Lawyering and Baseball Cards — A Match Made in Heaven

DFPRarely as a lawyer can one combine a beloved childhood hobby with an adult profession – but that is exactly what occurred when my love of baseball cards intersected my career as a litigator.  I began collecting baseball cards at about the age of five and have continued unabated until today.  But it wasn’t until I began purchasing big-ticket cards from online auction houses, and a criminal investigation of the largest auction house began, did my childhood love and career meld seamlessly.  But first, what other top New York criminal defense attorney can be interviewed by Superlawyers.com and discuss his childhood baseball heroes instead of his legal career?

An Innocent Collector Turned Angry Advocate

As a member of the vintage baseball card community, I became aware of a criminal investigation into Chicago’s Mastro Auctions, sports memorabilia’s largest auction house and the source of some of my most valuable Ty Cobb card purchases.  As I was known in hobby circles to be a criminal attorney who also collected cards, some witnesses in the Mastro federal fraud investigation contacted me for representation.  I had already publicly expressed my belief that Mastro was a crooked auction house due to shill bidding – the practice where an auction house (or anyone associated with the consignor of an auction lot) bids on an item with the intent to artificially increase its price — and the witnesses against Mastro wanted an attorney who wasn’t afraid to challenge them in court or otherwise. Incredibly, the baseball card hobby is filled with collectors who would run their mothers over with a car before losing favor with the biggest source of cards on the planet — Mastro Auctions.  This was never a problem with me.  If I could fight the federal government every day, I could fight an auction house run by a bunch of crooks.

And my representation of witnesses against the principals of Mastro Auctions helped secure their indictments and their ultimate imprisonment.  As a victim of the auction house I was very outspoken as well: no one likes to get ripped off, especially on something as beloved as a lifelong hobby – especially a well-known and tenacious criminal trial attorney with various public forums at his disposal.

A Specialized Knowledge of An Esoteric Industry

I began representing other people in the sports collectible industry as a specialized need for legal advice, criminal representation and even hobby-related civil litigation came up.  Unlike nearly every lawyer in America, I don’t require any time to get up to speed in understanding the language of the sports card industry, the technology involved in card alteration, the baseball card grading company scales, and every possible manner of fraud which exists in the purchasing and sale of baseball cards.  What takes lawyers months to understand is second-nature to me as it is something that I began learning as a child and have studied for my entire life.  Therefore, novel legal theories which would never cross the minds of any attorney involved in a sportscard-related litigation are at my fingertips – and have resulted in big wins for clients.

I’ve represented literally dozens of people entangled in fraud in the hobby who never spent a day in prison, let alone even being charged criminally.  I’ve won hundreds of thousands of dollars back for clients ripped off by unscrupulous consignors in crooked auctions.  I’ve won civil litigations for clients on hobby-related issues.  I’ve kept potential witnesses out of embarrassing spotlights and I’ve punished auctioneers who stole from their customers.  Looking back, I can honestly say that I have never had a bad result for any of my dozens of baseball card or memorabilia-related clients.  While it is a small niche practice area that probably no one else in the country would even bother to have – and is just a tiny part of my own practice – it has been a true labor of love for me.  And as any of the best lawyers will tell you, when your lawyer loves the case he’s working on usually good things follow.