Q: So when you say you’ve worked with
Harvard, you’re not representing Harvard;
you’re representing the individual.
A: Correct. I’m representing an individual
who was conducting research at Harvard,
or wherever, at the time that the alleged
events occurred. But that individual was
no longer at Harvard when the allegations
arose. So that individual had to retain me
out of his own pocket as opposed to the
universities who use their lawyers.
Q: If I’m Harvard, why aren’t I helping to
defend my own people?
A: They should be. There should be a
system in place that allows for the scientist
to have counsel assigned to him because
everyone else involved in that process has
lawyers that are paid for by the university,
or they use investigators that the university
has. No one else in the system is paying
for anyone out of their own pocket except
for my client. It’s a very unfair process,
and the cases themselves are difficult
to research. Not only do you have such
complicated science, but it’s predicated on
years of research, notes and data. Putting
all of that back together and trying to
reassemble what occurred over five, seven
or eight years of research is very difficult.
Q: What kinds of matters do you deal with?
A: A really interesting case that I recently
wrapped up had to do with space dust.
Just saying that sounds crazy. My client,
who was found not guilty, was studying
the Earth and what occurred in various
centuries—we’re talking tens of thousands
of years—and what geologically significant
events occurred. The way they do that is
they drill into the Earth’s core and pull out
samples, like tubes. So imagine putting a
tube into the ground and pushing it down
and drilling, turning it and then pulling up
a tube full of what you gather there.
And what they’re looking for is space
dust because they know that space dust
comes down at a very set time frame,
and they can determine how old various
samples of that core are based upon
the space dust findings. Then they can
determine when there were earthquakes,
when there were various events tens of
thousands of years ago. When you do
scientific misconduct cases, you have
to study and familiarize yourself with
those areas of research so that you can
meaningfully assist your client.
I brought my son in one time when my
client was in. I said, “If you’re teaching me
how the hell you can figure out how old
the Earth is and what happened over time
through space dust, he’s going to learn it,
too.” My son was 13 at the time and just
getting into all that space science stuff,
and my client laid it all out on our marker
board for four hours. That’s how I learn.
And it was so awesome. Please don’t make
me sound too nerdy.
Q: I’m geeking out, too. Do you have your
own vial of space dust?
A: Sadly, I don’t.
Q: So if a scientist does falsify data,
what’s the trickle down?
A: Let’s say that there was some falsification
of data or shortcuts taken. If it’s not
uncovered, and papers are being published
to the scientific community, by and large,
fellow scientists that are giving those
incorrect results are unknowingly continuing
in an incorrect direction by predicating the
next study based upon the prior study.
So if I publish a paper that says that
Lipitor is very effective for people between
the ages of 35 and 45, but I actually faked
some of that data and it turns out it’s really
not effective, then the next scientist says,
“Oh that’s interesting. I want to pick up
on that data and see if that’s also true of
people 45 to 55, or is that true of the entire
population, or is it just Caucasian males
or African-American females or this and
that.” Then we have a big problem.
If you notice over time, it’s, “coffee is good
for you,” then a few years later, “coffee is
bad for you.” Then a few years later, “No,
no, really, it’s good for you, makes you think
better.” “No, it’s really bad for you: You
should only have such-and-such amount.”
That’s a very basic example, but if there
are faulty studies that are causing doctors
to go in different directions, then we the
population could be harmed.
Q: How do you handle the learning curve?
A: You have to be a quick study. I think that
my criminal [law] background really gave
me an advantage there because when you
handle criminal cases, one of the hardest
parts is pushing yourself through, knowing
how to look at the evidence, look at the
testimony, look at the allegations, and
figure out what really is meaningful in that
case and what is just haze. Try to get to the
heart of what occurred, what the evidence
really shows, what the witnesses really
saw, and block out all other noise.
For most of these cases, I have a
meeting with my clients where they’re
my teacher. They give me tutorials on
their area of science. So whether it’s for
research on mice, research on worms and
how they’re testing the effects of various
fertilizers on dirt, or how dirt is handling
natural environments; whether it’s the
space dust stuff—I’m the student.
Q: Do you ever get intimidated?
A: No. I once found myself at an inquiry
committee hearing at Harvard Medical
School. The committee consisted of eight
or nine doctors who are all incredibly
credentialed, published, who run the best
hospital in the world. And here’s me, a kid
from Fredonia University, with a Fredonia
pin on my lapel, facing them down. The
committee chair turns around, points out
the window and he says: “By the way,
they just named the medical library after
me.” I’m just sitting there in a room with
brainpower that’s up the ying yang. I know
that I may not be the smartest guy in the
room, but that doesn’t bother me. I figure
that if you can’t explain something to me in
a way that I can understand it, then you are
either wrong or you’re trying to BS me.
Q: On a national level, do you know
how many lawyers are building similar
A: There are only a couple that I’m familiar
with that know what they’re doing. That’s
why scientists contact us to help them all
over the country because you don’t want to
pay for a lawyer to learn this.
Q: What else keeps you busy?
A: I do a good share of False Claims Act cases,
and the more traditional criminal work. We’ve
got a nationwide criminal practice here. I do
First Amendment as well. So they’re all kind of
in the mix. Luckily I’m in a great firm with other
lawyers that collaborate.
Q: So do you have the inside scoop on
coffee? I just had 48 ounces.
A: [Laughs] I just had my second cup as
well. You don’t have to worry about it. It’s
This interview was edited and condensed.