Jan 20, 2012

This week, we tried a medical malpractice case in Denver that finished yesterday. Today, our Denver jury begins deliberation on a case that we expect to win.

Sadly, on the eve of this major trial, my close friend, mentor, and frequent trial co-counsel, Mike Hodges, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. When I learned of Mike's passing, I was out of state preparing for this malpractice trial. In fact, I even missed Mike's well-attended memorial. I know that Mike would have been the first person to tell me to take care of my client's pre-trial matters, but, I still feel terrible for missing my chance to say good bye to my friend. So perhaps, this message is my own way of doing that.

In life, you have friends, and then you have Friends. Friends are the folks you truly trust who have your back. If you have one or two these amazing "I'm here for anything you need" Friends in life, you should consider yourself blessed. Mike was my Friend. Moreover, with a decorated 40 year legal career, Mike was a mentor to me and my generation of trial lawyers. Mike frequently dropped everything to help me whenever I had a legal question, needed help with trial strategy, or just wanted to chat. And, when Mike finally gave in and bought himself a smart phone, the poor man fielded my questions day and night.

On Christmas morning of last year, as he was recovering from back surgery, Mike emailed me to address something I needed help with. In our email exchange that day, Mike did not even mention that he was still recovering from back surgery that he had undergone a few days earlier. Truly, Mike put everyone else's needs before his own. This might sound like something people always say about the recently departed, but in Mike's case, it is gospel.

A few years ago, Mike came to me and asked if I would co-counsel his trials with him. I never divulged this to anyone because Mike insisted that I keep it in confidence. Yes, a legend like Mike Hodges picked me to do trials with him. I felt privileged and honored by this request because Mike once served as the President of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. Mike told me in the strictest of confidence that he was having heart issues and that his doctor was asking him to ease off trial work. I was proud to work with him. After all, he knew all the trial lawyers in Colorado on a first name basis, and of all those trial lawyers, he selected me.

His clients were great and we spent the last several years, even as recently as last April, trying meaningful cases together.

From Mike, I learned just how dignified a trial lawyer can be. Mike was capable of street fighting with the best of them. Mike could be tough, yet at the same time, he was always a gentleman. Even when he was suffering from health issues, Mike remained dignified and worked through the pain to help his clients. When it was time for court, a deposition, or client meetings, Mike was always focused, professional, and skilled. Clients felt comfortable with Mike because no one treated his clients with more respect and with more caring regard than Mike.

As I told you earlier, I learned of Mike's death as I was preparing for a rapidly approaching trial. Despite my deep, deep feelings of grief over the loss of my friend and mentor, I pushed forward and diligently continued my trial preparation because that is what Mike would have told me to do. Mike would have told me, "You have a job to do."

The trial started on January 17, 2012, and it was a medical malpractice case that involved an unnecessary surgery, a bad post-surgical result, and a doctor who manufactured reports after the fact to cover his errors. The doctor even purged x-rays to avoid the truth from coming out.

This particular doctor had his license taken away from him in Texas, but, lucky for Colorado citizens, our Medical Board saw no problem in letting him set up shop here. Mike would have loved this case.

The trial went well, our client presented exceptionally well, and the doctor couldn't have been any worse. During trial, we discovered other misdeeds and cover ups by the doctor and got all the evidence in front of a well-educated jury of Denver citizens. At one point, the doctor confessed that he regularly includes conversations that he did not actually have with his patients in their medical records because of "legal considerations." Yes, he actually admitted in open court that if you read a record from him that says "I discussed with the patient ...," it is possible that he never discussed anything of the sort with that patient and made up the conversation for the records to protect himself from legal liability.

So, as we are waiting for the verdict from this trial, I think back to numerous recent trials where my friend and mentor waited out the results with me.

The thing Mike would say to me today, as he had so often in the past, would be something like, "The important thing isn't what the jury awards, it is how you presented your client's case. If you left it all in the courtroom, you should hold your head up high." I will hold my head up high.

Now it's the jury's turn to do their job as the "conscience of the community." I know Mike is watching and waiting out the result with me and I know he would say, "You left it all in the court." I know somewhere, Mike is pleased.

Mike, this one is dedicated to you. You fought the good fight, you finished the course, and you kept the faith. Good bye, and rest in peace my friend.


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