When a lawyer has an opportunity to represent a high-profile client, the lawyer must resist the temptation to seize the opportunity to make himself high profile at the expense of his client’s interests.
In the case of former Dolphins head trainer Kevin O’Neill, the lawyer’s desire to grab the spotlight may have overcome the interests of O’Neill. That’s the only way we can explain the lengthy statement released by veteran personal-injury lawyer Jack Scarola on O’Neill’s behalf.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald has posted the full statement. Scarola overlooks the fact that the court of public opinion has a short attention span; few will take the time to read and digest the 18-paragraph release.
That actually could be a good thing. Lurking in paragraph 16 is a response to the contention that O’Neill showed hostility to the investigation conducted by Ted Wells: “‘Voluntary'” cooperation that would involve responding to questions regarding the psychological well-being of players under his care was not an option for Mr. O’Neill unless and until proper waivers were obtained from all the individuals whose privacy rights were at stake.”
That’s the same argument former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson made on behalf of O’Neill. And it’s illogical even when coming from a lawyer; Wells was hired to conduct an internal investigation regarding misconduct within the Dolphins organization. The employees who were asked to be interviewed were expected to cooperate. Cooperation in an internal investigation would not have violated the privacy rights of other employees.
The bigger question is whether O’Neill explained his reluctance to cooperate by requesting signed waivers from the “individuals whose privacy rights were at stake,” or whether, as Wells concluded, O’Neill merely displayed hostility to the investigation.
If O’Neill had simply asked for waivers, waivers (though not necessary) could have been obtained. At a minimum, Wells could have tried to explain to O’Neill why waivers weren’t needed.
In fairness to Scarola and O’Neill, maybe there’s a principle of Florida law that allows an employee to refuse to cooperate with an internal investigation based on coworker privacy rights that somehow trump the ability of the employer to determine the extent and the cause of misconduct in order to prevent it from happening in the future. Even then, it may not have been a good idea to issue a lengthy statement divulging extensive facts about O’Neill’s claims, and making clear his intention to sue.
After O’Neill was fired, it was believed that another NFL team would hire him. If/when he sues the league or the Dolphins, O’Neill could become unemployable, as a practical matter, by any other NFL team.