Two old adversaries have squared off in the fraud case brought against Pacific Lumber Co. by Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos.
In one corner is Gallegos' lieutenant, Tim Stoen, formerly of the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, who wrote the original 45-page complaint. In the other is Jared Carter, Pacific Lumber's lead counsel and vice-president.
Both are deep in their 60s. Both are veterans of contentious North Coast lawsuits. Both are Stanford law graduates. Both are conservative Republicans (although Stoen at one time was liberal, even radical). And both have spent their careers on completely different sides of the legal fence.
“Obviously, they're going to be polarized adversaries because Tim is such an environmental advocate and Jared is such a defender of the rich and powerful,” said Maggie O'Rourke, a Ukiah attorney. “And they're both alpha male types. They're natural enemies.”
The lawyers first met in 1964 while Carter was an assistant professor at Stanford.
Carter, four years older, had returned to his alma mater after a stint as clerk to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He was teaching bankruptcy, contracts and international law. Stoen was his student.
Stoen's classmate Paul Van Buren remembered them both: Stoen as a “very nice man,” and Carter as a young teacher who was “just not strong on bankruptcy.”
In Stoen's opinion that's selling Carter short: The man is just too smart to be incompetent.
“I want to treat Jared with the respect he deserves,” Stoen said. “And part of that respect is that, intellectually, he's a powerhouse.”
After Stanford the two took paths that couldn't have been more different.
The idealistic Stoen became a socialist, representing the Black Panthers, forsaking his worldly possessions and ending up as the No. 2 man in Jim Jones' People's Temple. In the end, Stoen turned on Jones and fought for custody of his 5-year-old son, who ended up dying in the mass suicide in Guyana.
Carter, on the other hand, went into public service. He worked for the federal departments of Defense, State and Interior, where he received the Outstanding Service Award for his work on the negotiations that led to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
By the early `80s both were in private practice in Mendocino County. The two were even friends, dining together on at least one occasion at Carter's house.
But all of that was before the Kravis development.
In 1992 a doctor, medical text author, and real estate wheeler-dealer named Thomas Kravis proposed building a 36-acre resort on the hills above the seaside town of Mendocino. Plans called for cutting down most of the trees, damming a stream and building campsites, a mini-convention center and cabins.
Local residents set out to oppose the development, contending that it would completely change the atmosphere of the town.
Stoen and about a dozen other lawyers joined with citizens to form a group called the Mendocino County Defense Committee.
Carter — you guessed it — represented the development group, which included Kravis's wife Mavourneen O'Connor, her twin sister Maureen O'Connor (then the mayor of San Diego) and Maureen's husband R. O. Peterson, the founder of Jack-in-the-Box. The group was known unflatteringly as the “San Diego mafia.”
To proceed, Kravis needed the Mendocino Board of Supervisors to rezone the area slated for development.
The first thing Carter did was fire off a letter to the supervisors asserting that if they didn't approve the project they'd be liable to the property owners. (Carter has tried a similar approach in the PL case, warning publicly that if Gallegos proceeds the company will countersue and hold the county liable for damages and court costs.)
“One of Jared Carter's strategies was writing very threatening and long legal memorandums to the Board of Supervisors,” recalled Steve Antler, another attorney who was opposed to the project. “When the lawyer on the other side sees these massive papers with 50 pages of law in them, they're ready to give up.”
But, lucky for the Mendocino Defense Committee, they had Stoen.
“Every time they filed a 50-page memo explaining why [the Board of Supervisors] had to approve the project, Tim Stoen would file a 50-page memo explaining why they couldn't approve the project,” Antler said. “That eliminated that tactic.”
Frustrated, Carter groped for another approach. He ended up taking the gloves off.
Carter called the other side “riff-raff.” In a public radio debate he falsely accused one member of the defense committee of trying to build her own subdivision. At a board meeting, he is alleged to have walked up to an opponent of the development who was carrying a slide projector and asked if the case it was in held a machine gun (this was interpreted as a bullying tactic; either that, or a bad joke). At one point he had some members of the defense committee convinced their phones were tapped. He haughtily asked why he should worry when the other side had only a bunch of unemployed lawyers representing them.
All of these tactics, according to Antler, amounted to an attempt to get the other side excited and off track. “[Carter] is a master of getting people to go down side alleys where he can ambush and destroy them,” Antler said. He said Stoen and others knew they'd win if they just stuck to the facts.
Apparently they did just that, as the supervisors ultimately turned down the rezoning request on a decisive 4-1 vote.
Carter said his memories of the case are dim.
“As events go it wasn't that big of a deal,” he said, speaking by telephone from his Ukiah office.
Referring to his “riff-raff” remark, he laughed, saying it probably hit “unfortunately close to home” for those who remember it.
As to his methods: “I suppose if you're around long enough every tactic is used if you think it will work,” Carter said. “And you can whine and cry or you can bluster.”
He added: “If you've got the facts on your side, you argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, you argue the law. If you don't have either one, you pound the table.”
As to negative impacts on his opponents: “You can't worry very much about that if you're going to represent your clients,” he said.
Most of the lawyers who went up against Carter in the Kravis case realized Carter was just doing his job and let his comments slide.
“Jared's just a pugnacious guy. I didn't take it personally,” Antler said.
But, according to Stoen, he and Carter haven't talked since the vote. He declined to say why, but it's safe to say the two — at least from Stoen's point of view — have had a genuine falling-out. Carter refused to characterize it that way.
“Lawyers don't have falling-outs because they represent different sides,” he said.
One way or the other, after nine years these two old opponents have been thrown back in the ring for another fight, and one that promises to be at least as hard-fought, if not more so.
After all, it's not just an outsiders' resort at stake here; it's an employer with more than 1,000 workers and a long-standing bond with the hearts of Humboldt County's blue collar work force as well as its old boys' network.
(Courtesy, the North Coast Journal)