By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Turn the tables: Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is at his bullying best when he's dealing with women and children (Buzz, April 5. Also see this week's Jim Schutze column.) Dallas City Councilwoman Laura Miller criticized police Chief Terrell Bolton because of accusations that he reduced police activity at a Northwest Dallas topless bar in 1993. Leading a group of protesters outside Ms. Miller's home, Price and his abusive gang of intimidators carried signs with obscene messages directed toward her. Here we have a white woman with three children being terrorized inside their home by a black elected official and a mob of black demonstrators using profanity in an attempt to frighten and ultimately silence her. Reverse the races in this scenario, and it would make front-page national news. Then this wannabe "leader" has the audacity to proclaim that racism is behind the story about the chief. It seems increasingly obvious that there is a cabal of black officials trying to cover up for a black chief of police.
Editor's note: Since Fred Baron has taken the unusual step of replying to our March 29 cover story, "Homefryin' with Fred Baron," through a full-page ad in the Dallas Observer, we thought it appropriate to respond to some of the issues he raises.
First, Mr. Baron attacks the character of Ken Treuter, a former Baron & Budd employee quoted at length in our story, noting that the Observer had said about Mr. Treuter in a 1995 story unrelated to Baron & Budd, "Credibility, it seems, is not Treuter's strong suit." I will concede that it was an error in judgment on our part not to mention that we had written critically about Mr. Treuter in the past. In fairness to Mr. Treuter, however, Mr. Baron says nothing about the substance of Mr. Treuter's words: that his job at Baron & Budd consisted, in part, of coaching prospective witnesses to lie. Furthermore, Mr. Treuter's recollections echo the accounts of several other former employees with whom we've spoken, including some who have contacted us since the publication of "Homefryin'." We described some of those former employees' accounts at length in our August 13, 1998, cover story about Baron & Budd, "Toxic Justice."
Second, Mr. Baron says that his firm "donated less than 5 percent of the total cost" of the computers purchased for every Dallas district court. This may, indeed, be true, and Observer reporter Thomas Korosec tried to determine the facts--with no help from Mr. Baron. Mr. Korosec attempted to get the exact contribution from other sources as well, to no avail. Interestingly, Baron & Budd lists the purchase among its community accomplishments on the firm's Web site.
Finally, Mr. Baron stated in his letter to the editor (April 5) that "Homefryin'" contained "so many false statements that I can't respond to them all in 300 words or less." This has been typical of Mr. Baron's approach in our dealings with him. He makes a broad, damning statement and offers little of substance to back it up, then attacks the personal character of his critics. We stand by our story.
A virtuous couple: There are few people for and about whom I would be willing to swear on my life, but I would have no hesitation when it comes to Fred Baron and Lisa Blue ("Homefryin' with Fred Baron"). Regrettably, the qualities and virtues of this couple's collective character are not found enough throughout humankind. They circulate honesty, incredible diligence, enormous compassion for all walks of life, and both are as down-to-earth as anybody. If more corporations, lawyers and people thought and acted like Fred and Lisa, we wouldn't need any judges. I wish I could do as much for people as they have.
Executive producer, Cheaters
They give lawyers a bad name: I work as a simple file clerk for a law firm that defends against many of the asbestos cases brought by Baron & Budd. I've taken it upon myself to educate myself on some of the specifics of many of the cases, and to me, not being a legal expert (my job only requires me to know the alphabet), it seems that so many of the cases are almost completely without merit. When I first started, I naturally assumed that the companies my firm was defending were guilty of "big-business negligence." My education has proven that opinion wrong. In every single case I've seen (several dozen), the people suing say they can't remember exactly what products they worked with, let alone that the products have caused problems.
Also, in every single case, the people suing smoked. It wasn't hard to make the connection. I keep wondering why the people involved don't sue the tobacco companies instead. But to me, if you can read, listen or think, then suing the tobacco companies is ridiculous, too. Anyway, again not being a legal expert, the only thing I can see is that a lot of otherwise fine companies are being sued to death by people with little or no claim to real justice. It's all about money. Millions and millions. And believe me, we are all paying for this nonsense in the form of higher product prices. And it certainly makes me wonder--is there no product or industry safe from blood-sucking lawyers? Law firms such as Baron & Budd give a bad name to all lawyers.