Lawyer vs Lawyer

When I was practicing law for almost nine years in the ’70s and early ’80’s, I worked part of the time for a famous trial attorney who represented some well-known clients and heinous criminals. Very interesting for awhile and he taught me a lot. Two things, in particular, he told me that I’ll never forget. I’m not sure why these very brief statements still stand out from all else, but they do.

I once asked him how he could stand to represent some of his guilty and clearly evil clients. He simply said before chuckling, “Allen, my wife tells me I’m cold spaghetti inside.” Their marriage didn’t last.

The other thing I remember most is him advising me one day that there are actually two cases going on in every trial. He said, “One is the battle between lawyer vs lawyer, me versus him. That’s personal and has nothing to do with the facts. The other case is my client vs his opponent, whether it’s the state or the opposing party.”

I bring this up now because of the seemingly stark difference between Todd McNair’s attorney, Bruce Broillet (left) and the NCAA’s head lawyer, Kosta Stojilkovic. It could end up working against McNair in a perverse sort of way.

By all accounts, Broillet is a very skilled, affable, charismatic advocate who has developed a tremendous rapport with this jury. On Day 18, he was also truly passionate.

Stojilkovic hasn’t shown that same ability to connect with the jury, at least not in a similar way. He’s more cut-and-dry, closer to being antagonistic, condescending and even capable of coming off as insulting or mean. Both styles can work depending on the circumstances.

In McNair’s case, during final arguments, Broillet labeled McNair as the “star witness” of his own case. He’s the man who suffered, needs to win the jury and be found credible if he is to win. Stojilkovic countered by suggesting that McNair’s real “star witness” was Broillet.

Not a bad tactic. If the jury starts to think that Broillet is the real and only reason McNair looks good, Broillet wins the battle but loses the war.

And the battle yesterday was all about what would possibly be the NCAA’s motive to try to ruin McNair? Why would these people pick on him? Broillet argued it was the only way for the NCAA to nail USC with a loss of 30 rides and two bowls instead of just six scholarships and one bowl.

Furthermore, NCAA COI Chair (and former Miami Hurricane athletic director) Paul Dee desperately needed USC to go down harder than even Miami, the official bad boy of college football, had.

Broillet also made this case out to be the biggest in modern college football history, in effect charging the jury with the absolute need to take the in-house rule-busting NCAA down. By doing so, he “empowered the jury” to punish those who intentionally violate their own rules at the expense of others. “You will always be Todd McNair’s jury,” said Broillet.

Stojilkovic’s basic tactic is to deny, deny, deny  —  but never explain. To believe the NCAA is simply to take them at their word, and only their word, because they’re not going to come out like in an old episode of Perry Mason and suddenly admit to Raymond Burr right at the end that they maliciously tried to ruin McNair on the way to crippling USC.

Stojilkovic could never explain why a bunch of first-time NCAA COI greenhorns on this huge infractions case improperly took advice from non-voting members. He just denied it despite the evidence and emails screaming to the contrary.

The man who should have been the NCAA’s star witness, Lloyd Lake, was never called to testify by Stojilkovic. Broillet made sure the jury would be thinking about that over the weekend.

After the hearing before the COI, the voting (and non-voting) members took a full four months to decide to ruin McNair’s life. But we still don’t know how it arrived at that decision, was there any final report or if there was even a vote of some sort. Whatever happened, and why, is as mysterious as that vanished sock this isn’t behind the dryer either.

We need nine jurors to agree for a verdict and they begin deliberating Monday after hearing a few more instructions from the bench at 9 am. The hay’s officially in the barn.