Mark Steyn

Ave atque vale

A QC in the Windy City

Eddie Greenspan, QC died in his sleep last week at his winter pad in Arizona. He was only 70, although he seemed older to me. Canada's most celebrated criminal lawyer, he had made his name very young, and kept it until the end. I didn't know him well, and, indeed, on the last occasion I saw him (or, to be more precise, he saw me), in the lobby of the King Edward Hotel in Toronto, he cut me dead. (I was talking with someone, and didn't actually notice, but so it was reported to me afterwards.) The point of our dispute was the trial in 2007 of my old boss and Greenspan's sometime client Conrad Black, who was charged by the United States Government with ...well, no one could really explain exactly what he was supposedly guilty of, but he ended up going to jail for it.

How did a Queen's Counsel from Toronto wind up in a criminal trial in Chicago? Well, Lord Black's defense was supposed to be handled by DC bigshot Brendan Sullivan. When Conrad was eventually charged, Mr Sullivan said that, to proceed with the case, he'd need an extra $25 million - extra, that is, to the millions he'd already received. A little strapped for cash, due to US prosecutors freezing and seizing everything in sight, Conrad turned to his old friend Eddie. Greenspan got on the plane to O'Hare sans barristerial gown, wing collar and court coat, and prepared to make his US debut in a lounge suit with a favorite Churchill quotation tucked in the pocket: "My whole life has been a preparation for this hour and this trial." Which Winston said upon becoming Prime Minister. Trial-wise, Churchill was better prepared than Greenspan.

He had a local sidekick - another Eddie, Genson of that ilk, whose other client that season was the popular vocal artiste R Kelly. Mr Kelly had gotten into a spot of bother over a video showing him urinating on an underage girl, which has at least the merit of being comprehensible to a jury: Unlike Lord Black, R Kelly was eventually acquitted on all counts. Mr Genson powered through the courthouse on a motorized wheelchair and had a folksy manner, which wore very quickly, not least on his client - and, one vaguely suspected, his co-counsel. Genson's stylistic opposite, Greenspan was dry, measured, and brought with him an extensive range of Canadian courtroom locutions - "I put it to you that...", as he would sooner or later put it to all the government's witnesses. Within a couple of days, the American lawyers had all adopted Greenspan's stylistic tics, as the amused lady judge eventually noted.

He was in those early days very effective, demolishing key prosecution witnesses, starting with the company's chief accountant, an Elmer Fudd figure who seemed entirely unaware that Greenspan was doing a Bugs Bunny and slicing him up limb by limb. As I liked his performance, he enjoyed my trial coverage. When former Illinois governor Jim Thompson and the two other "independent" directors all claimed merely to have "skimmed" the company reports before signing them, Greenspan borrowed my line that Big Jim & Co had been world champions at "synchronized skimming".

But long trials require energy, and what little Black's team had (compared to the young, lean sharks at the US Atttorney's table) soon evaporated. During Eddie Genson's opening address to the jury, Eddie Greenspan, seated alongside, dozed off three times. They sat directly facing the jury and, as the trial went on, afternoon sessions would usually find one or both of them snoozing away with eyes closed. The contrast with the energetic youth hungry to make their reputations on the government's side was very telling. In his subsequent book on the case, A Matter Of Principle, Conrad wrote:

Greenspan would awaken occasionally, like a crocodile whose nostrils have been tickled by a ripple on the water, and advise me to sit differently, that my posture was too erect for the jury, and then doze off again.

I took to calling Greenspan & Genson "the dream team". Which is why he didn't want to speak to me in the King Edward that day. As my comrade on the press benches, Jennifer Wells of The Toronto Star, wrote:

What must he be thinking, I wonder, in the wake of this week's Maclean's magazine in which columnist Mark Steyn lifts his leg and relieves himself with the force of a Clydesdale in the direction of Greenspan and his co-counsel Eddie Genson.

A Clydesdale? I prefer to think of it, micturition-wise, as leaving them as sodden as R Kelly's schoolgirl. But nothing I said about him was as devastating as one unexpected intervention by a fellow nominally on his side. Greenspan had diabetes, which required careful management by his daughter Juliana and his genial co-counsel Jane Kelly (now an Ontario judge) or he simply wound down like a clock. It happened on the first day of his cross-examination of the prosecution's key witness, the turncoat rodent David Radler. Greenspan was portentous and ponderous, and a terrible combination of bullying and ineffectiveness. Sorely trying the jury's patience, he labored the same points again and again and again. After the umpteenth recitation of his standard refrain "And that was a lie?", a voice went up: "Objection! Asked and answered." It was Ron Safer, counsel for the most junior defendant, Mark Kipnis, a minor functionary in the Chicago Sun-Times operation.

"Sustained," said the judge. Greenspan seemed to crumple. Canada's most famous lawyer had just been humiliated before an American court by the lowliest figure on his own team. He looked around the room - at judge, jury, lawyers, defendants - and found no friends, no sympathy.

In fairness to Greenspan, Genson's performance was far more damaging to Black's defense. But then again, Genson was the principal US lawyer on Conrad's team for no other reason than that, as a young clerk, Greenspan's daughter had once worked for Genson's firm.

At his best, Eddie Greenspan was not just a formidable lawyer but a rather droll writer. Years afterwards, his response to Conrad's characterization of him was drily amusing:

In the book, Conrad has an amusing tendency to exalt my performances in court and in pretrial processes, then spin around and attack me with the venom he uses for his adversaries. I am reported to be both a ponderous water buffalo, and nimble as a cougar in destroying witnesses. I'm also a crocodile. I may yet audition for The Lion King.

Then again, the client went to jail, the lawyer moved on to the next case. At the end of his account, Conrad preserves for posterity the ghastly collegiality of courthouse showbiz, as the trial concludes in an orgy of leaden banter and back-slapping that would have any discriminating person lurching for the sick bag. First, defense counsel Pat Tuite:

"And we want to express our pleasure to you for making this such a pleasant experience. I think I speak for all sides, Judge."

[Lead prosecutor] Eric Sussman caught the bouquet and returned it: "You do."

Tuite took the encore: "And we'd be glad to appear before you in any other case."

Judge St Eve responded: "See you back here."

A last moment of shared jollity from Gus Newman: "I don't know if she'll admit me again!" General laughter all round.

Greenspan, on the other hand, seemed glad to be heading for the airport.

I thought there was too much of the water buffalo in Chicago, and would have liked to have seen Eddie Greenspan in his prime and on his own turf, a nimble cougar in a Court of Queen's Bench somewhere in BC or New Brunswick. I happen to disagree with him on the death penalty, but in the Eighties no one campaigned more effectively against it than he did, and the fact that even hardcore hang-'em-and-flog-'em Tories have no desire to revisit the issue is largely down to him.

He was also a man of principle, in a way that too few lawyers are. When the Canadian Islamic Congress law students launched their three "human rights" complaints against me and Maclean's, Greenspan denounced them as a disgrace to his alma mater:

I've never before been embarrassed by a fellow Osgoode Hall Law School graduate until now.

My fellow alumni are the three complainants behind the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint against Maclean's magazine for publishing supposedly "Islamophobic" articles, including columns by Mark Steyn. It is embarrassing that these complainants graduated from Osgoode Hall when it is apparent that their education seems to have lacked any lessons in the true meaning of civil liberty.

What the complainants, including the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), have done is to issue nothing less than an administrative fatwa against Maclean's and Steyn, and they are seeking to have the human rights tribunal enforce this fatwa in the form of a judgment from the tribunal. Just as Ayatollah Khomeini once called for Salman Rushdie's head, they are now calling for control of Maclean's presses and won't stop until they have it.

I'm no fan of Steyn's, having personally experienced false vitriol from him. But I cannot comprehend that the complainants are soon to be lawyers in our democratic society and yet are seeking to force a publisher to print a lengthy response from these complainants. For good measure, if they get their way, the complainants also insist on control over the cover of that issue of the magazine.

I was grateful to Greenspan for that column six years ago, and I remain grateful to him today. Those three Osgoode Hall embarrassments are all now successful attorneys, while Eddie Greenspan is gone. And I wonder, next time free speech needs defending, how many of the current generation of lawyers will stand on principle even for someone they're "no fan of".

Rest in peace.

from Ave atque vale, December 30, 2014


He Would, Wouldn't He?

Farewell to the great survivor of Britain's Profumo scandal.

Continue Reading

Chicken Supremo

The longest-serving mayor in Boston's history was no friend of free speech

Continue Reading

Palace Intrigue

One of the odder episodes recounted in my new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn is my dinner at Buckingham Palace on the eve of the referendum on the Australian monarchy. A man whose political fortunes helped shape the republican movement died today at the age of 98. Gough Whitlam was a controversial Aussie Prime Minister who was even more controversially transformed into an ex-Prime Minister...

Continue Reading

Beam Him Up!

The improbably coiffed James Traficant, former congressman and jailbird, died at the weekend. He rated a mention from me in the course of my disquisition on "Beam me up, Scotty!" in Mark Steyn's Passing Parade...

Continue Reading

Chemistry Lessons

James Garner was one of those actors who was watchable in almost anything, even commercials. He had great sexual chemistry, which is why his leading ladies loved working with him...

Continue Reading

When the Bongos Fall Silent...

Mark remembers Broadway's archetypal tough old broad, and a characteristic encounter...

Continue Reading

Brill Cream

Mark remembers Gerry Goffin and the pop hits of New York's Brill Building

Continue Reading

Barn Stormer

Mickey Rooney died last Sunday at the age of 93, and I didn't want the SteynOnline week to end without a word about him. Aside from anything else, and as ridiculous as it sounds, we share a musical director...

Continue Reading

For Valour

Australia honours its 100th Victoria Cross recipient

Continue Reading

A Coconut War Without Shells

Cockatoo-plumed colonial memories from the South Pacific

Continue Reading

Slipper of the Yard

Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs - and his nemesis...

Continue Reading

Peter O'Toole, RIP

Birther of Arabia?

Continue Reading

Canada's Chief Censor

Mark remembers Jennifer Lynch, Chief Commissar during his battles with the Dominion's thought police

Continue Reading

Don Wade, RIP

Remembering a legendary Chicago morning man

Continue Reading

The Anti-Declinist

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

Continue Reading

Doug Christie, 1946-2013

Ezra Levant remembers an all too rare Canadian free-speech lawyer

Related: Bernie and the Bully Bloggers

Continue Reading

You see this guy?

Mark presents Part Two of his salute to Hal David, lyricist of "This Guy's In Love With You", "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and many more, who died on Saturday at the age of 91

You can read Part One here

Continue Reading

The Look of Love is saying so much more...

Mark remembers Hal David, lyricist of "Alfie", "I Say A Little Prayer", "To All The Girls I've Loved Before", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", "Twenty-Fours From Tulsa" and many more, who died on Saturday at the age of 91

Continue Reading

Pajama Nights on Broadway

A SteynOnline audio special to mark the 60th birthday of The Pajama Game

Continue Reading

Hilton and Lana

Remembering a great critic, editor, and the man who gave Mark his first regular job in American media

Continue Reading

Hitchens Observed

From our friend John O'Sullivan: Sometime in the early 1970s, Frank Johnson, later editor of the British Spectator but then a young parliamentary correspondent, came into my room at the Daily Telegraph and began waxing enthusiastic about a newcomer to Fleet Street, one Christopher Hitchens, with whom he had dined the previous night...

Continue Reading

Tony Blankley RIP

Tony's death is a particular shock to those of us who enjoyed his company on the NR cruise just a few weeks ago. He was his usual convivial self, and fully engaged in the 2012 campaign season.

Continue Reading


Kim Jong-Il, 1942-2011

Continue Reading


Bert Schneider, 1933-2011: 'Nam, coke, and the Golden Age of Oscars

Continue Reading


Roger Williams, 1924-2011

Continue Reading

Follow Mark

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List



On Monday Mark joins The Source with Ezra Levant on Canada's Sun News Network at 8pm Eastern Time/ 5pm Pacific.

~ On Tuesday Mark joins CTV's Power Play with Don Martin at 5pm Eastern Time/ 2pm Pacific and later heads into The Arena with Michael Coren on Sun News Network at 7pm Eastern time/ 4pm Pacific.










© 2015 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc. All rights reserved.
No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of Mark Steyn Enterprises.