Friday August 23, 2013
Ronald L. Motley (1944-2013)
From The New York Times:
Ron Motley, a trial lawyer who built a fortune out of high-risk cases against the asbestos and tobacco industries, leading the litigation team that helped bring about the largest civil settlement in American history — $246 billion — died on Thursday in Charleston, S.C. He was 68.
The cause was respiratory complications related to a long illness, said his friend and law partner of nearly 35 years, Joe Rice.
The son of a gas station owner and a schoolteacher, Mr. Motley rose to the heights of the legal profession, displaying a startling memory for detail and an ability to get his ideas across, connecting evidence and courtroom tactics seemingly on the fly. William S. Ohlemeyer, a lawyer who opposed him in a 1998 case in Indiana involving environmental tobacco smoke, said, “When you were in court and he was sitting behind you, you could almost feel him thinking.”
I'm now the editor in chief of a national legal trade publication, so I know a bit about him, but Mr. Motley first came to my attention in the guise of Bruce McGill in Michael Mann's “The Insider.” Here's the famous scene:
I like the calm after the storm: “Answer the question, Doctor.” The New York Times obit, which includes some great anecdotes from Mr. Motley's career, also mentions the above scene:
Mr. Motley’s advocacy in those cases earned him a moment of fame in Hollywood’s version of the tobacco wars: the movie “The Insider,” about the whistle-blower Jeffrey S. Wigand. Mr. Motley was played by Bruce McGill, and his bellowed “Wipe that smirk off your face!” to a tobacco industry lawyer stands out as a moment of high drama in the film.