Lawyers renew precautions in wake of arson
Colleagues of an attorney whose house was destroyed by an unknown arsonist said the news hasn’t caused them to think a similar situation could happen to them, but said that they do take precautions.
William Cole, who primarily defends people in criminal cases, said he tries to iron out disagreements with clients before emotions can escalate.
“I try to do as good of a job as I can for my clients and I think my clients realize that,” he said. “I work hard for my clients. I never really had anybody that I knew of that had any anger for me as how their case turned out.”
On Aug. 29, firefighters responded to Lori London’s house on Skyline Avenue to battle a roaring blaze investigators believed was intentionally set. London and her children were out of town and not harmed.
London is a prominent attorney who handles family, juvenile and criminal law matters. While some might believe her work in the criminal court might have made her an enemy angry enough to set her house on fire, attorneys, like Jordan Morgenstern, said the act might have been instigated from a child-custody dispute.
“I think it could very well be a distraught family law client or the parents of a child she may have represented in a juvenile dependency matter,” Morgenstern said. “Those are the people, in my opinion, who have the most to lose and might be the most inclined to lash out at somebody.”
Darren Mack might be one of those people. Mack is accused of killing his wife and shooting a Reno family court judge in June. A custody hearing involving Mack’s children was scheduled for September.
“I certainly would consider it as one of the higher risk areas of law to practice,” Cole said.
El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe believes attacks against family law attorneys are becoming more frequent.
“When you’re dealing with people’s emotions sometimes bad things happen,” Uthe said.
No stranger to threats himself, Uthe said prosecutors are trained in basic self-defense tactics and utilize strategies such as taking different routes when driving home.
Prosecutors are notified when certain inmates are released from prison or jail. Surprisingly, Uthe said he’s more concerned about the people who don’t yell and scream at him.
“It’s the ones who say nothing and act on their feelings are the ones you’re most concerned about,” Uthe said.
London has said the fire won’t cause her to rethink her career. For Uthe, his purpose centers on punishing criminals “without fear or apprehension” and if those feelings start to creep in, it influences an attorney’s duty, he said.
“You can’t let it affect how you do your job and when you do, it’s time to find another job,” he said.
Uthe said the an arson fire “should never happen to anybody.”
Attorney Paul Palant said he recently made a police report when he felt his safety was at risk. Palant works in the same areas of law as London.
“I think it comes with almost any profession that deals with the public,” Palant said.
“I do know (attorneys who) have been threatened but nothing like this,” he added. “It’s big for any (size) town.”
One defense attorney, who wished anonymity, said he would rethink where he practiced law.
“If somebody hated me that much that they would burn my house down, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to move from the community to protect my family,” he said.
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