Tribute to Gary S. Freeman, Esq. (1949-2001)
By Jack H. Olender
Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.
46th Annual Awards Dinner
May 12, 2001
On the corner of 17th and Eye Streets, is an empty lawyer's office. Taped to the door is a picture from the internet. It is a picture of a little girl. On the picture, it is written "Isabel standing on her own in Poland." Gary Freeman wrote the words. Gary Freeman represented Isabel. At the successful conclusion of the case, her parents took her to Poland for an intensive and extended therapy treatment program that substantially enhanced the child's capabilities. In our 15 years' association, I don't recall Gary every posting any other pictures or items on his office door. He posted it a week or so before his untimely death last month.
Helping children like Isabel was truly Gary's primary motivation for practicing law. He was a lawyer who really cared. Gary fought hard for his clients. Like a champion prize fighter who isolated himself in a training camp to prepare for a big fight, Gary prepared, prepared, prepared. He prepared the medicine, he prepared the law, he prepared the witnesses and he prepared himself. A physician who is famous for knowing the case backwards and forwards when testifying as an expert, told me that no one had a greater knowledge of all the facts and medicine of a case than Gary Freeman.
And he fought like a tiger. One of our officers who chaired a trial demonstration at last year's D.C. Bar convention told me that Gary's demonstration cross-examination was the best he had ever seen. The combination of out-working and out-fighting the opposition, fueled by deep empathy for the client, made Gary Freeman one of the top trial lawyers of our time.
Shortly after the McDonald's hot coffee case, Gary tried a surgical malpractice case in which he did not expect a 7 figure verdict, let alone, an 8 figure verdict. The extent of permanent injury did not seem that great. But the jury thought the injury was worth $10 million. Stories in the newspapers and on TV would have attested to Gary's abilities as a great trial lawyer to bring in a $10 million verdict in such a case. But Gary decided to avoid all publicity on the case. He felt it might be used, like the McDonald's case, as ammunition for the tort deformers to pass legislation to destroy the rights of innocent tort victims. So there was no publicity whatsoever. It was, in essence, a "secret" verdict. The case took its natural course. The knowledgeable trial judge cut the verdict, the remitter was accepted and the reduced judgment was paid. Gary did not seek publicity even for the 7 figure verdicts he obtained which were fully substantiated by catastrophic injuries. Gary's love for our civil justice system overwhelmed any interest in personal glory.
Gary was at the forefront of the struggle against tort deformers. He gave of his time and his money to preserve our legal system and civil rights. Gary's service to the bar and the community was exemplary. You know he was president of our Trial Lawyers Association. Gary served as chair of the Personal Injury Division of the D.C. Bar. He was on the faculty of The National Institute for Trial Advocacy at Georgetown Law School. He served as voluntary mediator for the Superior Court and for the U.S. District Court.
Gary was active in the Trial Lawyers Foundation and other charitable organizations. I am here to testify to his extraordinary skilled and patient mentoring of younger lawyers in our office, and many outside lawyers who would regularly call him for advice, usually when he was busily engrossed in his own case, but he would never turn them down.
Gary was able to do all these things and at the same time, he was a devoted husband to his beloved wife Cindy and an enthusiastic father to his treasured son Josh. He did not ignore quality of life and was an avid ballet and jazz fan and a world traveler.
Gary Freeman was the product of a great public interest law school - Antioch. Gary continued to support the successor school - UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. The Gary Freeman Scholarship Foundation has been established at the Law School and there will be a public memorial service for Gary at the Law School on Tuesday, June 5, at 5:30 p.m.
In the D.C. Legal firmament, Gary is fairly summarized by two prominent defense lawyers. One writes:
Gary handled every matter with the highest degree of professionalism, ethics, expertise, civility, respect for the legal system and regard for the humanity of all persons involved in his cases. In a now unfairly foreshortened career, Gary established himself as among the first rank of plaintiffs medical malpractice attorneys, but even more importantly, he proved that it could be done with subtle wit, consummate style, and good grace. I cannot tell you how sorely I miss him already.
The second defense lawyer writes:
I was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Gary S. Freeman. We have all lost a great lawyer, a fine gentleman and a friend. In every case I had with Gary, it was always apparent to me how much Gary genuinely and truly cared about the personal welfare of his client. That was always paramount in the way he approached the case.
I have had the privilege to present awards recognizing Heroes in Law, Champions of Justice, Advocates of Justice, among others. To my thinking, Gary Freeman is all of them. No one better followed the teachings of Hillel:
"What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man; this is the whole law; the rest is mere commentary."
"Justice, Justice, you shall pursue."
We have all lost a great friend, colleague and role model. May Gary's memory be a guide and a blessing for us all.