right.