Friday, December 16, 2011

David Faces Goliath

In any public scuffle between a lowly lawyer and the Malloy administration, one would ordinarily cast the lawyer in the role of David, slingshot at the ready.

But in this case, Rich Rochlin – who, we are told, toiled in obscurity until he, a bit like David, bumped into Goliath – has some physical characteristics that one of Malloy’s men, the formidable Roy Occhiogrosso, finds amusing.

Mr. Occhiogrosso, who during his long and eventful career toiled more or less in obscurity before he joined forces with Goliath, does not hold back. An aide to Mr. Malloy has attributed to Mr. Occhiogrosso a remark that Mr. Rochlin “seems not to be playing with a full deck.''

In one scene recorded for posterity by journalistic embed Ted Mann, an able reporter for the Hearst chain of newspapers, Tim Bannon, Mr. Malloy’s Chief of Staff, receives from Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo’s chief aide a salty response to Mr. Malloy’s persistent criticism of Mr. Cuomo: “We operate on two speeds here: Get along, and kill." Mr. Occhiogrosso seems to have internalized the aide’s operative principle:

“The guy is everybody’s worst impression of a lawyer,’’ Occhiogrosso said of Mr. Rochlin. “He’s like a cartoon character. Hopefully, this guy’s 15 minutes of fame are up soon. … There are several pieces of silverware missing from the drawer. As to what happens to Rich Rochlin, hopefully he just goes away. He’s achieved his objective. This has been a fairly unusual and odd marketing campaign. We’re done dealing with him.’’

Mr. Roachlin is representing a handful of state workers vilified in the media for having allegedly – an investigation is underway – fraudulently applied for a federal handout following Connecticut’s freak snow storm in November.

Mr. Roachlin has been described in some media accounts as “a colorful character with a beard,” a “hard-charging lawyer who has hurled rhetorical bombs at Malloy and his aides in an unorthodox style that included showing up at Malloy’s press conference,” a “newcomer to politics,” unlike Mr. Occhiogrosso, also a colorful character who began his long and eventful career politics and a union “go-fer” tutored by Leo Canty, the union impresario still battling, after all these years, Connecticut’s governmental Goliath.

Mr. Roachlin has been characterized by Mr. Occhiogrosso current boss, the media shy Governor Dannel Goliath, as “a $250-per-hour lawyer who would say whatever was necessary to help his clients,” somewhat like Andrew McDonald, the governor’s current Legal Counsel or Michael Lawlor, the governor’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, both of whom are gold plated lawyers. Mr. Malloy's otherwise exemplary life has also been marred with a law degree.

Much to his credit, Mr. Occhiogrosso has been spared the indignity of attending law school or representing clients before the bar. When Mr. Occhiogrosso needs to lawyer-up, he hires one.

Chris Keating, a Hartford Courant reporter and one of its best diggers, disclosed in his report that Mr. Occhiogrosso had once hired the “cartoon character” to represent him in a legal dispute Mr. Occhiogrosso had with a contractor who, given Mr. Occhiogrosso operational principles, one hopes is still alive.

Mr. Roachlin, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, has returned Mr. Occhiogrosso’s fire:

“Roy is on my marketing team. He keeps extending my 15 minutes by 10 minutes every night. I thought he was a pro, but he’s getting schooled by a novice, so I feel for him. I thought this guy was a pro. This is amateur hour. It’s like he just came out of an online school for communications. How pathetic. If he needs advice on how to personally attack me, he has my number. He’s keeping me in the news. I thank him for that. … He’s making all the classic mistakes. My clients’ story is getting out. The governor’s administration is being exposed as incompetent. The governor won’t look at the evidence, so we have to keep talking about it.’’

The out-take message for Goliath might very well be: Don’t sweat the small stuff; save the howitzers for the big guys.

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