Don't Hide the G-r-r-r

Who You Gonna Call?

You have to love a law firm that uses a glowering watchdog with a spike collar for its logo and invites new clients to call them at 800-PIT-BULL. There's none of that mincing pinstripe delicacy to the Fort Lauderdale personal injury firm of Pape & Chandler. This is bare-knuckles legal representation. The firm, which specializes in injuries to motorcycle riders, claims to protect its clients' interests with "tenacity, determination, and aggressiveness." Like a pit bull guarding its owner. That's a good thing, right?

But lawyers can be a persnickety group, obsessed with their own scorned image. The notion of lawyers acting like contending dogs may be close to the truth when they go after each other in court. But to advertise it? That offended Marie Sperando, a partner in the Stuart firm of Willie Gary. She filed a complaint with the Florida Bar Association saying that Pape & Chandler's marketing tactic reinforced the public's negative stereotype of lawyers as "voracious, unethical, and greedy."

The bar association decided to prosecute the case -- and lost. Two months ago, Broward County Judge William Herring ruled that the firm can continue to use its pit bull logo and number, opining that the Florida bar's suit was an unconstitutional attack on the right to free speech. (The bar is appealing the verdict.)

Not only has the bar association's suit been knocked down but business is booming at Pape & Chandler. The firm's senior partners, J.P. Pape and Marc Chandler, University of Miami School of Law graduates, are a pair of Harley-riding free spirits with, as Chandler puts it, an up-close understanding of "the dynamics of a motorcycle accident." They've been deluged with calls from all over the country seeking their services, all courtesy of the publicity generated by Sperando's complaint. "We even had a call from a law student in Montana who said she had written a paper about us," Chandler says. "She said we were her heroes."

Tailpipe took a look at Sperando's law firm's website to see how Gary and company, who style themselves "The Giant Killers," are upholding the integrity of the profession. There were pictures of Willie Gary's matching Bentleys, along with a loving description of the firm's new jet, complete with 18-karat gold sink. Nothing unethical there, the 'Pipe concedes, but it veers awfully close to "voracious" and "greedy."

Bring Us Together, Wahid

For two years, the Palm Beach County Democrats have been a disorganized mess under Carol Ann Loehndorf. Though Democrats carried the county for John Kerry, they turned out in less-than-expected numbers. So it's easy to imagine why the party's new leader, Wahid Mahmood, got so much support in his bid to unseat Loehndorf, even though few know much about him.

In fact, 42-year-old Mahmood has some drama in his past. In April 1999, his wife, Patricia, filed criminal charges against her husband after he allegedly assaulted her in the family's Boca Raton home. According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report, Mahmood manhandled his wife, pulling her arms behind her back and ripping a comb out of her hair during an argument. Then, according to the report, Mahmood turned to one of the couple's two school-aged sons and told him he would see his mother "at her funeral." Mahmood was charged with domestic battery, but prosecutors dropped the case when Patricia Mahmood declined to pursue it.

In his defense, Mahmood says the altercation was nothing more than a spat that was trumped up by deputies. "That was all instigated by the police," he said recently. "Every marriage goes through a here or there. We have two beautiful boys, we will be married for 19 years in January, and life is great now."

Mahmood, an investor in commercial properties, is a relative newcomer to politics -- in fact, he didn't register to vote until 2002, according to records.

He handles the embarrassing pieces of his past with grace. Like a veteran pol, he smoothly diverts the subject to bringing together the county's bitterly divided Dems. "I expect to rebuild this party and make us stronger and united."

Democracy in the Ditch

Representative democracy can be a real bitch -- contending with voters, attending to constituencies, considering the greater good. Messy stuff. A much easier means of governing is that chosen by the South Broward Drainage District (SBDD) board, the body charged with managing water flow in canals and ditches through parts of Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, and Southwest Ranches.

Most people don't pay much attention to such boards. But a few years back, Ranches residents locked horns with the SBDD. John Eastman, a flight instructor, was irked by the district's practice of demanding easements from property owners who apply for building permits.

With a group of supporters, Eastman persuaded local state legislators to introduce a bill that made the board more accountable. The new law, which went into effect earlier this year, requires direct election of the board. It also requires board members, who get $450 to attend a single monthly public meeting, to reside in the district. That knocked two board members -- Howard Zimmerman and Ron Corbitt -- out of the running, and Eastman won one of those seats.

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