By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Back when men were men, women were women, and lawyers were blessedly fewer in number, newspaper editors and reporters who offended the mighty in print stood a good chance of getting a horsewhipping. Now we're more likely to get sued.
This is yet another sign of the decline of American culture. It's not a good sign for us either: Denton County Judge Darlene Whitten and Criminal District Attorney Bruce Isaacks are suing the Dallas Observer over a parody we published three weeks ago.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Whitten's husband, Michael Whitten, the pair claim the satire "Stop the madness" by staff writer Rose Farley misled many readers into thinking that Judge Whitten had ordered the incarceration of a 6-year-old girl for writing a book report. She didn't. She did order a 13-year-old boy confined for another homework assignment, a decision that we ridiculed with our fictitious story. The lawsuit contends we should have clearly labeled the story as satire. (Maybe we should have stamped a big red clown face on the text. Nah. Too subtle.) By calling the story news, we held Whitten and Isaacks "up to ridicule, contempt, hatred, and financial injury" (KA-CHING!) and impeached their "integrity, virtue, and reputations."
Their virtue is their business. As for reputations, Buzz wonders how Judge Whitten explained the story to her confused constituents: "No, of course I didn't jail a 6-year-old girl for doing her homework. The 13-year-old boy? Um, that part was true." (We made that quote up too.)
Maybe we'll get the real quote when it comes time for depositions. We can hardly wait, though we'd prefer a whipping or a good fistfight -- better a brief pain in the kisser than the endless pain in the ass lawyers inflict. In fact, Farley is ready to place her 5-foot-2-inch, 110-pound body on the line to defend our right to poke fun at politicians. Farley vs. Whitten. No holds barred. Two falls out of three.
Giving till it hurts
Buzz wouldn't want anyone to think that we don't like lawyers -- especially since we were named in Whitten's and Isaacks' lawsuit and need attorneys to defend us. The truth is, we love lawyers. If not for them, the job of newspaper reporter would rank one notch lower on the list of the least respected careers.
So we're happy to bring you some good news this holiday season, as Dallas' thoughts turn to those less fortunate: Some Dallas lawyers will get a big fat pay raise. Ho, ho, ho.
The firm of Bickel & Brewer has decided to pay its first-year lawyers, fresh out of college, $100,000 annual salaries plus $30,000 signing bonuses for joining the firm. That's more than the typical New York City law firm pays first-year lawyers and way, way more than the average paid by Dallas firms, according to Bickel & Brewer's hiring partner, Paul Lackey.
Is your heart warmed yet?
"We're mainly competing with the national players [for new hires]," Lackey says. "The reason we do it is to get the very best people...You can never overpay for the best."
So, this Christmas as you walk past Salvation Army bell-ringers, just keep walking. Tell 'em you gave at the courthouse.
— Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams