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Updated on September 10, 2010


Lawyers are supposed to work in their clients' best interests. In fact, those sworn as members of the bar, those who are allowed to charge for legal services and advice and who represent individuals and corporate entities in court swear an oath to do just that: to represent their clients' interests above and before those of anyone else, including themselves. When a lawyer fails to discharge his/her obligations faithfully, fully, timely and at a fair cost that lawyer should be held accountable. At the extreme this means that a lawyer who displays professional misconduct should be liable for discipline and if necssary disbarment. At the very least it would be gratifying and so satisfying simply to slap these arrogant people.

Nearly a decade ago the Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound chose the nationally known law firm Perkins Coie as their principal legal counsel. The Alliance (APNS) chose Perkins Coie based on recommendations of friends and because of the firm's reputation and its boasted political connections in Washington. Those connections have been listed in previous posts but it is worth repeating that Robert Bauer, formerly Perkins Coie's managing partner for their government relations division is now counsel to the president of the United States. Now that is a political connection worth exploiting, yes? Well, if results are the gauge, apparently not.

The political influence a legal/lobbying firm with the connections Perkins Coie enjoys should add a whole new flavor to the game. But still, there is the matter of basic legal services: competent and effective legal representation. In Massachusetts attorneys are required to spare no effort in providing "zealous advocacy" of their clients' interests. In my opinion the only thing zealous about Perkins Coie has been their extraction of funds from the coffers of the Alliance To Protect Nantucket Sound. After nearly ten years of battling Cape Wind all the Alliance has to show are deep scars...but not one victory.

The official application submitted by Cape Wind for approval of their wind farm in Nantucket Sound has resulted in a review process which officially includes eighteen cooperating agencies. The review process has involved various agencies at the federal level conducting inquiries and rendering decisions in such matters as endangered species impacts, marine and aviation radar impacts, cost to consumers, avian and fish impacts, economic displacement of traditional uses of affected waters, navigation impacts/hazards and ...oh yes....the view. The Cape Wind project will have undeniable impacts but its review by federal authorities was supposed to weigh the benefits of the project against its impacts and costs. Defending reason and law against the insult offered by Cape Wind the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound stood more or less alone, certainly holding the dominant opposition position. Fortunately for all involved the Alliance has been well enough funded to sustain a robust opposition to Cape Wind. Unfortunately, a few million dollars has been been paid to Perkins Coie.

Obviously Cape Wind Associates have better political contacts than APNS. Through nine years of federal review the Cape Wind Project has defied law and reason as agency after agency has denied adverse impacts from the project. And, although Perkins Coie at one point had been instructed by APNS to send a letter of inetent to sue to one agency and had agreed to prepare the paperwork, one week later they informed APNS that they had been "talking it over" and had decided not to move ahead with any action. It almost appears as if the millions of dollars paid to Perkins Coie to defeat the windfarm has actually been hush meant to keep this legal behemoth silent. The ploy has worked. Not once has this law firm taken legal action to hold a federal agency accountable for an incorrect, improper decision. To quote that famous line from the Godfather, "Keep your enemies close but your firends closer." But, how does one know the difference?

In my career as a carpenter I encountered many humorous incidents. One of the funniest occurred on Martha's Vineyard on a project building a huge and very expensive house. Not knowing he was talking to the owner one of the men working under me , when asked why the house was taking so long to build and thinking he was merely displaying Yankee humor said, "Look, we may be slow but we're expensive." The owner and I exchanged glances and our friend was last seen driving off the site, all his tools loaded into his van. In Perkins Coie's case the line would be, "Look, we do nothing at all but we're expensive, and you should feel honored to pay us."

COPYRIGHT 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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