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More fuel on the fire

Jul 21 • 199 Views • View Comments

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Last month Charlie Crist was hit with an elections complaint regarding his work for Morgan & Morgan. The complaint outlined:

  • Crist accepting excessive contributions in the form of compensation for actual work performed between his campaign launching in November 2013 up to now
  • Crist and his campaign failing to report contributions received from Morgan & Morgan in the form of compensation

While the FEC continues its investigation into the complaint, this story from the Naples Daily News over the weekend seems to add a little more fuel to the fire.

“Records show that Crist, who is based in Morgan & Morgan’s St. Petersburg office, hasn’t been the named attorney on any cases in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties since joining the firm…” 

The complaint filed last month can be found HERE.

Charlie Crist: Touted as attorney for Morgan & Morgan, but hasn’t been in court
Naples Daily News
Matt Dixon
July 19, 2014
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/state/charlie-crist-touted-as-attorney-for-morgan-morgan-but-hasnt-been-in-court_20759536

TALLAHASSEE _ When Charlie Crist joined Morgan & Morgan in January 2011, the law firm’s well-known founder, John Morgan, said he was happy to get the former Republican governor into a courtroom.

“He is going to try cases,” Morgan told a group of reporters after announcing Crist’s hiring, according to video from the NBC affiliate in Orlando.

“I think if you saw him speak there, I think he will do pretty good in front of a jury in Florida,” Morgan added after Crist addressed a crowd there for the announcement.

Crist was going to “be working primarily in the firm’s class-action department,” according to a news release from the firm announcing Crist’s hiring.

Since taking the job, however, Crist hasn’t frequented many courtrooms.

Records show that Crist, who is based in Morgan & Morgan’s St. Petersburg office, hasn’t been the named attorney on any cases in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties since joining the firm. That was true of only a handful of the firm’s dozens of Tampa or St. Petersburg-based attorneys, according to court records. Those other attorneys had much longer legal resumes than Crist, according to the firm’s website.

During 2013, Crist made nearly $300,000 from Morgan & Morgan, according to recently filed campaign finance reports. He’s now running for governor as a Democrat.

Morgan said Crist hasn’t been in courtrooms because his primary task has been to recruit business for the firm.

“His role has evolved” since he was hired, Morgan wrote in an email to the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau. “We first thought he would work in mass torts. He has been a rainmaker extraordinaire. Wish I had 10 just like him.”

Morgan said his firm got a “huge number” of cases related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill because of Crist. The firm was a member of the “plaintiff’s steering committee,” which took the lead on representing people and industries affected by the spill.

During that time, Crist also was monitoring the spill for the St. Joe Co., one of Florida’s largest landowners. After leaving that company’s board of directors in early 2013, remaining board members gave him a consulting contract worth $182,993, Scripps/Tribune reported in June.

“I was pretty involved (with the oil spill) when I was governor,” Crist said in an interview for that story.

Morgan said many attorneys are never in the courtroom, pointing to the time he worked with the lawyer who became nationally known during the O.J. Simpson trial.

“When I was partners with Johnny Cochran, we only brought him to trial for special cases,” Morgan said, adding: “I don’t run a charity” and stressing that Crist has made the firm money.

Crist said he’s still been trying to recruit business for the firm while on the campaign trail.

“Because of modern technology, anywhere I go I have the opportunity to bring in more cases,” he said during a Monday interview. “It happens every week.”

Morgan said the situation isn’t unique. He pointed to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez and former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, both Republicans, joining prominent law firms after leaving office. Morgan also said he doesn’t see state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, who he hired last week, “going to trial.”

“I do envision her as a rainmaker,” Morgan said.

His firm used Crist as the public face of at least one high-profile case. When Morgan & Morgan filed a federal lawsuit in May 2012 against social media giant Facebook, Crist went on a Tampa television station with Christopher Polaszek, another Morgan & Morgan attorney, to discuss the lawsuit.

Federal court records show Polaszek was a named attorney in the case; Crist wasn’t.

Crist has been in elected office, including serving as attorney general from 2003-07, for all but two of the past 18 years. He last regularly practiced law as a private attorney in the 1980s.

Along with being his boss, Morgan is one of Crist’s biggest political supporters. He has hosted fundraisers for Crist and used his national network of trial attorneys to raise millions for Charlie Crist for Florida, a committee supporting his re-election.

That committee has received $4.2 million from attorneys and law firms, which is about 42 percent of its overall contributions.

Prior to Crist formally announcing his candidacy in November, Morgan & Morgan featured Crist on billboards and television commercials that aired across the state.

It’s not the only “rainmaker” position Crist has held since leaving the governor’s mansion.

Crist made $50,000 in 2013 doing “consulting” work for Coastal Construction, a Miami construction company owned by longtime friend Tom Murphy, who is the father of Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, whose district includes Florida’s central Atlantic coast.

“I introduced the company to other people who need construction done,” Crist said during a June interview.

CONTACT:
Susan Hepworth
Communications Director
(o) 850-241-1827
@shepworth

 

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