He works pro bono, and he can cook French


December 03, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

More scoop on the guy who, in the last days of the governor's race, lent $500,000 to the Martin O'Malley campaign. I told readers the other day that John Coale was Greta van Susteren's husband, Lisa Marie Presley's divorce lawyer, a prominent Scientologist and a self-proclaimed ambulance chaser who has run afoul of the bar in Indiana. All true, but Coale called the other day to say he also is:

An O'Malley supporter who isn't looking for political favors. (He was named chairman of the governor-elect's juvenile services workgroup Friday, but there's no money in that.)

"There is nothing he can do for me, and there's nothing I want. If he called me tomorrow and said, `I want you to be chief justice of the Maryland Court of Appeals,' I'd say, `You don't have enough money.' There were no strings except `Pay it back.' And truth be told, at 8 percent, it isn't a bad investment these days."

A native Baltimorean who wouldn't dream of going to Indiana to troll for clients after a plane crash - or for any other reason. (The Indiana Supreme Court barred Coale in 2002 from practicing law in that state after he allegedly sent videotapes, personal letters and law firm brochures to potential clients. Coale blamed the problems on his former law partner and said the D.C. bar and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia "reviewed all that and said I was clean, did nothing wrong.")

"First of all, that was my partner. Second of all, out there in Indiana, I'm pretty crazy about the Baltimore Colts. I won't have anything to do with Indiana. ... Right after they took the Colts - stole the Colts - I had a case in Indiana. I can't remember what it was. I land at the airport and there's this Colts stuff all over the place. I swear to God, I said, `I can't take this [BLEEP]' and turned around and went home."

A trial lawyer who has done a lot of pro bono work, despite his "flip" embrace of the ambulance chaser label in the past.

"Almost every case that I'm known for has been pro bono, no fee. I made money in tobacco." (Meaning the huge case against tobacco companies.) But his suits against gun makers, Union Carbide, Maryland boot camps, and insurers that wouldn't cover heart transplants? Zip, zip, zip, zip, he says.

Dutch Ruppersberger's fraternity brother at the University of Maryland.

"Five years ago, we [he and Ruppersberger] went out to dinner with Martin. Martin and I became friends. I think, look, he's in politics for the right reasons. ... He has something that's very rare in politics - Clinton had it - somebody who connects with people and also really knows the policy. It's usually one or the other."

A Scientologist, but so what?

"I have been for 30 years, but I've never worn it on my sleeve. I never discussed it with Martin."

A former waiter at Martick's, the quirky West Side French restaurant that would be a landmark if anybody on the landmark commission could find it. That was in the 1970s, when Coale studied law at the University of Baltimore by day and sported a tuxedo for Morris Martick by night.

"I used to cook the left side of the menu and he'd cook the right side when the chef would drink too much."

Got an organ to spare?

Anybody out there got a spare kidney for A. Robert Kaufman? He's not asking for himself, but for the stalled Socialist revolution.

"I read somewhere a man's humblest moment is when he compares what he wanted to do with his life with what he has been able to accomplish," Kaufman, 75, told me the other day. "And I haven't accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. There are new people to train. Solutions to social problems that need to be promoted. ...

"I'm not finished."

Kaufman was very nearly finished in June 2005, when a drug-addicted tenant beat and stabbed him. He spent weeks in a coma and nearly six months in the hospital. That didn't stop the perennial candidate from running for the U.S. Senate, but he's tired of dialysis - the attack ruined his kidneys - and just plain tired.

A recent article about a five-way kidney swap at Hopkins got him wondering if there might be someone willing to part with an organ for him - and the cause. The transplant would give him strength, he said, to teach a Baltimore Free University class, "The Class Struggle Road to Socialism." To help groom someone to organize Baltimore youth "around class and economic interests." And, of course, to run for office again.

"This isn't just about making life more pleasant for me so I can have more wine, women and song," he said, "but so I can contribute more."

Connect the dots

How is anybody in Maryland politics supposed to keep track of the bull roasts, inaugural balls and fundraisers that Bruce Bereano has always dutifully assembled into a calendar for fellow lobbyists and others? After all, Martin O'Malley has said that he would not meet with lobbyists with felonies on their rap sheets. Not to worry. Bereano's office has sent out the latest calendar. "I'm alive and well," Bereano said. "Any allegations of my demise and burial are premature." ... Baltimore Circuit Court clerk and mayoral hopeful Frank Conaway helped two people get hitched Friday, presiding at the marriage of Baltimore NAACP President Marvin "Doc" Cheatham to Annette Britton, a CareFirst customer service representative.

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