I Guess John Edwards Wasn't Available

By now news has broken that the Obama administration hired a New York personal injury lawyer by the name of Eric Turkewitz as the first "White House law blogger."  Yes, the White House will soon have another weblog.

Turkewitz is perhaps best known to the world as the lawyer who sued a Staten Island liquor store on behalf of an alleged robber, who slipped on an icy sidewalk trying to flee the scene of his crime.  He maintains a plaintiffs' personal injury and medical malpractice law firm in Manhattan.  He's quite well known on the web for the "New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog," where Turkewitz spouts off his opinions on everything from oral sex to cross examining doctors for profit.

I've encountered Turkewitz on the web in the past, and even linked to him.  He's a skillful lawyer.  He's an entertaining blogger.  He's probably a decent man, despite the damage he has wreaked upon America's already overburdened insurance industry.  But as the White House's new "public voice" on the law, I predict Turkewitz will be an unmitigated disaster.

First, he's a security risk.  Those who follow legal blogging have suspected for some time that Turkewitz was in talks to take such a position.  He's hinted as much on his blog (which went strangely silent a week ago), on Twitter, and in comments at others' blogs, where he suddenly ramped up the pro-administration rhetoric, even rabidly defending his future masters' attacks on the auto industry in the (now infamously debunked) California Toyota accelerator caseTypically, a man who has been offered a sensitive government position doesn't let the world know it while he's being investigated by the FBI.  What will Turkewitz leak the next time the Obama administration vets nominees for the Supreme Court, as is widely expected to happen this summer if John Paul Stevens retires?

Second, he's not just a security risk because he's loose lipped.  A careful reading of Turkewitz's record as a blogger raises questions about his patriotism, especially as it pertains to the War on Terror.  Consider past reckless statements on Professor John Yoo, whom Turkewitz described as a "torture lawyer".  As I understand it (a friend who serves on staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms the administration was moving to hire a legal commentator for the web), Turkewitz won't be serving the press office, but the office of White House counsel.

If a "ticking time bomb" scenario arises, if Bin Laden or some other high Al Qaeda figure is captured and interrogated, will Turkewitz, as a member of the White House legal team, be able to restrain himself?  Or will he denounce fellow government lawyers as torture artists?

Third, if Turkewitz's past is any indicator, you can forget about changing the tone in Washington, or any hint of civility.  The next time the administration (or perhaps Turkewitz himself) disagrees with a court, can we expect the mockery and hostility that led Turkewitz to denounce a past Supreme Court nominee as "error-riddled" and an "embarrassingly silly hypocrite"?

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, why has the White House chosen a medical malpractice lawyer to speak for it on legal issues?  Is this some sort of payback to Fred Baron and the rest of the plaintiffs' trial lawyer bar?  Is this evidence of some new "health care reform" initiative for the benefit of lawyers who prey on the medical profession?  To my knowledge Turkewitz has never practiced as a constitutional lawyer.  Why has the White House (Obama is also a lawyer, heavily indebted to the trial bar for his election) chosen this man, who is no more qualified to speak about the Constitution than the Geto Boyz, to be its voice on issues such as free speech, national security, and the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate?

This is just the tip of the iceberg where the White House's new law blogger is concerned.  Eric Turkewitz has maintained a public voice for years.  Expect Republicans, and others who care about the dignity of the law, to dig up far more as Turkewitz becomes the administration's new mouthpiece.

It's a shame.  A White House law blog could be a great idea, a tool to engage with citizens about the part of their government many understand least.  But to put it in the hands of a character assassin like Eric Turkewitz?  Rather than "Hope" and "Change", this looks like business as usual for Washington.

Update: 4/2/2010 I suppose I should have guessed that this was an April Fools Day joke on the part of Mr. Turkewitz.  Sneaky New York lawyers, can't trust a one of them.

As documented by Turkewitz, it also appears that you can't trust certain New York newspapers.  I was sure we'd get the right-wing blogosphere with this post, and the media would ignore it.  It turns out (I have a few emails from bloggers I'd tried to deceive, commending Turkewitz's joke and saying "Thanks, but no thanks," to me) that bloggers are a litle more in touch with the calendar than certain big time journalists.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. says

    I wonder if this guy is going to have much to say about the legality of Obama's birth certificate. Probably not. Amerika abanddoned the constitution in 1867.

  2. Rliyen says

    Anybody want to start a pool to see how long he lasts in the position before being asked to leave/forced out/leaving in order to 'spend more time with family'?

  3. says

    Believe it or not, I had actually already heard about this. (Attending certain law schools on the Charles has its advantages in terms of contacts — Obama '91, me '94).

    More incompetent mopery by this administration.

  4. Patrick says

    Les, kindly cut out the birther shit. It's been debunked a thousand times, and my tolerance for it is low today.

  5. Simon says

    Learn to spell. You're an idiot. The fucking Senate approved of President Obama.

  6. Tim Chang says

    I find this to be an absolutely ideal choice, given the Obama's consistent positions against giving the insurance company fat cats more food for the troth. Who better than one who has dedicated himself to fighting for the little guy?

  7. Brettmcd says

    you would think so tim chang. its people like this so called 'medical malpractice lawyer' whove done so much to drive up insurance costs that working people are dependent on the government rather than doctors for their health. i suppose thats fine with people like you but some of us remember the constitution which says that all rights not granted to the government are reserved to the people.

    i guess youve never read the constitution.

  8. PLW says

    According to MY connections at a certain OTHER school along the Charles river, a massive DDOS is planned for the opening day of this fat-cat ambulance chaser's "term".

  9. Tim Chang says

    i'm quite familiar with the constitution, thanks. but it's a proven fact that health insurance companies' business plans involves taking in as much premium dollars as possible while limiting claim payouts. they always rely on rediculous interpretation of policy exclusions to do so.

    i guess you've never read your insurance policies.

  10. REAL Patriot says

    Fuck you, "Patrick", if that is your real name. I've read this so-called blog, and it's pathetic. Boo hoo, we can't use hate speech against protected minorities. Boo hoo, the big bad courts hold companies accountable for their heinous actions.

    The truth is you just can't accept an African-American man in office. You can't accept someone with progressive ideals that will take this country back from Bushco and Halliburton. You're just mad that he hasn't hired some John Roberts or Sam Alito for this job.

    Grow up.

  11. Brettmcd says

    o im quite familiar with the way insurance companies work tim chang. for years my sister suffered from a terrible medical condition. her insurance company paid all of her bills with no problems ever and her doctors gave her the best of care. its people like this 'medical malpractice' lawyer who would take her rights away and force her to suffer and die the way people have to in canada where people have to wait for a week to get a broken arm treated because doctors arent allowed to do their job.

    i suppose its fine with you that my sister would have died young thanks to obama and this 'medical malpractice' lawyer.

  12. says

    Wow, that guy sure sounds like a loser! You really nailed it! You sure know your stuff. I'm glad I found your blog, it looks very useful. I will bookmark this post for later use.

  13. Bob says

    :( It's becoming harder and harder for me to separate satire and sarcasm from complete nut-jobbery.

  14. Patrick says

    Sorry about that DMG. As you can see, some of our readers simply cannot control their passions. I admit that I myself have a dim opinion of this appointment, but I can't allow the sort of hostility and profanity that some of the deleted comments contained.

    As you can see, I've allowed some fairly harsh and profane comments to remain. As for those I chose to delete, good riddance.

  15. Tim Chang says

    I've had the last five comments I've made die in "moderation". It's rediculous that a right-wing blog such as this picks and chooses whatever comments best fit it's agenda. While it continues to slander an excellent choice by the administration.

    That's just way things work around here I guess.

  16. Ted K says

    Are you seriously saying that you believe someone is unsuited for a job in the office of the White House counsel because (among other reasons) he opposes torture? And you're questioning his patriotism on that basis? Given that Barack Obama won a presidential election as an opponent of torture, can you please give me an approximate percentage of Americans who are unpatriotic on the basis of their opposition to a tactic that has been used extensively by repressive governments throughout history, is considered deeply immoral by most first-world countries, and has been repeatedly shown to be an ineffective tactic for intelligence purposes?

  17. Patrick says

    This man has besmirched the names of American heroes Ted, including Robert Bork.

    This man is not fit to carry John Yoo's briefcase, much less to work in the office of White House counsel, an office that used to stand for principles that have made American justice the envy of the world.

  18. Ted K says

    Um. Good one. Would it be even marginally plausible at this point to say that I got it and was just playing along? Clearly too many hours of looking at briefs and decisions made me forget the date.

  19. Patrick says

    Yes it's two weeks from tax filing day Ted. I hope you enjoy paying this leech's salary.

  20. Eric T. says

    Man, you guys have some great readers. A couple even seem to have a sense of humor, which is a real bonus.

  21. says

    Wow, this is rich stuff. I have to agree with Charles above. And I can't wait to read the response from the Geto Boyz. Keep up the good work, Patrick.

  22. says

    I know you guys do this sort of thing yourself, but I lawyers are constrained by their ethics code–which applies even when they are not practicing law—not to make an effort to convince people the false is true. And there is no April 1 exception. For said lying lawyer to accuse those who trusted him to meet his professional obligations of showing a lack of due diligence by not checking his fake facts is gall to the 10th power. Sure, the Times was sloppy, as it often is. But sending out false stories in the current environment is like throwing a match in a haystack. It's no longer funny.

  23. says

    Jack, I don't agree with you even a little.

    By logical extension, lawyers who blog can't use irony or satire or any other device that offers other than an obvious true-on-its-face meaning, right?

    Also, could you please cite the authority for the proposition that lawyers are constrained by an ethics code that applies even when they are not practicing law not to make an effort to convince people the false is true? To what communications does that extend?

    I think it is a rather remarkable proposition that lawyers can't play April Fool's jokes.

    And let's be blunt: the joke only works because a cautious reader would immediately be suspicious, both of Eric's post and Patrick's denunciation. It wouldn't be funny if Eric had reported something utterly believable and consistent that was false. It's only funny because it plays into people's willingness to get angry about politics (and in the process be gullible) and the media's general incompetence and legal illiteracy.

    Someone once said that all satire is a joke between the teller and the listener at the expense of a hypothetical third party who takes it literally.

    [If you're punking us here, well done.]

  24. says

    "lawyers are constrained by their ethics code… not to make an effort to convince people the false is true."

    Methinks Jack is making his own April Fool's joke. Those who are the butts of jokes 364 days a year should at least be able to make their own at least one day a year.