Do you remember the tale of Jeff Murphrey? He was the Houston-based attorney who tried to reschedule a deposition after Hurricane Ike caused significant property damage to his home.
When Dallas-based attorney Dale Markland objected (and requested Murphrey to pay rescheduling fees) Murphrey fired off this letter, which then went viral.
Well apparently Dale Markland (a.k.a J.R Ewing) has responded to Murphrey’s insult by devoting a whole section of his firm’s website to the spat. Here is Markland’s attempt to set the record straight:
* The hurricane in the Houston area occurred on September 12/13;
* Mr. Murphrey cancelled the deposition on September 23 when I was already on my way to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the deposition;
* I first got notice of this cancellation by cell phone message while in Chicago O’Hare Airport rushing to catch my connecting flight to Fort Wayne;
* The voice mail message I received in Chicago stated that Mr. Murphrey cancelled the deposition because he had meetings with contractors and city officials related to hurricane damage. It stated nothing about the horrors Mr. Murphrey addresses in his September 26 letter.
* Our firm’s attorneys attempted to gain Mr. Murphrey’s agreement that our client be recompensed for the unnecessary attorney’s fees and travel expenses entailed in my needlessly going to Fort Wayne. This is appropriate and professional behavior for attorneys who are representing their clients properly under the Texas State Bar Disciplinary Rules and The Texas Lawyers Creed. It is also, in my experience, not abnormal behavior for an attorney properly representing his client. If I had been in Mr. Murphrey’s shoes, I would have paid for the fees and expenses out of my firm’s pocket.
* Mr. Murphrey agreed to pay the travel expenses but declined to pay the attorney’s fees for the useless trip to Fort Wayne.
* It was not my fault or the fault of the client who pays my fees and expenses that Mr. Murphrey did not cancel the deposition until I was on my way to Fort Wayne.
* If Mr. Murphrey had simply picked up the telephone and called me, or had sent me an email or letter sometime between the hurricane on September 12/13 and when I left for Fort Wayne on September 23, I would have gladly agreed to re-set the deposition he had noticed. Then my client would not have been stuck with the fees and expenses of my useless trip to Fort Wayne.
* The first I knew of Mr. Murphrey’s story of horrors regarding his home damage was when I received his September 26 letter–after he cancelled the deposition, after I had made the useless trip to Fort Wayne, after I had appropriately determined whether Mr. Murphrey or his client would pay for the needless fees and expenses and after he had declined to pay my client for the fees.
* I am very sympathetic to Mr. Murphrey and his home situation, but it is not my client’s fault that Mr. Murphrey failed to cancel the deposition before I left, and the client should not bear this significant financial burden. My duty under Texas law is to uphold the interest of my client and that is what I have attempted to do.
More Markland excerpts after the jump.
You’ll note that Markland feels that Murphrey has not only question his honor, but that of Markland’s firm and the entire city of Dallas:
I am glad I am from Dallas, I am proud of the fine group of lawyers who practice in this great city, and I am proud of my actions related to Mr. Murphrey’s late cancellation of the deposition. Dallas, like Houston, has thousands of very professional and capable attorneys, like myself, who represent their clients in a very professional, competent and ethical way. Mr. Murphrey’s implied slam on Dallas attorneys and his slam on me are totally off base and unjustified.
I didn’t read Murphrey’s letter as slamming all Dallas attorneys, but I’m a Yankee.
Markland’s website doesn’t just slam Murphrey, he reserves some fire for scurrilous internet bloggers:
* I guess some might say it was just a funny letter. One might say: “I was just having fun when I disseminated it on the internet.” Your cute joke has had very large ramifications relative to me and every person in our small law firm. To those of you who reached judgments about me and particularly to those who spread their poison to others, I have spent almost 35 years in the practice of law obtaining and retaining a high reputation. To a great extent the fortunes of our law firm and everyone who works for the firm are dependent upon that reputation for their livelihoods. To attempt to destroy that reputation and harm the small law firm involved and all who are in it, is despicable, odious and evil.
* The horrid nature of such a way of thinking and acting–making hateful judgments about people you do not even know, without any substantial basis, and without ever hearing their side of the events, and then passing on those hateful and libelous judgments to thousands of others to harm such people–cannot be tolerated in a free and just society. In this situation, lawyers on internet sites engaged in trial of the accused by mob rule without providing the accused counsel, without requiring evidence, without allowing cross-examination, and without allowing the accused to even testify! Lawyers did this! I say to you anonymous defamers and to you who express your hate to me that I have done nothing wrong. I hold my head high for the protection I have attempted to provide my client. I am very proud that I do not, like you, take poison pen in hand and harm the reputation of those I do not even know.
* All of those who participated in the widespread dissemination of the September 26 letter, and particularly those internet users who felt they had to smear my name and the name of my law firm through their libelous comments to others, and all of those who sent hateful emails to me should be ashamed of themselves. Those who are attorneys should seek other callings. Their attitudes will not foster the cause of justice.
We’re sorry Mr. Markland, but Murphrey’s original letter was funny. Beyond that, it seems like you and Murphrey need to sit down and work things out. Maybe you can even use a “telephone” and talk thing through. But if you insist on using forms of communication that can reach a wider and unintended audience, we’ll continue to do our part.
Good luck guys.
Hurricane “I’m Sorry” Letter Inquiries [Markland & Hanley]
Earlier: Houston: We Have A Problem.