“It struck me how [legal problems] upended their lives,”
Garber says of clients. “It affected their marriages, their livelihoods
and their psyches, and I liked that there are lawyers there to
help people through it.”
legislators began to look into formal impeachment proceedings.
Rowland’s chief of staff asked Garber to head up the response to
the investigation, and to make sure that the governor’s office met
all its legal obligations.
“One of things I quickly realized is that there is no rulebook for
these kinds of things,” Garber says.
His first inclination was to avoid dealing with the press
“I get pissed off quick, but Ross can stay above the fray and
altogether. “Looking back to John Dean in the Nixon White House
and continuing up through the Clinton administration, being
counsel for a public official under investigation is a potentially
perilous position,” he says. “One of the things I said was that I
would not deal with the press because I found sometimes that’s
where public officials wound up getting into trouble.”
After a few weeks of media silence and frank conversation with
a local TV reporter, Garber changed his mind. He decided the best
way to deal with the press was to be open and honest. So Garber
became the de facto spokesman for the governor’s legal team—to
the relief of Rowland’s personal attorney, Willie Dow.
maintain a practical perspective and approach things reasonably
and objectivity,“ says Dow.
Garber also got to sink his teeth into constitutional issues, such
as whether or not a state legislature could subpoena a sitting
governor. He also successfully argued for attorney-client privacy
privileges between public officials and lawyers representing their
offices—an issue the appellate courts are still split on.
“The bottom line was, I was a political ingénue, and Ross, he
knows outside baseball and inside baseball as far as politics is
concerned,“ Dow says. “He was able to direct me were there might
be rocks in the waters and where there was clear sailing.“
After Rowland, Garber joined Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford,
where he’s now a partner.
“I’m lucky enough to have a lot of cases that deal with the
same intersection of business, the press and the law, and
sometimes politics; cases where what happens in the courtroom
may not be the most significant thing; where clients want
somebody who can look at the big picture and litigate if need
be, but also take into account the public relations issue, and
sometimes the business issues and the government issues,“
His combination of professionalism and collegiality was a breath
of fresh air for Philadelphia attorney Lisa Mathewson, who dealt
with Garber in an antitrust case this year. She was representing an
individual, and he was defending a corporation.
“We were in potentially adversarial roles, and yet I had
complete confidence in his integrity,“ she says. “It was refreshing
to me to be with a corporate counsel who so thoroughly
understood and respected the interests of the individuals while
protecting the rights of his client.“
When the call came from South Carolina, Garber was ready.