The media was abuzz this week about #Fightback Foundation Inc. which has been reported as a “collecting donations for Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense.” The involvement of a lawyer named John M. Pierce, founder of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, raises questions. While Pierce Bainbridge was hired by Rudy Giuliani, Tulsi Gabbard, Carter Page and more, firm founder Pierce has massive personal debt, his firm owes tens of millions of dollars, is a defendant in a slew of lawsuits; vendors claim to have been stiffed, and a few months ago Pierce copped to a rehab stay for “substance abuse and other addictive behaviors.” While there is no question that Kyle Rittenhouse should be able to receive donations for a defense, the question is: does the involvement of John M. Pierce and Pierce Bainbridge raise red flags?
#Fightback Funds, Pierce Bainbridge & Affiliated Law Firms
The Fightback webpage says donations may be used for causes other than just Rittenhouse and includes what appears to be a broad scope of potential permitted use.
The “affiliated” law firms, among other items, is noteworthy.
The Pierce Bainbridge Massive Debt & Spin-Off Firms
Excerpt from: “Pierce Bainbridge Funder Targets Ex-Partners In Debt Chase,” Law 360, April 22, 2020, by Ryan Boysen
In March 2020, the firm began splintering. Spin-off firms were started by ex-Pierce Bainbridge partners, including Hecht Partners LLP, Warren Terzian LLP and Bradford Edwards & Varlack LLP; while others, Jonathan A. Sorkowitz and, per an ex-firm partner, Michael Pomerantz, have started solo firms. (Other long-time partners have moved on to already established firms BraunHagey & Borden, Goldstein & McClintock and Withers Worldwide / Withers Bergman.
Consider whether these spin-off firms would fall within “affiliated” law firms; presumably, Pierce Bainbridge itself would qualify.
Marc Mukasey Quits on Pierce Bainbridge
Marc Mukasey is the son of Michael Mukasey who was appointed Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Yahoo has referred to Mukasey as the “lawyer at the center of the Trump universe;” however, in an article about his firm has Mukasey, Frenchman & Sklaroff LLP, Mukasey clarified: “We’re a Trial Law Firm, Not a Republican Law Firm.” The long-time Giuliani-ally, represented Pierce Bainbridge from June 2019 through March 2020; Mukasey quit citing “rules that suggested legal or ethical risk” with continued representation.
- Lawsuit #7: August 19, 2020. A vendor named Transperfect Legal Solutions sues Pierce Bainbridge for allegedly welching on $135,000 compiled from multiple invoices since November 2018.
- Lawsuit #8: August 19, 2020. A vendor in Arkansas sues Pierce Bainbridge P.C. for allegedly welching on an approximate $9,000 payment obligation since February 2020.
This past week the plaintiff in the residential lease case requested a default judgment be entered against Pierce.
The Pierce Personal Finances
In November 2019, Pierce submitted an Income & Expense Declaration related to a Los Angeles proceeding: Superior Court of the State of California County of Los Angeles, Central District. Case No. BD 639 740. The Pierce filing paints a macabre personal financial picture; it says:
- Pierce owed over $1 million in taxes.
- Pierce owed his former spouse’s mother $27,000.
- Pierce owed Citibank $90,000.
- Pierce had no investment income.
- Pierce’s assets and cash deposit accounts contained $10,750.
- Pierce fair market value of real estate and personal property was negative.
- Pierce’s monthly expenses were $49,581
What Is Going on Here?
As another interesting note, Kyle Rittenhouse is facing criminal charges, whereas John M. Pierce has focused his career on civil, not criminal, law. For the non-legal crowd, civil law and criminal law are completely different practice areas. The rules and strategies substantially diverge.
In conclusion, decide for yourselves what you believe is going on here with the #Fightback Foundation, John M. Pierce and Pierce Bainbridge.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.