More Musings on Friendship

February 3, 2010

I have written before on the topic of friendship and the meaning, to me, of what it means to be a “true friend.” I find myself returning to this topic time and time again because it is something that often occupies my mind; especially when there is a break in a relationship with a person whom I believed was my friend but who, for expediency or to preserve their relationships with people in positions of power, ceased communication, abandoned me and at times, have acted hostile or even hateful toward me. No matter the reason, the ending of a relationship with someone you believed was your friend, is painful; more so when no reason or explanation has been offered, leaving you to guess and speculate.

From my perspective, I don’t understand how friendship can be so easily abandoned and tossed aside. Why claim to be someone’s friend if you are not, or if you are willing to end the friendship to advance your own interests or because some other friend expects or demands that you cease your relationship with another friend? Didn’t we leave that type of behavior behind in junior high school? I can hear the 7th grader demanding:  “You can’t be friends with so and so because I don’t like them anymore!”  Or “I won’t play with you anymore if you are friends with so and so.”  Or  “You can’t be in my club because you are friends with X.” Sadly, some people I know willingly play these games and easily throw good people aside, people to whom they professed friendship, simply because these good people have relationships with folks their purported “friend” doesn’t like, is upset with or struggling to understand. I find this behavior immature, petty and plain old mean spirited. It is certainly not the behavior of a “true friend” or that of a good person.

I don’t take my friendships lightly and don’t profess to be someone’s friend unless I am willing to do my part to maintain the relationship and to be honest and open with them. I may not always succeed, but this is my intent. And sometimes being open and honest with a friend can be painful. But it is real and genuine. I want my friends to be who they are, fully and completely. I don’t expect us to like the same people or to have the exact same circle of friends. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be disagreements amongst friends or that we share identical opinions on all topics.  But when we do disagree, we do so with honesty and integrity and most importantly, respect.  We allow each other to view the world through our individual lenses and are free to share and discuss our respective points of view. We value and respect each other’s individuality, unique gifts and talents. To me, these are some of the great gifts that flow from true friendship.  I want friends with whom I can be my most authentic and true self. True friendship is to be treasured and valued. It enhances us an individuals and enriches our lives.  At least it has mine.

My experiences over the last many months have made me realize that for many people the term “friend” is really just a synonym for the term “acquaintance;” that  the words “I am your friend” are used frequently because friendship is socially valued and makes the person using the words feel good about themselves and elevates them in the eyes of their peers. After all, being a “good person” means having a lot of friends.  Doesn’t it?

But for my taste, many people throw the word “friend” around too easily. Perhaps they do so to impress others, because it suits them in the moment, or because they think saying they are a friend will get them something. This realization is both painful and discouraging. Maybe I am just operating from a different playbook.  Or maybe I am just naïve about friendship.

The good news, for me at least, is that I am blessed with some wonderful “true friends” who are honest and have integrity. Who do more than talk the talk; for whom the words “I am your friend” truly mean something, both in thought and deed. True friendship does not know distance or time. And so, to my “true friends,” thank you. You are amazing and wonderful people and I am blessed to have you in my life. And to those of you who have claimed to be my friend but your words were hollow or borne out of self –interest, thanks, but no thanks. I only have room in my life for true friends.


  1. Are the rumors true? Did TLC really throw Freddy Sisson, Mary Pekham, Carl Bettinger and Lynn Bratcher off the staff? Unbelievable!

  2. TLC can’t be that stupid. Or can they?

    You are right about friends. True friends are few and far between.

  3. I am not going to comment on these rumors and suggest that anyone who wants to know about this contact Fredi, Mary, Carl and Lynne directly.

  4. Joane might not be willing to comment on the “rumors” but I will. They are true with respect to Fredi and Mary. Both have been thrown off the staff by TLC’s new president. I suspect the same will be true for Carl. My understanding is that Lynne is taking a “leave” from TLC.

  5. after several experiences of the sort that Joane describes, I’ve become more self-protective. I am aware of whether my relationships are in balance–or whether I am doing all the work, giving, initiating contact, etc. If I feel things are out of balance, I back away. I have yet to be sorry that I have done so.

    I am very selective in my friendships and I believe that I am a good and loyal friend–I certainly try to be that. But I have come to expect the same in return. My circle is small but it is worth the world.

    • Beth – I agree with your comments. I have come to realize that I don’t want one sided friendships. To me, those aren’t friendships at all. I want to be friends with people who reciprocate and with whom I don’t have to do all the work. The friendships I value are collaborative and co-creative. Both parties take an equal interest in the relationship and participate in it. Like you, I am very selective in my friendships and have a small circle of true friends. And I treasure and value each and every one!

  6. […] here are some thinky thoughts I have been having about friendships between […]

  7. Why isn’t anyone willing to comment on the firing of Freddy Sisson, Mary Peckham, Carl Betingger and Lynn Bratcher from the staff? What is wrong with all the other staff members and alumni that they watch the new leadership repeatedly treat people badly but no one speaks up? TLC is being destroyed!

  8. People can be cruel sometimes. I have cut people out of my life when I realized they were just using me. Those people are not true friends, no matter what they may claim. I can count my true friends on one hand and I am fine with that. Most people don’t know how to be a true friend anyway.

    I enjoy your blog. Keep writing!

  9. TLC does NOT want us to know that Jude Basile has kicked Fredi Sison, Mary Pekham and Carl Bettinger off the staff. First Joanne, now Fredi, Mary and Carl? What the hell is going on? This is so wrong!

  10. I read the posts on the list serve about the firings of Fredi, Mary and Carl and am simply disgusted. Sounds like Jude and his board are in junior high school just like you reference in your post where you say “You can’t be in my club because you are friends with X.” When did TLC get so petty and juvenile? I thought we were a “tribe” and a “family.” Obviously that is only true if you agree with the TLC leaders and swear blind allegiance. No wonder some folks say TLC is a cult. I am simply shocked at how many alumni and other staff members aren’t speaking up. Obviously, anyone who speaks up, speaks the truth, or disagrees with the new leadership will be excommunicated. Didn’t Carl predict as much in his post to the alumni a month or so ago? He spoke up and now he is gone. Who is next? I am through with TLC. I don’t want to be part of an organization that treats people like this.

  11. I agree with Disgusted. If this is how TLC treats people, I don’t want anything to do with it. We have been lied to!

  12. SLAVES TO TLC (adapted from Gerry Spence’s recent blog post)

    We are the new slaves, enslaved by the Trial Lawyers College. The king disguises itself as our democratic leadership. But it lies to us and betrays us. The king owns our minds.

    We are the new slaves, enslaved by the king’s propaganda and lies. We are told we are free. But money controls all, and the people who have little are asked to give, and give and give to TLC to pay for the King’s ranch. The money I speak of buys the lying politicians (members of the TLC Board of Directors) who are the minions of the King. The alumni association Board, itself owned by the King, has just delivered the college over to the power of money with the TLC Board’s latest decision (or the decision of the King’s chief minion – Jude Basile) in which it proclaims that the TLC may spend whatever the king wishes to further enslave the alumni, by feeding the people lies, feeding their prejudices, feeding their fear, feeding their hatreds and suspicions and claiming it is all for their benefit and their freedom.

    We are the new slaves, enslaved by the king’s voice, the seminars and the publication “The WARRIOR” that educates us, that corrupts our values with dishonesty and politics, that dumbs us down so we can no longer think for ourselves. We turn to the King to think for us. He tells us what programs we need to attend, what DVD’s and books to buy (only his of course) and how to become further enslaved to pay for them. We once enslaved the aborigines in this country by trading them trinkets and mirrors in exchange for their land. It is an old trick that those in power play on the powerless. We are the powerless.

    We are the new slaves. We are enslaved by the Ranch Club and by the King and by their demand for loyalty and allegiance even when such is not deserved. The King owns our home – The Ranch. We pay the King rent, and we keep up the King’s property at our expense. The Ranch Club is the soul of the King. But the King is governed by no moral code. The king is governed only by his greed and his need for adoration and worship.

    We are the new slaves. We pay tribute to the King from the sweat of our bodies to finance the King’s Ranch, his DVD and book sales, not for our benefit, but for the King’s further enrichment and power. Many of the King’s subject are suffering financially. The king does not care. He cares only for his legacy, his Ranch and his profit.

    The king sits back and laughs. To control the minds of hundreds of people is divine. But such power is in the hands of fools who are the collective mind of the King (the TLC Board of Directors). That mind is terminally diseased with greed, ego and narcissism. And the people are in jeopardy, for the king will continue to betray the people and lie to the people until it has sucked out the last of our lives and the last pennies from our pockets. The King is insane.

    What shall a desperate people do? We will do nothing until we learn the truth of our slavery. Will it then be too late except to scream in the streets?

    But the king is deaf.

    • What a great post. Spence has no idea what a hypocrit he is! TLC is just like the corporations he complains about.

  13. Come on folks. Didn’t you hear what Gerry said after Carl posted to the list serve a while back – Get on the bus and give us your loyalty. The King has spoken! So shut the Fuck up and go along with whatever we decide. We know best and we know all. After all, I am the mighty Gerry Spence and Jude Basile is my loyal and trusty servant. Oh, and by the way, can you please join the Ranch Club so my ranch can be paid for? And can you give more so I can have a library built to memorialize myself?

    Can you hear the Bahhhhhh, Bahhhhh, Bahhhhhh’s of the sheep on the list serve – Nasser, Kisling and Malling (who was just invited to join the staff! Any wonder he is singing the praises of TLC leadership? He has been bought off.) Malling is now in the “inner circle” and a member of the “staff.” TLC is a CULT people. Wake up!! You are being used!And the staff, by and large, are just a bunch of people with no courage and no spine. Even those who privately speak out against the college and the actions of the new leadership won’t speak out publically because they are afraid of loosing their precious seat on the staff. What a bunch of wimps!

  14. Well, as we all have seen, TLC is not a safe place where we are free to express our opinions. Look what happened to Carl Bettinger. He spoke up at staff training and then a while ago about being tossed off the board, and he has now been excommunicated and thrown out. Who cares how talented he is? Who cares how much he has given to the students and alumni over the years? Who cares how much creative energy and ideas he brought to TLC. Jude doesn’t like him, or perhaps is threatened by him. And so, he had to go. What happened to the best interests of the college? Guess it is only Jude’s best interests that matter, his ego and unquenching thirst for power and control. He has learned well from Mr. Spence.

    I have no problem with change. Change can be good and necessary. But when change is all about power and ego and people are treated badly and ostracized and excommunicated, it is wrong! When the will of those in power overrides what is best for the alumni, the customers of TLC, of future students, something is wrong. The ideals of TLC have been cast aside. They are meaningless to the new president of TLC.

    Jude lied to us in Dallas. We are not a tribe. And we certainly aren’t a family. And there is no transperancy at TLC and never will be. I mean come on. Do you really think the leaders of TLC want us to know the truth? Do you think Jude really cares about any of us? Jude told us all that Joanne would be back on staff. LIE. He then told us that Fredi and Carl would be back on staff. LIE. He used Fredi and Mary to run programs this summer and then threw them out of the college. Dishonest acts to say the least. Jude wants you if you serve a purpose. Once you have served his purpose, you are gone. Oh, and don’t dare disagree with him. That is a ticket out of the group. And don’t ask him to explain anything. He is the new president and he knows what’s best. He demands your allegiance and loyalty. If you step out of line or disagree or challenge him, or threaten him, you will be gone. Are these the priniples TLC teaches?

    And Gerry has lied to us for years. TLC is not the open, loving, caring place they and he claim it is. If it was, they wouldn’t be treating good people they way they are treating them. And wealthy Mr. Spence wouldn’t ask us to pay for a ranch he owns or to pay to build a memorial library to him, or use us to buy his books and DVD’s or to worship and unquestioningly accept everything he says and does. And it would be OK and in fact welcome for all of us to express our opinions and displeasure with the decisions of leadership. Good leaders don’t behave like this. Good leaders don’t punish folks who disagree with them. Good leaders are caring and kind and HONEST. Where are the good leaders of TLC? There is way too much ass kissing and fringe sucking going on. Even the TLC board of directors are scared to speak up and out. Why do you think certain people were thrown off the board? Because they don’t believe in going along to get along. Because they have ethics, morals and integrity. Because they speak up when they believe it is necessary to do so. And thus, they have been punished for doing so.

    I am remaining anonymous because anyone who is honest about what they feel about what TLC is becoming and about how the new president is running the college will be thrown out of the group. We have seen this repeatedly and most likely will see it again. People drunk with power can’t help themselves. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And TLC has been corrupted. It is a corporation desperate to control its stakeholders, driven by greed and dishonesty and the overinflated and narcissistic egos of those who run it.

  15. Remember when Joane used to ask you for a headline of your case when we were in the Big Barn? What is you headline for what is going on? Here’s is mine:



      • How about “Dude, Where’s my College?”

  16. First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    • From Wikipedia—this remind you of anyone?

      “First they came …” is a popular poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

  17. Anyone know if there’s truth to the rumor that Jude and Gerry are bringing 3 new psychodramatists to TLC? I heard it was to replace Kaitlyn and Kathy or phase them out. That would piss me of.

    • It is true. Word is that Jude and
      Gerry want psychodramatists they can “control.” There are other prominent board members who do not believe in psychodrama, who don’t use psychodrama, who won’t learn about psychodrama or its tools, who don’t go to psychodrama workshops or even staff training and who were instrumental in John Nolte’s forced departure from TLC. Those folks, for whom Jude has “mutual respect,” are high powered, long standing board members. He kept them on and got rid of the folks who believe in psychodrama and who have significant training and experience with psychodrama.

      The board, including Jude and Gerry feel that the current psychodramatists are paid way too much and have too much influence on the staff and alumni and use TLC to build their own consulting businesses. This really pisses Gerry off. Word is that the compensation of the psychodramatists was dramatically reduced by the board this last fall. Jude and Gerry are pissed off at Katlyn for daring to ask the board for raises for the psychodramatists at her last board meeting before she was forced off the board. Jude and Gerry believe the psychodramatists should be required to give an annual report to them about which lawyers they have consulted with, when, how much they were paid and what the outcome of the case was. Change is a coming people! Tuition is increasing, less psychodramatists at regionals, replacement of psychodramatists who have been around for years, firing of the most talented and creative staff, an Executive Director who doesn’t have the first clue about lawyers, trial work or psychodrama, censorship on the list serve, censorship of the Warrior (which, by the way the last issue SUCKED!!!)

      The board has invited 3 psychodramatists to attend staff training. None of the 3 have ever worked with lawyers. Now the propoganda the Board and President Basile will give to all of us, the alumni, is that they are doing this because they just want to increase the number of psychodramatists that are available for TLC programs. Think about that for one minute. If that were really true, then why have they cut down on the number of psychodramatists they will be using at Regionals? There will be ONLY ONE psychodramatist at the TX, WA and NY Regionals. It doesn’t make sense. If they don’t want more than one psychodramatist per regional, then why do they need new psychodramatists? And why get rid of Fredi, Mary Peckham, Lynn and Joanne, all of whom are certified psychodramatists as well as lawyers? (oh, and all women too, and 2 of whom are minorities.) It doesn’t add up and it doesn’t make sense.

      Gerry thinks that Katlyn has too much power and influence over alumni and staff. He has never liked Kathy because she speaks the truth. He already got rid of Nolte. So now he can start over with new psychodramatists and pay them less. More money available to pay for his ranch.

      Oh and about Carl Bettinger, Gerry has a deep seated and somewhat paranoid fear that Carl wants to take over TLC and that he has the support of the alumni and psychodramatists to do so. Gerry has been fearing this for nearly a year and has wanted to get rid of Carl for nearly as long. He needed to protect Jude so he ordered the ouster of Carl. And let’s not forget that Carl spoke up at staff training and really pissed Gerry off. So, of course, Carl had to go. Anyone who has ever pissed Gerry off has had to go – Charlie Abourezk, John Nolte, Steve Rench, Bob Fogelnest, Nancy Hollander, Joe Guastefaro, Kay Ellisson to name a few. And Garvin Isaacs had his fill and left, never to speak to Gerry Spence again.

      Why do you think Gerry doesn’t bring back any high end well known famous lawyers to teach at TLC? He couldn’t control them and they would not idolize or worship him or do what he demanded. So he gets alumni who worship him, who believe being associated with Gerry Spence will elevate them financially or in the eyes of their colleagues, who are beholden to him, who want to say they are friends with Gerry Spence, to teach at his college. No one else wanted the job!

      Fredi, Carl, Mary, Lynn and Joanne are in great company.

  18. I read and hear all of the reports that Gerry is concerned that Kaitlin or Carl or others have too much power and I imaginie that’s right, but power over what? Was there some kind of schism or dispute developing among students or alums with Kaitlin and Carl on one side and Gerry on the other, that I didn’t notice? I am on the listserve and I attend regionals, so I would hope I would notice if something were brewing. But I didn’t see anything and that is why a lot of this is so confusing. Power over what? Why did there suddenly need to be all of these changes? was something about to happen that Gerry needed to immediately stop? Had there been a big fight between people and, if yes, OVER WHAT? WHat the hell happened?

  19. Another thing that is weird is that everyone posting on the listserve to say “don’t raise this topic again, just trust the board, just trust Jude” has something in common: all men, pretty much all on the high end of the earning spectrum. Mark Mueller can take his “just accept this” comments straight to hell … i’m sure he can write a bigger check than Fredi Sison but I’d rather learn trial skills from her than from Mark Mueller. Maybe “trust” would come if one of the remaining women on the board would speak up. And I don’t mean the new director who is new to the organization, I mean Ann Valentine or Cindy Short who has been around long enough to understand why people are upset.

  20. So Jude Bsile, TLC’s new president, says the curriculum is supposed to be the star of TLC, not Gerry Spence. Anyone else find it ironic then that TLC just announced that Spence will be attending the “entire” TX Regional instead of just showing up for Sat.? Seems TLC just can’t exist without Gerry Spence and needs to add him to the line up because they feel it will boost registration. Or Spence thinks he is so damn important that people will flock to the seminar to see him, worship him, and kiss his ass. Hmmmm…. doesn’t look like Jude’s “vision” is gonna work. Another irony, if the curriculum and the teaching are to be the stars of TLC, then why get rid of some of the best teachers TLC has? Don’t make sense to me.

    • The best programs I went to Gerry didn’t come (except for the July college). Come to think of it, none of the board came either (except for those kicked out). Even better were the ones without the fundraisers.

      I love Gerry, but I went to seminars to learn new stuff, be with good friends and help my clients. It was about me, not Gerry.

  21. Just get over it folks. Jude needs your trust and your respect. He has to make hard decisions and we need to support him in his efforts. We don’t have to agree but if we want TLC to survive, we need to get behind Jude and support him. So quit your bitching and get behind our new president. TLC will get along just fine without Fredi, Carl, Lynne, Mary and Joanne. People come and go. That is life. Everyone is giving this too much energy. It isn’t productive or helpful.

    • John,

      Please don’t pull the “TLC will die if you don’t support it” card. It is dying, not because people won’t support it but because the leaders of this organization are killing it.

      For Jude to get our trust and respect, he has to earn it. He got good will in the beginning of his term as president, just because we the alumni were willing to give it to him. But he has pissed it away by doing the following:

      1. Removing good people from the Board of Directors without cause and without prior approval or authorization from the other board members.

      2. Hiring an inexperienced executive director and doing so without prior approval, knowledge and authorization from the Board of Directors.

      3. Telling the alumni at the Dallas reunion that TLC was going to be transparent, that he would tell us what his plans were for this college and that he would be accountable. So far, no one knows what the hell is going on at TLC. We don’t get our facts from him or his new executive director. We find things out from blogs such as Joane’s and David Terrell’s. (Too bad Norm stopped blogging about TLC.) We either get nothing or lies from Jude.

      4. Removing Mary and Fredi from staff because they are friends with Joane.

      What hard decisions has Jude had to make? He already had a very successful organization to begin with, thanks in large part to Joane. The curriculum was there, the enthused alumni was there, the marketing was there, the ranch was there. The only decisions he has made was to remove good people from the Board and the staff. Those decisions have become “hard” because people are sounding off and confronting his bonehead moves.

      People are giving this a lot of energy because they care about this organization and are sick and tired of watching Jude and his board run it into the ground. We’re not called warriors for nothing. I would leave this organization if people weren’t speaking up and calling Jude out.

      I agree with you one thing—we will get along without Fredi, Carl, Lynne, Mary and Joane. But it won’t be “fine.” As far as I’m concerned, we never recovered from the loss of Charlie, John, Garvin, Joe, Steve, Nancy.

      TLC will go on, for sure, though to me, it’s dying. Almost all organizations go on despite losses. But it has changed. If you think it’s for the better, then you really have drunk too much of the Kool Aid.

    • Like I said – – it’s the men who are saying “get over it, people come and go, trust Jude.” Where are you, Ann Valentine and Cindy Short?

      • Don’t hold your breath waiting for Cindy Short or Ann Valentine to speak up. They are just tokens on the board and have no say, no power and no influence. And they will just support Jude and Gerry no matter what they do. They are part of the rubber stamp machine.

      • Reverse roles with them for a minute. You have to know that if you speak up, you’ll be gone. Just look at the recent examples, and the way so many people, once close to Spence, in his inner circle, are now gone, never to return again.

        Perhaps silent TLC staff think it’s better to stay and try to shape the direction of TLC, and to maintain that connection with their friends, than it is to speak up and be excluded. It’s a little like the way Gerry used to describe cross examining defendant’s employees. At first he was disgusted by their willingness to lie, but then learned that they were just “toady company sycophants” who put self interest before morality.

        While they’re not acting heroically in holding their tongues, they’re human and may be either losing sleep or silently realizing the way the college is contradicting its own principles. In short, just because the treatment of Fredi, Lynne and Carl forces a lot of silence doesn’t mean it’s winning over any minds, or hearts.

        Silence doesn’t indicate agreement, in other words, and many who won’t speak up might soon be either voting with their feet or refusing to vote with their checkbooks.

  22. TLC claims they are about justice. Guess they have forgotten the words of Dr. King – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So, is it ok for TLC to treat people unjustly? Injustice is exactly what TLC and its leaders are demonstrating by their treatment of good, honest, caring people.

  23. Great post from Paul Smith’s blog:

    I Feel A Ripple In The Force
    By Paul

    I ain’t much but I’m all I think about is the immortal quote of some famous comedian whose name I can’t remember right now.

    I kinda get that feeling right now when I write the top-secret posts to group I somehow got admitted to. I feel bad because there is a new change in management and theory that literally has shaken up all the members except for a few.

    Now I know that change is generally good for an organization, otherwise we’d all be driving model T’s, but when the organization shakes its members to the core and causes splits,, I gotta believe its a bad thing for all.

    So when the new boss takes over and doesn’t tell the membership why it;s changing,, I predict serious problems. Maybe the organization has grown so much it has to make changes but maybe not so damn many changes with so little notice to all who support it.

    I ain’t very political and maybe my voice doesn’t matter, but if I feel that way, how many others do?

    All I’m saying is those that got promoted,, feel good,, those that got their legs cut off, after giving everything they have don’t. So what happens next? Do those who are now promoted get demoted again?

    It don’t take a dumb country lawyer to see the beginning of the end to an organization that I love so dearly and can only hope those in power hear the voices of its “little people” members. Peace and may this brilliant idea survive among giant egos.

    • TLC and its leaders don’t give a shit about the little people. All they care about is power and money. And you are right Paul, this is the beginning of the end of TLC. I am incensed that the FWB President and alumni liason to the big board – Betsty Green – pretends to speak for all of us and claims that our silence equals acceptance. Boy is she out of touch. But what do you expect from a puppet of the big board. We, the alumni, didn’t even get to elect our own liason to the board. Guess they were afraid we might elect someone who would actually ask questions or refuse to follow the orders from the top. I nominate Norm Pattis for our alumni liason!!

  24. Carl’s words of a little over a month ago were quite prophetic:

    “I believe that the TLC which now exists is one that may decide to remove me from staff for speaking up, a removal that I do not want, but if I can’t say what I want and need to say without fear of retribution, I don’t belong here.”

    Looks like the silence of the remaining staff in the face of recent decisions of the TLC Board to remove some of the best and brightest teachers is due to their fear of suffering the same fate as Carl. You all should be ashamed!

    • I am disgusted by the TLC Staff members who have remained silent during all the upheaveal. Guess they are all afraid to loose their volunteer positions and right to claim they are “on the staff of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College” and market themselves. Who wants a lawyer who has no courage? The staff members of TLC have no courage!

  25. From David Tarrell’s blog. Great post we all should be aware of! And great comment too.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    “Splendid People and Magnificent Warriors” No Longer Staff Members at TLC
    By David Tarrell

    Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Carl Bettinger, Fredi Sison and Lynne Bratcher would not be invited back as staff members of Trial Lawyers College. This saddened me as they were three of my favorite staff members at the college in 2005.

    Last October, newly named TLC President Jude Basile decided to remove the same three people from the Board of Directors of TLC. That same month, Jude stated the following about his decision and TLC’s new direction:

    Fellow Warriors:

    First of all, and as I commence my service as President of Trial Lawyers College, I want to tell all of you how excited I am about our future. This College is responsible for such magnificent transformations among our Warrior Alumni and for countless quests for justice throughout our country and even beyond our borders. There is scarcely an important case on the American legal landscape that cannot be traced back to TLC in some manner or form. We are doing great things at Thunderhead and at our Regional Programs.

    But, before we can commence our future, we must deal with our present and that is the purpose of this communication, which is submitted to the F-Warriors Board in prompt response to their request.

    A. My Goal for TLC

    My goal for TLC is to take steps now designed to ensure the long-term survival of Trial Lawyers College. In order to do this, my view is that the “STAR” of our College must be its educational product. Our long-term viability cannot be tied to any single personality or person. What we teach and deliver must be so innovative and ably taught that it and it alone is what attracts people to our method.

    As I have reflected on what we must do and how we must move evolve, this has served as a guiding star for me.

    B. Reasons Behind the Re-Structuring of the TLC “Big Board”

    The present Board of Directors for the College has been in place for a very long time when compared to the life of the College. In order for me to institute a program designed to concentrate on our product and achieve TLC’s long-term survival goal, I thought it was important to shape my own governing board. In doing that, I gave my efforts in this regard many weeks of thought and reflection – especially since I was aware that change of the evolving type I needed was going to be BIG. However, I believe we are at a point in the life of this College where we can shoulder BIG changes.

    So, as a first step, I considered the need to seek support and guidance from people with whom I share mutual trust and respect.

    This is NOT to say I do not have the highest respect for the people who have long served on the TLC Board. On the contrary, I do. Nonetheless, I thought it was important to do what was the absolute hardest thing to do: Reconstitute the Board somewhat to bring in fresh ideas and new thought processes in support of the goals I am required to devise as an incoming President of a respected but evolving institution.
    Surely, such a restructuring might bruise feelings – feelings of people I admire and respect. Such a restructuring might also lead to speculation about potential hidden agendas and negative things of that type. I can only say that I mean no injury to any other Warrior. I have no agenda but the agenda I am honestly reciting here. But, in order for me to attempt, initiate and accomplish these things, changes at TLC were needed in my opinion.

    So, knowing that to be honestly true, I did not take the easier, softer way. I did what I thought was right.

    Over time, my efforts—along with those of the new Board —will have to speak for themselves. If I am given a chance to succeed and the support needed to get a fresh, fair start down this road, I believe we can do grand things together.

    C. The Changes to the TLC Board

    After deliberate, personal and respectful discussions with the people involved, I requested and received the resignations of Katlin Larimer, Fredi Lynn Sison, Carl Bettinger and Lynne Bratcher– all splendid people and magnificent Warriors. …

    After having handled these painful changes with as much kindness as possible under admittedly difficult circumstances, I then asked three (3) Warriors to come onto The TLC Board, subject to ultimate Board approval: John Sloan, Ann Valentine (who accepted my request on the morning after your Conference Call), and James R. “J.R.” Clary, Jr. I know that a potential fourth slot was mentioned during your conference, but—after reflecting on it further—we are going to keep the new additions at 3.

    The 3 new Board members (Sloan, Valentine and Clary) will join the 5 people currently serving on the Board at Gerry’s home in Santa Barbara, California on an early weekend in November. At that point, the reconstituted Board will be approved, after any discussion required. (I realize that some of this is slightly different from that which was reported last evening, but I ask all of you to please understand this is a “work in progress” and there are some changes which have occurred today. However, I truly want all of you to know what is happening as best I can accurately report it and as quickly as I could get it to you.)

    An Executive Board Committee will also be submitted for approval consisting of the Officers of the Board: Gerry Spence, Chairman of the Board; Jude Basile, President; Cyndy Short, Secretary; Milton Grimes, Vice-President; and Jim Nugent, Treasurer. Thereafter, we can begin moving forward.

    In addition to this restructuring of persons, we will also institute term limits for TLC Board Members so that fresh ideas and people can continue to be infused into the TLC Board. Although still evolving, I believe that term limits are an important component to the reconstitution of this Board. However, as I hope all of you can understand, we need to make certain that those limits occur with some type of orderly, staggered regularity. Thus, nothing is yet final on this score but I am committed to these limits. We just need to devise them properly and I ask for your support and patience there.

    The Executive Committee will not be subject to term limits, although the members of the Executive Committee and their service on that Committee are always subject to Board approval. The F-Warrior Board President will continue to sit on the governing board and will not be subject to any term limits imposed by the Big Board.

    D. Other Changes

    I also feel it is important to have all of the finances and all of the contractual relationships relating to Trial Lawyers College fully evaluated. Thus, we will employ an independent auditing firm and independent counsel to accomplish these inquiries.

    E. Gender and Cultural Diversity Issues

    In your October 6, 2009 Conference, I know there were concerns expressed about the number of women and minorities serving on the governing board for TLC. Frankly, I understand, respect and share those concerns. We have will have two (2) women on the Board (Cyndy Short and Ann Valentine), along with Betsy Greene as F-Warrior Board President and Laurie Goodman as our Executive Director. We will have Milton Grimes as a Board Member and as part of our Executive Committee.

    However, I am acutely aware that the majority of resignations from the old governing board were women – a reality deeply impacting the hearts of the F-Warriors, which means it also will be deeply felt by our Alumni.

    Although there were reasons for the resignation selections made (and I simply must ask for your trust in that regard), I do not wish to see any marginalization of women or other culturally diverse people continue as a trend at TLC. Thus, I would ask for the assistance of the F-Warriors Board in suggesting appropriate and qualified Warriors, respected by the Alumni, to be nominated for Big Board service as the term limits of the current Board Members expire.

    I understand there are some discussions about the formation of an Alumni-supported or FWB-Sponsored Committee in this regard which could serve this purpose AND as a support mechanism for women and minorities and for all of the diverse portions of our Warrior base. Personally, I think this is a magnificent idea and I would wholly support such an effort. Moreover, once the nominations were made, I would make certain the suggested additions were put before the Board during the appropriate election cycles for a Board vote. I would also work to ensure that the nominated parties were given fair and meaningful candidacies.

    Because any nominated party or any party seeking re-election would be subject to Board vote, the suggestions made by the FWB or the Alumni would have to be non-binding, but I welcome the opportunity to work with the F-Warriors in making such a voice in the Board nominating and voting process a reality.

    F. November 14, 2009 Alumni Retreat in Dallas

    I am honored to be invited to attend the TLC Alumni Retreat in Dallas on the weekend of the 14th and to have the opportunity to address our Warriors. I am looking forward to that opportunity.

    In addition, I understand that there may be questions about all of these developments and hopes and goals. I will submit myself to the Alumni for whatever questions are percolating out there among our folks and will do my level best to answer them directly and honestly.

    G. Conclusion

    I hope this statement is of some benefit to the members of the F-Warriors Board – a Board I admire, representing—as it does—the very soul of our College: The Alumni. I have done my best to be direct and responsive. I have no plan or agenda that will ever be hidden from any of you.

    You have requested a statement of my intentions and actions and I have complied just as swiftly as I reasonably could. My preference is that all of you utilize this information to craft your own uniform, accurate report to the Alumni about all that has occurred. On the other hand, I impose no conditions or restrictions on the use of this statement. Consequently, all of my friends and Fellow Warriors on the F-Warriors Board may use this statement as the FWB may think best and proper.

    I trust you.


    Jude Basile

    Jude states that “there were reasons for the resignation selections made” and that he “simply must ask for our trust in that regard.” Fair enough.

    But, when he came to Dallas and spoke to alumni attending the F Warrior Annual retreat, he told us, in response to a concerned questioner, that Carl, Fredi and Lynne’s removal from the TLC Board did not mean they would not be invited back as staff. In other words, Jude told us, in November, that “off the board” didn’t mean “out as staff.” People, some of whom had just met Carl, Fredi and Lynne (and Kaitlyn too) seemed relieved.

    But that’s not how it worked out, as Carl, Fredi and Lynne recently learned.

    Three question arise:

    1. When actions don’t comport with promises, how long should trust continue?
    2. How long will TLC alumni believe their ears when their eyes reveal broken promises?
    3. Will anyone, from the TLC Board, or among the staff, ever dare to voice an honest opinion again, if it contradicts with those in power and thus risks removal and, later, exclusion?


    Jude has lies repeatedly. 1) he told all the alumni that Joanne would be back on staff. LIE! 2) he says all ideas and opinions are welcome. LIE! He then threw the most innnovative and creative people – Fredi, Carl and Katlyn – off the board. 3) he said off the board does not mean off the staff. LIE! 4) he said the board voted to remove Fredi, Carl and Mary Peckham off the staff. LIE! I have had it confirmed from a number of sources that the board NEVER met to discuss this issue and that no vote was ever taken to remove these good folks from the staff. 5) he promised transperancy but there has been none! LIE! 6) be said the entire board met and decided to get rid of Fredi, Carl, Lynn and Katlyn from the board. LIE! Jude and Spence made that decision without board input and in violation of the bylaws. Jude repeatedly lies but asks us to trust him. B.S.

    TLC is now run like the Bush administration.
    Gerry is Bush
    Jude is Cheney
    Jim Nugent is Rumsfeld
    Rex is Alberto Gonzales.

    One more thing – if you go back and read Norm’a old blog posts, you will see where Rex says he hopes and is Ok if there are 50 competitors to TLC. Jude is threatened by one little program for women trial lawyers only. Jude clearly needs to talk to TLC’s “general council.”

    February 10, 2010 4:59 PM

    • You got it wrong. Jude is Bush and Gerry is Cheney.

  26. Let me get this straight – TLC stands for “Trial Lawyers College.” Folks who go to TLC are lawyers and believe in the constitution and the bill of rights. Really?

    Given the recent actions of Jude Basile with the support and approval of the TLC Board, it is obvious that TLC leaders don’t believe in “Freedom of Association” or “Freedom of Speech.” I thought these were both fundamental rights each of us is entitled to exercise and for which TLC lawyers will fight for when such rights are abridged or denied.

    How many more alumni are Jude and TLC going to silence? They already shut down links to alumni blogs on their web site. They don’t want anyone to say anything about TLC that they don’t approve of or agree with. Norm has been attacked and banned from the list serve. Jude won’t publish articles in the Warrior about people who have done much for TLC and brought it to where it is today. Staff and alumni now think twice about honestly expressing their true feelings about TLC and its leaders and now don’t dare speak up publicly because they fear they will be thrown out of the “tribe” like Carl was.

    And now Jude has made it clear that you will be thrown out of TLC if you don’t associate with the right people, or with people on his approved associate list.

    Listen up alumni, the new regime at TLC has spoken – you better be careful about what you say about TLC and its leaders and you better make wise choices about who you associate with so you don’t offend the TLC leaders.

    But some of us want everyone to just “trust” Jude and “trust” Gerry and sit back and be creative and continue to support TLC. Unbelievable that a group of smart, intelligent lawyers would willingly stand by while another group of lawyers with more power deprives others – people you say you love and care about – of the fundamental rights we all believe in and for which each of us fights.

    When organizations go this far, it is time for them to go. None of us would stand for this in other arenas or from other groups. Why are we standing for it now?

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Mark!

  27. Friday, February 12, 2010
    Heads A Rollin’ At TLC — What Did You Expect?

    I can’t tell what’s going on at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College. Of course, I haven’t tried all that hard. Spence is stepping down and settling into the sunset. At 81, that’s expected. Whether the college can survive without his charisma is an open question. Watching folks try to fill his shoes is sort like watching mules tap dance. After a moment or two, it just isn’t fun any more.

    But this week I received several emails from folks distressed about the doings at the college. It seems as though a group of popular staff members have been told not to return. What is going on?

    Mary Peckham, Fredi Sisson, Lynne Brachter and Carl Bettinger have all been shown the door. Sisson, Brachter and Bettinger were earlier forced off the college board. But assurances were given by the new regime that these folks would remain as staff. It now turns out that is not true. Feelings are bruised. The Kool Aid is suddenly unsweetened and hard to swallow.

    For those of you ignorant of the ways of God and man in DuBois, Wyoming, things work more or less as follows: A lawyer applies for admission as a student to the college. If accepted, she attends a summer program. If she knocks the socks off the staff at the college, she is invited to return as staff the following year. Thus, each year, the roster of staff persons grows. The growth is necessary as the college sponsors programs throughout the United States. Staff members attending events to “teach” do so without pay. Spectacularly successful staff people sometimes get invited to serve on the board.

    Bettinger, Brachter and Sisson all worked their way onto the board. But once Gerry decided to step aside and turn the reigns over to an underling named Jude Basile, these three were “asked” to resign from the board. This past fall, Basile promised alum that these folks would remain on staff. So much for those promises.

    When a new CEO takes control of a corporation, heads are expected to roll. The new top dog needs a team he can trust. It comes as no surprise when body count mounts. To the victor goes the spoils. And so they went to Basile. Some old dogs were retired, and new dogs were invited on to the board. Screw democracy: this is corporate politics spoken with a populist drawl.

    But removing these folks from the board has some folks wondering where all the love went. David Tarrell, a Nebraska lawyer who writes In The Moment, http://nelawyer.blogspot.com/, is raising questions about broken promises.

    What is my take on all this?, Tarrell asked the other day. Let me answer Tarrell’s question with a question of my own: Can you imagine Christianity without Paul?

    Sure, it takes a crucified Jesus to make a religion. That is the signal event. But the message must be delivered. Paul’s gift was his turn of mind and his philosophic bent. He transformed a simple crucifixion into a message, and then he set about delivering that message throughout the ancient world. Paul was the faith’s organizational genius.

    I realize analogies are dangerous, and I am not going to assert that Gerry Spence is a latter-day Jesus. But I do recognize the man’s charisma, and, as Max Weber taught, charisma means gift of God. Spence has unique talents. He is a great lawyer. During the course of a half century’s practice, he won cases, mesmerized juries and earned the respect of his peers. But now this gift is going to seed. Can a college devoted to him survive?

    Not without a Paul, and, so near as I can tell, Basile is no Paul. In the few public statements he has made since being handed the college’s reins last summer, Basile has chattered about his vision and the big things the college will do. So far, these pronouncements amount to little more than hortatory blather. Basile is a great beer and pizza kind of guy, but in the dark night of the soul one looks to him in vain for inspiration. How can the college survive with a lieutenant cast in a general’s role?

    What’s worse, the college seems to be cutting itself off from what made it distinctive. The core curriculum has been pscyhodrama, and the college has developed a cadre of top-flight instructors to teach students powerful story-telling tools using psychodrama. But in the past six months, the board has forced the lone psychodramatist from the board. There’s grumbling that the psychodramatists have too much power over the curriculum. This is a dangerous tampering with the core product. When folks weren’t coming to TLC events to see Spence, they were coming for the psychdramatic training. This is sort of like Frito-Lay deciding to foreswear the use of potatos. How do you sell potato chips if all you are offering is hot air?

    So what do I make of the sacrifice of Bettinger, Brachter, Peckham and Sisson? They are simply the inevitable road kill that comes of corporate change. In spite of the college’s railing against corporate America, its behavior is typical of corporate culture. A new CEO has been appointed by a closely-held board — no elections in this populist heaven. Those perceived as unwilling to kiss the new emperor’s ring will be shown the door. Nothing suprising here. It might just as well be Chrsyler as TLC.

    I am not going to sit up nights worrying about the doings at Thunderhead Ranch. Just add the college to the list of those in the business of providing continuing education for lawyers. There’s nothing wrong with these enterprises. Lawyering is tough work. There is a built-in and guaranteed market for CLE providers. Just add a new set of initials to the list of those trying to make a buck and foster referrals from the CLE game: There’s NITA, NCDLA, ATLA and now, the newest kid on the block, TLC.

    Kind of sad to see it come to this, though. More was promised.

    • You said it Norm. TLC is just like the corporations it rails against!

  28. I have been trying to recruit Warriors for several years. I got one of those email infomercials from TLC for the 3 week program and passed it along to a couple of friends without reading it. Now I’m embarrassed. One friend sent it back to me, with a comment—Are you sure you want me to go to something with this description? I didn’t know what she was talking about until I read the email. Now I feel stupid having sent it to my friend. Fearful of excommunication from TLC given what I’ve seen to people who speak out, can someone pass this along to someone in power?

    For those of you who haven’t read it, this is what it says:

    REGISTER NOW! The application deadline for TLC College I is March 15th!

    The Trial Lawyers College is an opportunity to spend 3 weeks unwrapping a wonderful gift box. The box contains “how to’s” on Jury Selection, Opening Statements, Direct & Cross Examinations as well as Closing Arguments. It is a box full of surprise and intrigue. Once the box is emptied, it is tossed away and the focus is turned to one’s personhood. With the full power of knowing what makes one tick, the explosiveness of the trial components come alive through creative, spontaneous, outside-the-box innovations that capture and invigorate. The Trial Lawyers College is gift awaiting your receipt.

    Is it me and my friend, or is this a joke?

  29. Just heard the leaders at TLC are at it again. This time they have fired Josh the cook in the cookhouse. WTF? Who is next?

    • Josh got fired? Why?

      It bothers me that good people are being fired or removed from TLC. It bothers me that no one tells us why. It bothers me that only a few brave souls are willing to stick their necks out to stand up and ask why.

      TLC was the best experience in my life and all this is ruining those feelings. Why is al this happening all at once? Why is it happening to people that we all like and respect? Why is the TLC Board silent, like we’re not good enough to be told what’s going on? But our money seems to be good enough to take at these fundraisers.

      Everyday I wonder, whose next? I’m nobody, so I guess it won’t be me.

  30. Those on the list serve who read Betsy Greene’s email today—when did she become such an apologist for TLC? She reminds me of Bush’s press secretaty, Dana Perrino.

    “On December 14, 2008, a TV journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi threw two shoes at Bush during a Baghdad press conference. Bush successfully dodged both, but Perino’s eye was injured by a microphone stand during the commotion surrounding al-Zeidi’s arrest. When pressed, Perino said, “Sure I would take a shoe for the President” ”

    She’ll be surrounded by enough shoes to open a Payless if she keeps it up.

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