Exclusive Q&A: Mike Humbro, the “Mistrial Specialist”

This week, LFA sits down with Mike Humbro, a Phoenix-based attorney who’s quickly risen to stardom in the legal world for his remarkable string of high-profile mistrials. All in all, in the past three years, Humbro has conducted 38 trials — and has achieved mistrial in all but one of them. His unparalleled expertise in the area of mistrials has led others to nickname him the “Mistrial Specialist.” Humbro took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the details of his most successful mistrial strategies.

LFA: Mike, thanks for taking the time to meet with me.

Mike: Hey, no problem.

LFA: My first question is how you first got into the mistrial specialty.

Mike: Good question. I guess the whole thing started about four years ago, in the middle of a normal trial — it was a bad check case. I was still a pretty young lawyer. I was working on my own, and had only had one case before. I had sued Home Depot because the toaster I got there didn’t work as fast as I wanted.

LFA: So you mostly tried civil cases?

Recent Mistrial

Mike: Actually, in the toaster case, I only raised constitutional issues. Anyway, I needed some more business, so I had the court add me to the court-appointed list for criminal defense. Which sucks, because, you know, because everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty.

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Woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder Involved in Complex Federal Diversity Action

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (LFA) – When Judge Oscar Ruport of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio received his first filing in Yarp v. Whetner, it seemed like any other routine negligence case. Mabel Yarp, of Andover, Ohio, had sued Kimberly Whetner, of Espyville, Pa., over an alleged boating accident on Pymatuning Reservoir. Early filings into the diversity action, however, developed a rich set of facts and some novel legal questions. For one, both parties argued for competing contributory negligence standards based on the boat’s journey back and forth between the two states. Further, both parties were actually just different personalities of Lorraine Eydars, 46, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID).  

Actual Boat

“This is the first case of its kind,” said Thomas Wenlock, a professor of civil procedure at Duke Law.  “A lot of things have to get hammered out. Where was the boat at the time of the incident? Which law controls? And which personality was Lorraine Eydars when she was driving the boat and wrecked it?”

Ruport, acting with caution, initially directed the parties to file briefs establishing that they are actually diverse. Both Yarp and Whetner submitted affidavits from Eydars stating that she is only Yarp when in Andover and only Whetner when she crosses over into Espyville — so, in effect, each personality has residence in different states. Simple enough, but things got even more complicated when Whetner filed a cross-claim against William Feck as a third-party defendant. Feck is another of Eydars’ personalities residing in Ripley, N.Y.

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Journal Editors Chosen Through Cite-Check Battles

The University of Houston Law Center made it a priority to address the legal concerns of America’s inner-city communities. Along with introducing new clinics, student groups, and classes focused on the issues facing metropolitan citizens, the school introduced four years ago the Houston Urban Law Journal, dedicated to the policies and legal matters that most affect that group.

Gavel Bang in action

Initially, the Urban Law Journal functioned like most other law journals, choosing its editors through a rigorous tryout, complete with Bluebook exercises and interviews. With time, however, the character of the journal has taken a more unconventional turn, emphasizing what has been called “street editing” and students’ “underground” cite-checking skills.

This has resulted in the newest innovative practice at the journal: Selection of new editors through what is called “cite-checking battles.” Those vying to join the journal’s editing staff match up one-on-one against one another, taking stage for improvisational cite-checking before an audience and putting their source-verifying abilities to the test through intense, often entertaining, contests. Often held late at night in abandoned buildings in the city’s Fifth Ward, these cite-checking battles earn victors places on the journal’s editing board, but, more importantly, immense respect from their peers.

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The Litigation: I Got A Column, Know What I’m Saying?

Editor’s note: Laws For Attorneys has invited a New Jersey attorney, known as The Litigation, to submit regular columns. These viewpoints are of the author’s and the author’s alone, and Laws For Attorneys does not assume any responsibility for the opinions expressed within.

The Litigation's Bicep

Hey everyone, LFA has asked me, The Litigation, to impart my legal wisdom on the masses. Here’s the lowdown: The Litigation tells judges what the law is. In effect, I am a living legal treatise. The Litigation is a fearsome attorney that juries adore and opposing counsel wish they could be.

My stint in law school was epic. My professors begged me to take a professor position, but I declined. The Litigation isn’t about teaching law; The Litigation is about being the law, son. During the bar exam, the proctor declared it was unnecessary for me to complete the exam after I schooled him on Marbury v. Madison. Separate but equal, baby.

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U.S. District Court of Nebraska Signs Justice Ginsburg

LINCOLN, NEB. (LFA) — Saying that she no longer felt wanted after 17 years with U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg yesterday signed a one-year contract with the struggling U.S. District Court of Nebraska.

“I’ve still got some gas left in the tank,” she said at a press conference announcing the signing. “While I’ll always be indebted to the Supreme Court and its fans for giving me some of the best judicial years of my life, I want to prove I can still perform at a high level. I’m excited to start doing everything I need to do to help bring the next groundbreaking constitutional precedent to Nebraska.”

Supreme Court

That will prove to be quite a challenge to the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, which many feel to be still in a rebuilding phase. Last year, the Court saw a whopping 73 percent of its decisions overturned at the Circuit Court level, leading to the firing of the court’s clerk as the caseload plummeted. Insiders say that Ginsburg signing makes sense for the Court, however, as a high-profile justice on the bench will help fill the docket even if the panel has yet another disappointing cycle.

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Law Partner Fired for Winning Case Too Early

Earlier this year, Jacob Triest, a litigation partner at Swanter, McMillan and Carte, headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., was assigned a case between two local corporate behemoths: Reuven, Inc. and Brestle Corp., two iodine producers who’ve locked horns for decades in a battle for local market share.  In their latest clash, Reuven sued Brestle for nearly $100 million in damages for using a valuable idioine manufacturing patent it claimed Brestle never properly licensed.

Patent

Soon after reviewing the facts with Brestle Corp.’s general counsel, and performing rudimentary document review during pre-trial preparation, Triest realized that he was in possession of the proverbial “smoking gun” — an email from Reuven’s CEO allowing Brestle’s CEO the use of underlying patent at issue in the case in exchange for an agreement to end an costly and aggressive advertising campaign. However, instead of burying the email until a dramatic reveal during trial, Triest did the unthinkable: He exposed the email’s existence in a pre-trial summary-judgment memorandum.  The result was an easy victory for Brestle, despite the company’s previous willingness to pay Swanter, McMillan and Carte “whatever it would take” to win the case.

Immediately following the Court’s grant of summary judgment, Richard Swanter, the firm’s managing partner, released Triest of his duties, citing “behavior unbecoming of a trial attorney.” 

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Former Law Professor’s Demands Stifle Law Firm’s Growth

After nearly 20 years as a law professor specializing in federal courts and evidence at the esteemed University of Pennsylvania Law School, Frank Droganon could no longer resist the lure of the private sector. So when Castill, Drake & Poole, a 60-person appellate litigation boutique in Philadelphia, was the latest law firm to roll out the red carpet, he packed up his office and walked right down it.

Appellate memorandum

On paper, it looked ideal: Castill was looking to beef up its roster of recognized legal professionals, and Droganon was tiring of sitting on the sidelines. But now, eight months after the high-profile hire, sources inside the firm say the marriage is on the rocks. At fault? Droganon’s no-computer policy.

“We were all really excited when we heard Frank was going to be a partner here. I mean, the guy is a legend,” said one associate who asked to remain anonymous. “We got a team in place for him and everything. Then, on his first day, he walks in and tells his whole staff that he doesn’t allow computers. By noon, most of his associates had asked to be transferred.”

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