The first time I played the video, KOTA followed its somber obit with a shouting and unpausable promotion for a local production of Nana’s Naughty Knickers. If any quantum fluctuations from Patrick Duffy’s brain waves still flicker through the material cosmos, I hope they quiver with laughter at this unfunereal juxtaposition.
I never had the pleasure of Duffy’s legal services or the certain terror of his opposition in the courtroom. Duffy occasionally boosted the IQ of this blog 10 points with well-informed critiques of South Dakota’s corrupt Department of Social Services, the SDGOP’s abuse of redistricting, opponents of paid circulators for ballot measure petitions, anti-Catholic bigotry, and the mindless politicization of Roe v. Wade. He took time post-Ferguson to help readers here understand the grand jury process. He was a valuable ally in the fight to hold Mike Rounds and Joop Bollen accountable for their crimes against South Dakota in their EB-5 get-rich scheme.
But Duffy was no echo-chamber blog-booster—he criticized me for making blog fodder of a Mike Rounds family Christmas card. His final substantive comment challenged our knee-jerk anti-plutocracy and defended T. Denny Sanford:
Much ado about nothing.
Sanford is the greatest philanthropist in South Dakota history and one of the most generous the nation has ever seen, if one measures the staggering size of his contributions against his total net worth. He gives. A lot. And his gifts are unquestionably meaningful in their positive impact upon our community.
I have no stake in this fight other than my perception of what is good for South Dakota. Mr. Sanford wouldn’t know me if he tripped over me. He’s not a client and may not share my opinion on every political issue I could describe. But I can see that his contributions to South Dakota, and particularly to Sioux Falls, are staggering, in that same way I have repeatedly saluted Steve Hickey, whom I like and respect but from whom I might part company on some political issues. To denounce what Mr. Sanford’s done as some sort of “corporate takeover of America” seems ludicrous to me, almost jealous in its intensity, as though we’d all be better off if he bought a big yacht and a small island and lived out his lift like a Millennial Billionaire.
When I was growing up one of the worst things my father might suggest about you was that you were “the dog in the manger.” That one made us wince because the dog in the manger was the one who couldn’t eat the hay but wouldn’t let the horse eat it, either.
Let’s heed the Aristotelian maxim and not let the perfect become the enemy of the good [Patrick Duffy, comment, Dakota Free Press, 2015.05.08].
Last November, is response to Stace Bare’s stirring TEDx talk about the importance of venturing outdoors, Duffy commented that the courtroom does for him what the outdoors do for Bare. I asked Duffy to elaborate.
I am saying that to be in the center of the raging maelstrom that is a jury trial elevates all of us real trial lawyers to a form of “super citizenship,” to a place where the hoary bromide to “speak truth to power” comes absolutely alive for those willing to cross that threshold and meet real power on its own terms.
Mine has been a rich life. I was trained as, and became a fluent translator of Russian for the Navy’s intelligence input into the larger intelligence umbrella. I debated in college, played college basketball, won a college boxing title, worked as a stockbroker for a national firm, worked for a New York investment bank, had a short stint on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, all before I went to law school. From the thrill of knocking a man down in a boxing ring to winning a debate round to making a long jump shot, none really compare to the rapture of being a trial lawyer.
Best of all, I’ve got seven sons and nine grandchildren and a wife whom I venerate as the center of my life.
But I fear that I am never perhaps as fully alive as I am in the courtroom. I’ve done seven figures of pro bono work in environmental litigation, ballot access cases, tried back-to-back the two longest Voting Rights cases in U.S. history, murder, rape, death penalty, securities, anti-trust, medical malpractice, commercial litigation, shareholder disputes, all of it, and have seen and felt the entire gamut of pain, nuanced emotional complexity, triumph and despair that I hoped to see firsthand when I graduated law school almost thirty years ago.
Mine is a catbird seat to history.
The drug that courses through your body when you stand up to cross-examine, when you’ve memorized all you need to know to take and maintain total control and dominance over another human being in the courtroom, is the finest drug one can imagine. It rips through one like pain, makes your hair stand up on end, and at times makes you want to cry out for sheer joy.
It is an existentially risky way to live one’s life.
Power loathes truth, and often cannot bear those who speak it, and one cannot blame them for that. As Thomas Jefferson once said, every time a jury speaks it’s like a little revolution.
Trying lawsuits nearly kills me and yet rejuvenates me at the same time [Patrick Duffy, comment, Madville Times, 2014.11.19].
Earn power’s loathing. Speak the truth. Live like Patrick Duffy.
Other voices on Patrick Duffy:
- Troy Jones says Duffy “said what was on his mind. He expected the same. He gave respect to others even if they didn’t give it back.”
- Fellow Catholic Lee Schoenbeck calls Duffy’s Republican past “the biggest sob you ever loved.”
- John Tsitrian says advocates of environmental causes and Indian voting rights “lost a champion” yesterday. He also says we lost “the most amazing head of hair in South Dakota.”