53: Paco Duarte
Welcome to trial or talk. I'm Scott Gloves Ski. And I'm your host for this podcast. Her we speak with some of the best trial lawyers in the United States. We simply have great lawyers to great stories from cases that had a profound impact on them. So let's get started and I'm really excited to be sitting with a great trial lawyer. I have a habit of saying phenomenal trial. Lawyer and Francisco to worte. Palko is a trailer that handles both criminal cases and civil cases his based out of Seattle but is truly a gifted genuine authentic trial lawyer and an especially talented teacher of trial lawyers. Palko thanks for being with us. Hi Scott good to be with you. It's been a long time. He thrilled to see you again. So my eyes have finally come to lay upon you after so many years. I don't know five six years. Maybe he'd be more far. Dong has been far too long indeed. But it's so wonderful to be with you. Thank you feel good. Can you share with this story of a case that had a profound impact on you dipping? Several maybe many And as I think back on my cases They all seem to start to blend in one way or another mainly because When you work with someone and you have the honor and a privilege to represent a human being who come to you and said I won you. I trust you and at one you to be my spokesperson. It's an incredible responsibility. But it's also a thrill and one of the things that I've realized over. The years is that people need someone to fight for them and so many of us having had that. And so. It's truly amazing when you can take on a person's case a person's problems and say to them and to yourself. I'm GONNA do everything within my power to make a difference in your life and I am GonNa fight for you And that's what travelers do we fight for people. Palko let me ask you. You said many of us have not had people to fight for us. Where does that come from? In Pacos life he comes Several places Thinking back on my own childhood My Mom and dad and have someone to fight for them. My Dad was very ill and We would learn. We lived in Columbia. That's where I was born and he couldn't get medical help medical treatment there so he came to the United States for help and You know the doctors in Elmhurst hospital in Queens really fought for my dad Casino have someone to fire when he was living in Columbia and they gave him A. Yeah the dialysis machine that he could take home to give it to him. And so my mom and Dad They did they alice's at home. And then you know my dad eventually died when I was around fourteen to nose. Just my mom. And she was cleaning houses in the upper east side in Manhattan for extremely wealthy people. And that's what she took care of us and so she She didn't have someone to fight for her and defend her. And I never forget watching routes when I first came to the United States and I'm watching this story about slavery in America and I'm thinking no one's fighting for for the slaves and I thought a lot about that too. And so I think Does have some of my earliest memories of thinking about you know fighting for people helping people. Yeah so as you were saying you know all I was telling you. All the stories bland But it's always easy to remember the most recent Two weeks ago I just finished a two week trial and That is sticking with me today for a couple of reasons One the trial represented in my experience in this moment in time What's happening around the country? And how fragmented and divided. We are as a people and tribalism was so ever-present indistrial That I had a very difficult time. Managing that my client is his name. Is Samir. Gardy? He is from Iraq. He's occurred so he lives into Kurdistan area of Iraq and Kurds. As you know are Not having such an easy time in the world for many many years and this guy had as a child being the victim of bombings and The victim of scene His people being trained killed and affected by by the war He's actually an attorney. He's a lawyer in Iraq and he worked for the United States because he wanted to bring democracy to Iraq into the Kurdistan region and he was lucky enough to come to the United States because of his work for America and he was A. Us citizen When He was involved in a terrible automobile crash. He had just finished working that morning at a local hospital leaned outside of Seattle. Would he was working as an interpreter? Interpreting for folks in Kurdistan Iraqi and helping them explain to American doctors. What was wrong with them and he felt really fulfilled and privilege to be able to help people communicate with doctors so that they can make a difference in their lives when he finishes interpretation services that morning he was heading home and on his way home. He didn't even have many to react when he was hit head on and by car the car was being driven by woman who Who by all measures had Har- live and basically choose working as a prostitute and so she had Crohn's with law and those problems man that she had warrants and they don't want to go back to jail said she's driving this car that morning would expire tabs and a police officer sees that and decides to light her up and pull it to the side of the road but she panic she did not want to go back to jail and so she took off in the Kerio which is about fifty miles south of Seattle and she spent like a demon and the police knew this? In spite of the fact that the police knew this they chose to chase down the road Against Policy and protocols they knew that You don't chase someone through an urban area. At excessive speeds running through red lights hidden another car to flee the police you know going onto the oncoming lane multiple times to flee the police and you know the police officers knew from training that you'd on endanger the community that way for chasing someone for expired tabs but they did and she was determined to get away so much so that she crossed the centerline winning to oncoming traffic at high speed rail rate coming around a curve. Donna Hill and hit my client. Hit SAMIR HEAD ON SAMIR ended up in the hospital In a coma He he's a auto was ruptured had broken ribs. A terrible complex fracture of his right leg. head injury concussion Today he has double vision and so forth and it's it's amazing that he lived. So this is a case that I took on less than a week's notice for young attorney who was being outspent and being a hustle by very seasoned attorney in Washington and so I talked to him and I talked to Samir and spite of the fact that there were so many problems with the case I decided to give it a world and we did and fortunately as one of the more embarrassing outcomes that have had in a very long time It was a quick verdict. Very Fast Verdict I. The jury came back within twenty minutes. I don't think even spend time reading the joy instructions because there were fairly extensive And so I lost and I lost Samir. The amazing thing about it though is that Some ear was rarely happy with my effort. He said man you spoke like Martin Luther King and I was so impressed but those words were Hard to swallow considering the loss he says. Look I I want you to come visit him in Kurdistan. I want you to come and spend some time with my family there What an honor you know that was. I didn't have the best experience. Jury selection in this case Let me let me interrupt you for moment. How did that feel when you have lost a case for your client? Who's gravely injured? And Your client tells you how much I appreciate your help and offers to take you to his country and host you in other words shows you love and kindness. Yeah he he'd heavily did He showed me a lot of kindness and love and frankly although I met him in such a short period of time I too fell in love with them. and learning he story about courage about beancurd in Iraq. Working for the Americans knowing that that is the type of conduct and behavior that puts you at extreme extreme jeopardy. Not just to yourself but to your family your loved ones and the fact that he did that and that he was willing to risk it all to bring democracy to his country. She's made you want to fight for this guy. I mean his his risk. He's he's challenges way surpassed the one that I was the only way I mean in courtroom in the United States. No one's going to die. No one's GONNA attack my family. No one's going to do anything awful harmful to to us one way or the other but what he was doing for America in Iraq to courage that was beyond comprehension and When you start learning his family story and who he is you fall in love with him but what we did that also helped. Was that the Saturday before the Monday when we started the trial. So just a dame between the trial day and you know meeting him. For the first time we brought in But seven lawyers trial lawyers college lawyers. Who can to session on? Saturday and Mike trainer happened to being in town at that time us one of TLC psycho dramas. We all came together to work on this case and do the best we could with the limited time that we have to learn his story and it was hard because he's here alone. I mean he's families in Iraq. He had some friends here but he'd also didn't understand how pony was to have lay witnesses. Who can come and tell his story so we had to do with him alone and in that day. You know several hours of working Saturday with Mike Trainers help. And all the details he lawyers you know that when You do the discover the story exercises with people. You get to know them well and that helped. I think he sewing that process that the lawyers that we brought together to discover stories so that we could tell at a trial showed a Lotta love for him and give him a lot of trust and confidence in what we were doing for him. And so Dot created on and so when he told me at the end of the trial that he wanted me to visit him. I felt great but at the same time it was extremely painful because I feel like I let him down and He needed my help in ways to security's future and I fell to do that And he was extremely gracious soul. He's graciousness added to the pain that I was feeling It was more like he was taking care of me at that moment than taking care of him. So you've feeling that you let him down. Being met with his taking care of you tough it was it. It it it's it's kind of a surreal moment right. That here's a guy who Was counting on my work with my colleagues from the office. Scott Smith Steve Fury and others. Who wanted to really make sure that we learn his story? Well Yeah it was really. It was really hard. It was really hard when I think back. At the moment he solo helps me today at least two weeks after the trial to give myself a little bit permission for having lost his case that I least I can walk away. With the satisfaction maybe rather the fulfillment of knowing that he felt that. I care for him that I loved them and that I did everything I could with limitations that we had to really help them and I think he saw that and I think he was very grateful for that so but I don't think that would have been possible without a trial lawyers college. I don't think that I would have learned to care for him as deeply as we did so that we can tell his story right and we did tell the story right. Well maybe not. Actually I think if I had a chance to do it again I would do differently but I am stuck in this trial for different reasons. Not just because I lost a case for him and didn't end up helping him but The Andrew that I'm feeling today about how fragmented our country is was so evident indistrial and our jury selection was a complete moment of tribalism at his worst not at his best And you can see the groups within the jury pool how they were firmly in their positions and I feel like as a trial lawyer and someone who's gone through travelers college that I should have banned better equipped to have bonded this group together. Tell us about what happened. What they said so So we had A group of people that I would put in the category of Evangelicals Who also connected to police officers and they spoke about being completely angry and mad at anyone who would say anything bad about the police and that they felt that any criticism on the police was undeserved and Should not be tolerated and the use terms like anger and frustration and distrust for Any sort of criticism or attack on police conduct on police behavior. How did you respond openly? I talked to them about the fact that I understand why it's so important to have a police force and what solemn point to believe in the rule of law and I just let them tell me exactly how they failed The conversation turned out to be very positive to the point that several of them would say and did say that. If they were in some years shoes they would not want a juror themselves Which was a good moment and I think the only way that we could have gotten there was because of my training the trailer is college start. We can have a very genuine anonymous discussion with someone that they will be revealing those sort of Biases But he was opposed by opposing counsel. Obviously and the judge did not grant any challenges for cause in spite of the fact that what disturbs that said at the same time there were others in a similar position on a coup. Call the same tribe who refuse to acknowledge even though you can see it in their body language and their facial expressions in the way that they said in the way that they cross their arms in the way that they turned their bodies away from you though sort of things Yunhu That they would hold any criticism against the police against person that was bringing that challenge against us and of course when the core gets up and says can you follow my joints my instructions? And can you be fair and impartial? What is this person? GonNa say yes. Of course and so. They sat one of the amazing things in the jury. Selection process too was that there were people who have had bad experiences with police but interest. Selena these folks were Extremely opening candidate about their biases towards the police. And so they say similar things like you know. I don't think I would be writing this case because I think I would hold it against police. Those individuals were excused. And I didn't oppose that either because I felt that that was the right thing to do. That was the honorable thing to do. That is the thing that you do when you believe in the rule of law of course he hurt my hurt me the side of me. That wants to win to see them lose to see them leave but the right thing to do was legally they? They describe an internal bias that wasn't appropriate challenge for cause and of course they opposing counsel and the judge had no problems. Excusing this people so we ended up. Having an are jury. Pool was an extremely pro-police Jury but that's not necessarily a bad thing you know. I think what was a bad thing is that I did not know that moment How to best connect with them and I think that there is a way to reach him but given the moment and the situation I felt like I failed because we know we can connect with people who are different from us. Their stories are stories. Their personal issues are personal issues. did trials and tribulations are not different than anyone else's in that courtroom and I was not good enough at connecting that with them but I think part of it is also my anger towers. What's happening in our country? We're so divided that we only speak of hate. We don't speak of unity. A connection anymore and people feel more justified to dig their heels in the sand. And Say A -rageous thins because we can now And I liked that part about eight openness candor but I also think that people are not willing to look beyond their tribe and So tribalism worked against US this time around. Do you think that either the color of your skin or the way you talk or the fact that your client is Kurdish from Iraq had any bearing My first thought to that question is you know All God he's playing the race card you know he's he's talking about race but yeah race was very present. That Room Such saw that The few people of Color that were in this jury panel with the exception of one Never made it to the jury pool to actually sit and this trial I do think that The fact that he that Samir spoke with extremely strong Accent he look exactly from Iraq and that he was here alone and didn't have others present with him made him At the more vulnerable for the stereotype I don't know if my accent the way I look at any bearing on the trial. Sometimes I know he does because you can see people's facial expressions to what I say or do But I don't know I WanNa think that we could transcend those moments but I did in transcended this time so we have many tribes right. We've got the pro-police Tribe. We've got the TORT REFORM TRY. We've got different races different nationalities. How do we make our tribe? The jury's tribe so we can get over those differences and Kanak well we are all human. We all have Yet at some time in our lives we had a mom and a dad that came together and Made us we have that in common. We have in common our feelings our emotions we have in common the hardships of life that we all experience from being a little child who's hungry and cries to later on in life. You know feeling hurt by others or hurting others because we did something wrong at the end of the we are all really the same way not different There was not one person in that jury has not had a human trial or human tribulation. That does not connect us all in one way or another people have been punish. People have been betrayed. People have banned Berated people have fell love. People feel hugs. People have failed compassion empathy so we were all human But for whatever reason in this moment at this time we do not see itself as one on the same. We focus on our differences more than we focus on our similarities. And that's where I as a lawyer feel that I didn't do enough to really bring this group of people together so that they can see that we are all really one and the same and I could not get them to the point to see beyond the tribe that they belong to and see that we will part of the same one and if you were to do it over how would you do differently. Well I was afraid you were. GonNa ask me that question because I've been wrestling with this quite a bit There couple things that I think will do knowing what I know. Today I would have taking more of a leadership in the jury selection process Here's what I mean by that. There is a way that I do jury selection and this was a judge that It's new and he had said he was going to do some things. And so I was counting on those gains but he forgot neglected to do them and so I wasn't prepared for that moment And I would have asked for a longer period of time with jury selection and would have explained to the court why it was so important to have it I think that I needed to be more real with this jury about what I was seeing in a way that would not have come across as judgmental and as accusatory but in a way that I could said to them. We really focusing so much on our differences today. Why's that why? Why are we so focused on why we saw as opposed to what makes us all alike and I could assure story as to why and how I do that today? You know I'm having a hard time Dealing with people who in today's climate fueled justify? You know to say that Black Lives Matter. You know But I need to understand why they say that and help them so. I think one of the things that I would do differently. This time around is to to really talk a great deal of candor about how why we focus so much on the differences and not under similarities and see if I could have then Facilitated discussion with this group as to what makes us better when we focus on our differences or we focus on our common ground Maybe that would have made a difference But I didn't do that then and so I've been thinking a lot about that today I think I would have Spent a great deal of time. Really addressing. That issue reminds me of something that March Luca from Nebraska Scottsbluff Nebraska offenses that love always trumps hate. And well that's a nice phrase sometimes in our current political climate and society. It's a little tougher to believe that. Sometimes you know it is so true. I mean that that very same thought occurred to me during the trial and what I was dealing with was that I too have now lost faith. That love comes everything based on what I'm seeing. What's happening our country today? I'm actually living in a period of time where I'm scared for a future Because we saw fragmented and he seems so So it's like a runaway train right now that how do you arrest trained from wreck in the world and I think if I If I reflect genuinely uncomfortable work as a trial lawyer in this case I lost that part of me as well that believes that lum love trumps everything. Because I didn't believe that I was never in a position to really embrace all these jurors in a way that they would have fell that I to understood them and I understand where they're coming from and so instead of building my own tribe in this trial. I missed that opportunity but the other thing that I've would do differently is exactly this topic that we're talking about which is that I needed to deal with my very strong anger. That a half today about how we our soul different and nuts all alike And and fear fear and anger. I mean this I mean I feel angry about what's happening with us. You know we think about people in the Mid West you know And their in many ways. They're not in. Every respect is not different from my mom struggle. When I was a kid she had a to take care of the children. She had a job to do that. Then pay very well. She had the fear that she could not take. Good care of us and that sense of insecurity is a significant source of stress and pain and so when we think about people in small communities around the country who are feeling that sort of economic hardship. It's no different than the mind. My Mom's and And their struggle is very real sadly enough. I think that Given the status of our country I feel that people are have bought into the idea that for example trial lawyers are bad for America or that you know attacking any Sherman's companies bad for America because it makes us less safe when he fact Keeping him accountable makes us more safe. Pokka what a few would start at your four deer with what you just described about how things difficult for your mom I think if I had connected to people struggling themselves I think would have helped to Bridge Gab but I think I need to do more than that can work because Some of the folks in this jury pool that had this very pro police attitude and I don't care what the police do wrong. I can never find anything wrong with them. Because part of our tribe. And that's what tribalism does right tribalism at his worse protects his own even when he's on is doing something wrong. 'cause he's a whole concept preservation. I think I needed to go deeper than that. concept to to be able to talk to them in ways that meaningful and so since. I'm not part of that tribe. I Dunno enough on how to connect with them. Which means that I need to do my homework and Spent some time putting myself in their shoes and really seeing the world from their point of view so that I can speak to them in a way that it's meaningful to them and meaningful to my climb because you know the dates no different. There's no doubt in my mind that if any of these pro-police saw jurors had suffered the same fate that Samir did and they looked at the case on the merits they would have said what they did was wrong So Yeah But the thing is jumping into case and do not at the last minute my fuel heroic but at the same time Is Fred with problems. And that's where Preparation comes in and what? We've learned other travelers. College is that you have to do a lot of work and I mean a lot of work. Hundreds of hours in a case just two percent you know short segment of that whole story in a way that makes sense and brings justice. You know forward So yeah it takes a lot of courage to talk about cases you lost in things that have hurt you. And it's such a gift to our listeners. To have such a wonderfully successful and gifted trial lawyer like yourself sharing your your pains and your wisdom. So what advice do you have for young lawyers out there? Who want to become trailers I think that the most important thing about our work is that we cannot measure by verdict core settlement. We have to measure our work by how we impact people and how we influence people for the Batterman of a raise. And I think that Eve. We spent time doing this work. We have to expect losses. And they're going to very painful and that when we do lose we have to take a hard look at what we did wrong where we failed and then get back on that horse and do it again and do it again and keep doing it because it's the only way that we can make a difference and I guess some said well Fighting for him meant a lot. You know he fought for others for many years and this was my chance to fight for him and That was a gift That he felt that I gave him Obviously I was in thinking about that at the time but he made that very clear to me died. He received an incredible gift from our believing Ham. And and for what we do. So my advice is keep fighting We fighting the good fight. And it's a fight worth taking even went We take our lumps Paco. Thank you so much for teaching us today. And you've taught us a lot about jury selection in connecting with yours very grateful for your lessons. Thank you you're welcome. Scott thank you catch talk. Thank you for joining us today. For trial or talk. If you like the show I really appreciate it. If you could give us a good review on itunes and I'd love to get your feedback. You can reach me at. Www DOT Scott gloves ski dot COM that's Scott G. L. O. V. S. K. Y? Dot Com and. I love to hear your feedback. You can also check out the book that I published called. Fighting Health Insurance denials of primer for lawyers. That's on Amazon. Put the book together. Based on twenty years of suing health insurance companies for dime medical care to people and provides general outline of how to fight health insurance denials aggregrate week. And we'll talk to you in the next episode.