Remember Robert G. Bernhoft and Robert E. Barnes, those lawyers known as "the Bobs" who came out from Milwaukee last year determined to make it big in Hollywood? The L.A. Daily Journal says today their top-name client, Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild infamy, has turned on them. Francis is publicly calling the law firm "swindlers" and both sides want to part ways before Francis goes to trial for tax evasion.
"The only reason they wanted me was to mooch off me and open up an L.A. office," Francis told the Daily Journal in a series of interviews. "The Bernhofts are the Paris Hilton of lawyers - just to be famous, not to do anything."
The Bernhoft firm's trouble with the mercurial Francis is serving as an eye-opening lesson in the dangers and pitfalls of handling celebrity clientele accustomed to getting their way. Indeed, the two-year-old case has had five trial date continuances, one change of venue and - if Francis gets his way - will soon have its fifth set of defense lawyers, Brad D. Brian and Luis Li of Munger, Tolles & Olson. In a December hearing, the case's presiding judge, S. James Otero, said Francis "may be difficult to represent."
It may also represent an early public relations stumble out of the block for a firm that got its start far from the glamour of Hollywood, building a practice in blue-collar Milwaukee defending clients who refuse to pay taxes....
Bernhoft had this to say about the front page story by Ciaran McEvoy, in a statement to LA Observed:
Today’s Los Angeles Daily Journal story on Bernhoft Law’s representation of Joe Francis is ambush journalism at its worst. It turns a false premise – that Joe Francis allegedly dismissed Bernhoft Law for poor performance in Francis' tax case – into a lazy, false, and defamatory hit job.
Almost every alleged fact and contention in the story that pertains to the false premise is neither true nor accurate. Attorney Mark Werksman, the story’s only source besides Joe Francis that is quoted supporting the false premise, today claimed he was misquoted and his quote was falsely used in an effort by the Daily Journal to put Bernhoft Law in a bad light.
It is a shame that the Daily Journal has sunken to the level of the tactics last used by the late Wayne Satz in the botched McMartin preschool molestation story back in the 1980s. Bernhoft Law will use every option at the appropriate time to defend its reputation and allow Daily Journal readers a chance to see how this false story came to be published.
Also, Bernhoft flack Ross Johnson — himself a former columnist for the Daily Journal — emails that "the allegation by Joe Francis that he was billed $10,000 for my services is absolutely false. I have never taken one penny to represent Joe Francis, and Bernhoft Law has never, ever billed Joe Francis for my services. The repeated denials by both Bernhoft Law and myself to Joe Francis' false allegation were left out by the Daily Journal reporter."