Pulse OF THE City
Wanted: One SMU Law School Dean
Are qualified candidates discouraged from applying?
GIVEN ACADEMIA’S TWIN PENCHANTS for political correctness and fund-raising, it’s not surprising that SMU’s year-long search for a new law school dean went up in flames this spring, leaving faculty and students adrift and demoralized. The failure to find a dean has sparked a heated debate within Dallas legal circles about why the once-prestigious law school is having difficulty finding the right person to lead it into the next millennium.
Some lawyers blame the law school itself, which has recently taken a beating in national rankings. Others fault university officials who have treated the law school as a cash cow. Still others indict the search itself, condemning it as petty and wondering whether its three finalists were discarded over trivial issues such as table manners, language skills, and political baggage.
After rejecting one finalist who may have seemed too conservative and another who may have seemed too liberal, a university search committee in April sought a middle ground with Symeon Symeonides, the well-regarded vice chancellor of Louisiana State University’s law school. In the end, neither SMU’s administration nor the law school’s alumni could stomach Symeonides, tagged as a strong academic but a less than inspiring front man tor fund-raising. Symeonides, who was born in Greece and speaks with a thick accent, made such a poor impression on local alumni when he came to interview here in April that some Dallas lawyers worried about whether the school could maintain its strong ties to local law firms with Symeonides at the helm. "A lot of people had difficulty communicating with him," says attorney Darrell Jordan, a member of a law school alumni committee that met with Symeonides. "My feeling was they needed to look a little longer."
Other lawyers worried that the reason Symeonides had emerged as the top candidate after such a lengthy search was related more to SMU’s decline in the much-watched U.S. News and World Report rankings. Were worthwhile candidates discouraged by negative reviews that branded SMU a third-tier law school, no longer within the top 50 and well below UT Austin. University of Houston, and Baylor? While Jordan and other lawyers say the rankings haven’t dissuaded them from pursuing SMU graduates, some headhunters say that law firms have cut back on recruiting at SMU as its rankings have declined.
Search committee members blame the process itself for fielding a diverse group of candidates that didn’t seem to fit the bill. One of the final three, Henry Butler, professor of law and economics at the University of Kansas, came under fire by minority groups over comments he’d made about affirmative action when he ran for Congress in 1992. The other, Michael Olivas, director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston Law Center, believes his politics were viewed as too liberal. He also reportedly was seen taking a grape off another plate at a luncheon, raising concerns about his table manners.
Although Paul Rogers, the outgoing dean, says that protracted searches are nothing unusual, he acknowledges that SMU’s fall in the rankings may have been a factor, given the financial pressures placed on the law school. Budget problems caused by a humiliating athletic scandal in the ’80s and the resulting "sudden death" of SMU’s football program forced the law school, always a " profit center," says Rogers, to share a larger part of its tuition revenue with other areas of the university. With spending cut, wages frozen, and some staff members laid off, the law school had more trouble competing.
SMU is finally taking steps to remedy the situation. This year the university is giving the law school an additional $ 1 million for scholarships, which should help rankings by attracting more students. The law school is also reducing its class size to improve teaching quality. A new search committee has been formed and veteran faculty member Harvey Wingo has been appointed interim dean.
Whether all this helps SMU recruit a new dean remains to be seen. "Law schools usually get the deans they deserve," quips former candidate Michael Olivas. Hopefully, if SMU can regain its lost revenue and prestige, it can get the dean it needs.
Whatever Happened to...Ferguson Jenkins?
Ex-pitcher for Rangers still baffled by drug charges.
ON AUGUST 24, 1980, AFTER a Texas Rangers’ charter plane landed in Toronto, the team’s star pitcher-Fergie Jenkins-didn’t see his luggage bumping along the carousel. Figuring his bags took a different flight than he did, he shrugged off his bad luck and headed for the hotel.
The next day, while the Rangers were in the middle of batting practice before a Blue Jays game, two men strutted onto the field and arrested Jenkins. The charge: illegal possession of narcotics. The night before, police said they had found cocaine, marijuana, and hash in Jenkins’ suitcase.
Jenkins, a Cy Young Award winner who holds the record for the most shutouts in Ranger history ( 17),claimed he had no clue how the drugs got there. A Canadian judge believed him and dismissed the charges against him. Although Bowie Kuhn- Commissioner of Baseball-suspended Jenkins for a week, no further action was taken against the Hall of Fame pitcher.
At the time of the scandal, Jenkins had been with the Rangers since ’78 and continued to pitch for them until ’81. After that, he was traded to the Cubs and retired with them two years later. Jen kins, an Ontario native, stayed south of the border to coach the Rangers ’ Triple-A team in Oklahoma City in ’88 and ’89 and then served a stint as the Cubs’ pitching coach.
Today, Jenkins lives a bucolic existence with his third wife on a ranch in Guthrie, Okla., where he raises quarterhorses and heifers. Seemingly unflappable, he is still haunted by one nagging question: Who planted drugs on him 17 years ago? "I did feel at times like I was being set up," says Jenkins. "I kinda asked around but I didn’t want to accuse somebody...we weren’t playing so well then."-S.P.
Tennis Anyone? Please?
Virginia Slims tries to breathe new life into Dallas tennis.
THE VOCABULARY OF TENNIS INCLUDES "love" and "advantage," and Dallas in days past had a penchant for both when it came to a sport that made this city its home. But it takes an event like the Virginia Slims Legends Tournament, held October 18-19 at the Four Seasons in Las Colinas, to force us to ask the question; Why did pro tennis die in Dallas?
The Legends tour, practically a senior’s version of the teenager-dominated Wo-men’s Tennis Association, revives the rivalry of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (as well as featuring Tracy Austin, Pam Shriver, Billie Jean King, and others) and makes us realize how much something is missed only after it’s gone.
Tennis, arguably a country club sport, and Dallas, definitely a country club city, deserved and revered one another. Fortified by a tradition here that lasted into the ’80s, a tournament in Dallas was one of the most highly attended events on the tennis tour.
But tennis lingo also includes "fault," and there was that, too, in Dallas. The economic bust meant that no one had a spare $350,000 to offer as prize money. Some fans lost interest, evidence of a national trend. Also, Southern Methodist University’s Moody Coliseum, although a great venue, was not as available as it needed to be, according to Nancy Jeffett, the founder of Virginia Slims of Dallas.
In late 1989, Dentsu, a Japanese advertising agency, bought the rights to the Virginia Slims of Dallas and subsequently moved it to Japan. Earlier that same year, the Association of Tennis Professionals announced that Dallas would not be on the men’s 1990 tour, ending the 19-year run of the Buick World Championship Tennis tournament. As a result, for the first time in 20 years, there was no professional tennis in Dallas.
"I miss it, sure," admits Jeffett, who still directs tournaments for the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation. "But life is ever-changing."
When past and present converge in Dallas this month, local tennis fans will again have the opportunity to show their support for the game they once embraced and stake a claim to its future. Billie Jean King, organizer of World Team Tennis, says Dallas is on the list of cities to be considered for its own team. "Dallas is spe-:ial," says King. "It’s just too big a market lot to be there."-AS. McGill
Making a Horse Race out of the Mayor’s Race
Six people who could lead this city-and probably win at the polls.
YES, WE KNOW THAT RON KlRK IS JUST over halfway through his mayoral term and yes, we know that he’s riding a current wave of popularity. But more than one muni-politico has been known to fall on his own ego, and, with the mayor’s travel schedule, who knows whether he’ll even be in town for the race. So in the interest of fair play and our desire to see politics raised to a high art, here are si x folks we hope will run for mayor, Someday.
1. Roger Staubach: Everyone’s favorite player, whether in the locker room or the boardroom. As CEO of the Staubach Company, a real estate firm, Roger the Dodger brings the mantel of credibility to every deal he does. Imagine what he could do for city government.
2. Alphonso Jackson: Admired by Republicans and Democrats alike for his savvy with thorny urban issues, he could garner bipartisan support for a job that is allegedly bipartisan. As President of the Dallas Housing Authority, he is adept at in-your-face negotiations with mad-dog homeowners. As a Bush appointee to the General Service Commission which oversees state contracts to minority companies, Jackson has shown he has the flexibility and the insight to change with the times.
3. John Carona: Don’t let his boy scout demeanor fool you. The stale senator has pit bull tendencies when it comes to his principles. He’s the first young conservative to say he represents the core city, although he maintains one office in Garland. Would it be a step down for him to run for mayor? That depends on whether you view leaving the state legislature as a step down. One thing’s for sure: The man is passionate about Dallas and its future.
4. Mary Poss: Our new mayor pro tem has been labeled "politically ambitious," but that seems obvious judging from the campaign war chest she’s raised. Although fiscally and emotionally conservative, she believes in spending tax dollars on infrastructure. Still, she can’t vote on one of the most hotly-contested issues of downtown infrastructure, the arena, because her husband works for Ross Perot Sr. Ethically, her only say in the matter should be, "I abstain."
5. Steve Bartlett: Our retro-choice to make a rerun for mayor. He had a hard time governing in harder times. But now that the city’s flush, maybe he can learn from his mistakes. And maybe the city could learn from his successes. After all, more public/private deals were accomplished under Bartlett than any mayor before or since.
6. Pettis Norman: Proving that ethics and the Dallas Cowboys are not mutually exclusive, this former tight end and owner of PNI Industries has worked tirelessly to promote racial harmony within the city. The ultimate volunteer, he has served on advisory boards too numerous to mention. Plus, if these would-be mayoral candidates ever decide to choose up sides and play touch football, somebody’s got to rush Roger Staubach.
Pandemonium at the Cotton Bowl
WHEN TEXAS AND OKLAHOma squared off for their annual October epic 50 years ago, the Longhorns had bested their opponents seven straight years and Sooner fans were sick of it. OU had a promising new coach in Bud Wilkinson, but the Horns also had a tough new leader, Blair Cherry, who had a secret weapon-the newly installed T-formation which he placed in the capable hands of quarterback Bobby Layne.
Texas scored early on the Statue of Liberty play, but Oklahoma overcame a controversial roughing penalty to knot the score 7-7. At the end of the first half, with no time showing on the clock and Texas banging at the Oklahoma goal, referee Jack Sisco ruled that Texas had called time out. Despite some messy ball handling, Texas scored on the next play for the TD.
In the third quarter, OU’s Darrell Royal returned a Longhorn punt off the foot of Tom Landry, but a clipping penalty drove the Sooners back to their own one, leading to another UT touchdown. Still, the Sooners trailed by only seven points when Royal’s interception was called back on another roughing penalty. Texas then moved to the Oklahoma three where Long-horn Randall Clay, seemingly stopped in a pileup, scooted around end for the score when Sisco failed to blow his whistle.
This was too much for the Sooner fans, who proceeded to bombard the field with pop bottles. At the final gun sounding Texas’ 34-14 victory, Dallas police rushed onto the field to rescue Sisco and his compatriots. Several officers were cut or bruised by flying missiles, and glass bottles were barred from the Cotton Bowl forever.
After this game in 1947, any Oklahoma businessman who felt he had been snookered in a shady deal would claim that he had been "siscoed."-Tom Peeler
Dicey Campaign Contribution Traced to Ex-Trustee
Just in case you’re harboring doubt about whether ousting Kathlyn Gilliam from the Dallas school board was a good idea, here’s yet another reason it was time for her to go. When Pulse researched Gilliam’s finances for last May’s election, we wondered why the Dallas office of the National Alliance of Black School Educators was listed as a S1.700-con-tributor to her race-since it is illegal for a nonprofit to give money to political campaigns. Executive director of NABSE, Quentin Lawson, wondered the same thing.
The president of the Dallas regional NABSE, Nellie Lewis, says there is a rea sonable, yet vague, explanation. The 400 members of her association gave individually, and whoever collected the money (she can’t remember who) accidentally turned it over to Gilliam’s campaign under the NABSE name.
She invited us to contact Frederick Todd, a district superintendent and the treasurer of the Dallas organization, for proof that the funds did not come from NABSE’s bank account, unfortunately, load-fitter a dozen calls to his office-referred us back to Lewis, who decided she had said enough.
When Gilliam was asked about the incident, she admitted the mistake was hers. "I hope you’re not going to make anything out of this."
Sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves.
The Hazards of Job Hunting
Sheriff arrests wannabe jailers.
TALK ABOUT A SHOCK. In THE FIRST HALF OF this year, about 70 people applied for jobs as jailers for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department only to end up being arrested when they showed up lor their employment interviews. In the month of April alone, deputies apprehended 29 applicants eager to join the department as "detention service officers" when background checks revealed outstanding warrants against them.
Most of those detained had arrest warrants for traffic tickets or hot checks. "We did get one applicant who had a felony warrant out for aggravated robbery," says Lt. Judy McDonald, personnel section supervisor. Deputies were poised to make the arrest, "but he didn’t show up for his interview."
Candidates who are not "fugitives from justice" go through a three-week jailer’s school. The cost of training these officers makes background checks important, McDonald says.
Those with felony convictions, or convictions for Class A misdemeanors in the previous 12 months, need not apply. Class C misdemeanors for family violence may bar an applicant from consideration. "We don’t process anyone if they have used marijuana or any other illegal substance in the last two years," McDonald says.
So why do people risk going to jail to get a job there? Many don’t expect the background check. Some may not know that outstanding warrants exist for them. Still others deny that they are the same person named in the warrant.
No matter the reason, once they are behind bars, the irony of the situation somehow escapes them. -Glenna Whitley
CLIENT PICKETS HIS OWN LAWYER
Protester takes legal gripe to the streets.
JOHN GIBSON STARTED WITH A PICKET. sign that was fluorescent pink, but people complained that it was unreadable. He then switched to 40" x 60" posterboard and is now considering a 25-foot banner. But no placard is large enough to carry the breadth of the indignation that he feels toward Dallas attorney Al Ellis.
So Gibson, a carpet cleaner, has spent 20-30 hours each week since July camped outside Ellis’ law office on Turtle Creek.
Although Ellis denies any wrongdoing, Gibson is relentless, making it his cause célèbre to humiliate Ellis, past president of the Dallas Bar. Gibson’s protest has also struck a chord with passersby, tapping into anti-lawyer sentiment. He methodically counts the responses he gets from onlookers, claiming he has received 125,000 positive reactions to 18 negative ones. Besides six obscene gestures, "one guy threatened me verbally, and one guy darted at me in his car," he says.
Gibson’s gripe with Eilis stems from a 1993 personal injury lawsuit in which Ellis represented him and, according to Gibson, improperly paid two doctors out of the settlement, an amount of $13,190, even though their bills were paid in Gibson’s bankruptcy.
"Had Al Ellis said he was sorry." says Gibson, "I would have let it go."
Failing that, Gibson filed a grievance in October 1995 with the State Bar. When the grievance committee ruled against Gibson, he decided to picket "because [he] gave up on the system."
How does Al Ellis feel about the bane of his legal existence? "It makes me sad that he’s down there doing that.... I really believe he’s wrong," says Ellis, who could not comment on the case because of pending litigation filed by Gibson.
Also, Ellis did not want to comment feeling it might violate the attorney-client privilege. Until Gibson formally removes Ellis in writing, he’s still picketing his lawyer. -A.EM.
STARTING SALARIES: No experience required
The news Is good: Dallas/Fort Worth leads the nation in the creation of new jobs. We’re kicking Houston, Atlanta, even Phoenix in the macroeconomic butt. With business on the afterburner, the job market hasn’t been this hot since 1984. And salaries reflect it, with demand driving new employee paychecks sky-high. Here is a list of entry-level salaries for an assortment of jobs around town. Wonder no more how a 25-year old gets financing for a 3-serfes BMW.
ATTORNEY LONCAR GETS WRIST SLAPPED
Grievance Committee lets the show go on.
Before the Grievance Committee got around to investigating the ethics of Dallas attorney Brian Loncar. it seemed as though there could be only one verdict for this over-the-top personal injury lawyer known for his tank-driving TV ads: disbarment. In a series of lawsuits filed by his former employees and chronicled in the local press (see D. April 1997). Brian Loncar was portrayed as a sexually harassing, ethically bankrupt vulgarian who was alleged to have treated his client’s trust account as though it were his own.
On June 24. the state bar finally sanctioned Loncar-sort of. The Grievance Committee sentenced him to one year of probation for "professional misconduct." finding that Loncar "on several occasions...settled personal injury cases and withheld funds for third-party medical care providers and then did not pay...within a reasonable time." During his probation, Loncar must attend AA meetings regularly and get some therapy.
Tara Felmly, Loncar’s Fired office manager, had filed the grievance. Although Grievance Committee rules prohibit the disclosure of the complaint against Loncar. Felmly’s lawsuit provides some insight. "At Loncar’s request, plaintiff (Felmly) was told on several occasions to take money from the client trust account and use it to pay for various expenses of either Loncar or Loncar P.C.... This is not the first time Loncar directed employees to wrongfully take money from the trust account." So how did Loncar get off so easy? Either the evidence against him was too shabby or lawyers have a tough time policing their own. -M.D.
FOR THE RECORD
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
"If you’re gonna shoot me, you got to do it right."
Advice of Abel Alaniz to his wife after she pointed a loaded pistol at him with the safety on. According to police reports, he grabbed the pistol, unlatched the safety and returned it to her. Mr. Alaniz was taken to Baylor hospital in critical condition after his wife shot him in the back
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK
"I told the city, ’Next time you send somebody to our neighborhood, send somebody with a brain.’"
Comments of resident Kelli Hurst, who accused city workers of poisoning trees along an 11-mile stretch of Royal Lane in a botched attempt at weed control.
"The Republic of Texas challenge to gain national independence is based on flawless documentation and has been argued before the international community in the best-executed legal presentation that has ever been accomplished in the 20th Century."
Self-deluded separatist leader Richard L. McLaren, writing from his jail cell near Marfa where fie is awaiting trial onkidnapping charges.
HE JUST HAD TROUBLE EXPRESSING IT
"I think we will show from our witnesses that he was a loving, caring father who was proud of his son."
Opening statement of Michael Heiskell, attorney for James Thornton HI. who was convicted of fatally punching his 3-year-old son because he would not calm down during a Cowboys football game telecast.
AND AN HONEST CHEAT AT THAT
"I saw an opportunity and grabbed it"
Statement of Lincoln High School custodian Walter Flowers, Who admitted stealing more than $10,000 from the DISD by padding his time sheets with overtime pay. Mr. Flowers was fired from his job and fully expects to be prosecuted.