Lawyers John Michael Farren and Mary Margaret Farren were once a storybook couple. If Above the Law had been around in the nineties, they might have made the pages of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. Mary Farren practiced energy law at the high-powered firm of Skadden Arps, where she attained the rank of counsel, and John Farren’s résumé was even more impressive: he served as general counsel to Xerox, a Fortune 500 company, before going on to serve as deputy White House counsel under President George W. Bush.
Their success transcended their impressive job titles. She earned $500,000 a year at Skadden; he made millions as GC of Xerox. They had ample material wealth — $3 million in cash here, a $4.6 million mansion there — and two lovely daughters.
And then things went wrong. Horribly, terribly wrong….
We’ve written extensively in the past about the tragic tale of John Michael Farren, who generally goes by J. Michael Farren, and Mary Farren. The condensed version: Mike Farren, who reportedly has a fearsome temper, allegedly attacked his wife in January 2010, after he received surprise divorce papers from her. According to Mary Farren’s allegations, her husband brutally attacked her — grabbing her by the throat, banging her head against the hardwood floor, beating her with his bare hands and then a metal flashlight — and left her bloody, shivering, and close to dead.
A Stamford jury Tuesday afternoon awarded the ex-wife of former White House attorney John Michael Farren $28.6 million in damages for nearly beating her to death in their New Canaan mansion in 2010.
The jury reached its verdict in favor of Mary Margaret Farren, holding her former husband liable for assault and battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress about 90 minutes after Judge Robert Genuario sent them to begin deliberations.
The deliberations didn’t last long, but Mike Farren didn’t put up a defense. Although he had been representing himself pro se in the months leading up to the civil trial, he did not show up at the trial itself, emailing the court on the day trial was scheduled to start to say he was in a Hartford-area hospital (for unspecified reasons). As a result, Mary Farren and her 19 fellow witnesses testified without cross-examination, and the jury deliberated as to damages rather than liability.
How did Mary Farren’s damages get calculated? They reflect the fact that she went from a high-paid job at Skadden to unemployment:
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Albert Sabella said that even though Farren held a half-million dollar a year job at the Washington, D.C., office of Skadden, Arps, it was questionable if she could be employed anywhere. “Based on my review of the medical record & she would be unemployable for any job,” he said.
As a result of a brain injury caused in the attack and emotional trauma that includes panic attacks and a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she is unable to concentrate, has trouble figuring out how to begin tasks, and is incapable of analyzing information and taking action, Sabella said.
Given the horrific nature of the alleged attack and how it left Mary Farren unable to practice law, a field in which she once excelled, sizable damages are understandable.
The criminal case — in which John Michael Farren faces charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault, and risk of injury to a minor — remains pending. The next scheduled event is a hearing in January.
Congratulations to Mary Farren and her legal team, Ernie Teitell and Paul Slager of Silver Golub & Teitell, on the verdict. This is far from a storybook ending, but as Slager commented, “It is one more step toward justice taking place for Mary Margaret.”
Former White House attorney held liable in ex-wife’s beating [Danbury News-Times via Non-Sequiturs]
Jury Awards $28.6 Million in Damages to Wife for Brutal Beating by Washington Power-Player Husband [ABC News via ABA Journal]