Calm in the Courtroom

Calm in the Courtroom

Seven years in the past, bill hangley skilled one of the maximum notable moments in his 5-decade profession as one in every of pennsylvania’s most celebrated trial lawyers. That second saved the existence of a mentally disabled man. In 1987, a jury convicted karl chambers for fatally beating an aged girl named anna mae morris with a huge stick with a purpose to scouse borrow her social security take a look at. Chambers turned into sentenced to loss of life, misplaced his appeal, and awaited his execution for almost decades. Then hangley were given involved. Way to his recognition for winning cases about everything from first amendment rights to highbrow belongings, antitrust, attorney malpractice and popular business subjects, hangley became contacted in 2005 via the yank bar association death penalty representation venture, which requested him to cozy a brand new sentencing listening to for chambers. Hangley became to argue before a york county judge that the convicted guy couldn't be executed because of his intellectual disability. Hangley’s case targeted on the 2002 u. S. Very best court ruling in atkins v. Virginia, which states that executing “the mentally retarded” is in opposition to the 8th amendment’s ban on “merciless and unusual punishment.” up to that point, it were tacitly understood that chambers became disabled, says hangley, founder and chairman of hangley aronchick segal pudlin & schiller in philadelphia. “but the minute the ultimate court ruled at the atkins case, abruptly the york district legal professional determined he wasn’t retarded in spite of everything,” he says, the use of the terminology employed within the case. To make its case, the country brought in an expert witness, a psychiatrist who testified that he had studied standardized check records and chambers’ mental-fitness statistics, concluding that the man—who scored an iq of 60 as a middle-school student and 74 as an grownup inmate—became not disabled however instead severely underneath average intelligence. Hangley knew the professional witness to be “an honorable man and a scholar.” and so the longtime trial lawyer did what he does fine. He started methodically pass-examining the psychiatrist, employing a conversational court docket tactic that has served him nicely over the years. “a few legal professionals are confrontational. They need to make a witness experience like dirt after which he’s putty of their fingers. That’s now not my approach,” says hangley. “i assume loads of witness examination ought to be freestyle, wherein the witness is invested inside the conversation. Then, the way you ask your questions, the pace you set, and the strength you construct into the conversation is, in case you’re lucky, going to cause the fact.” marc j. Sonnenfeld has witnessed hangley’s nuanced court presence on many events. The 2 legal professionals, now near buddies, have known every other because they worked together at some point of the inception of hangley’s firm. “he’s a exceptional attorney and he’s were given a very exceptional presence approximately him. He walks into a courtroom and that presence is felt without delay,” says sonnenfeld, now a associate at morgan lewis in philadelphia. “and he’s excellent on his ft. He exudes wonderful self assurance and he’s additionally very captivating, that is something that clearly serves him well in the front of juries and judges.” it served him properly internal that york county courthouse in 2005. With the aid of his own psychological expert, statistics from the american psychological and american psychiatric associations, and research that proven the fallibility of standardized tests in determining disabilities, hangley patiently walked the county’s witness through a conversation that led to a startling admission. “he stated, ‘mr. Hangley, you’re proper,’” hangley says. “‘he’s retarded. I shouldn’t have said he wasn’t.’” recalling the moment, hangley leans again in his chair and appears through the twenty seventh story window of his company’s conference room. “i don’t count on that to ever occur once more in my lifetime,” he says. “it became probable the one piece of lawyering i’m proudest of. To get an professional witness to alternate his opinion on the stand is sort of remarkable. And thinking about that a person’s existence was inside the balance and that we saved his lifestyles that day … i nonetheless get shivers once i think about that second.” growing up as the youngest of 10 youngsters in lengthy seaside, n. Y., hangley turned into surrounded typically by means of middle-magnificence, blue-collar people. Cops. Firemen. Instructors. His own father become a beer salesman. “it turned into a superb youth,” he says. “it just wasn’t the form of society that produced legal professionals.” after excessive college, hangley studied tune, majoring in vocals, at suny fredonia. A skilled vocalist who should play numerous devices, he taught vocal music at an basic college on manhattan for a year and met his wife mary in the course of that time. But track, he says, “never felt like a vocation—no longer within the sense of a clergyman having a vocation.” it didn’t take lengthy for him to locate his genuine calling. At some point of hangley’s senior yr at fredonia, the dean of students stated he’d discovered hangley’s work as pupil frame president and requested him if he had ever considered going to law college. The dean advised him approximately a new check referred to as the lsat and counseled hangley take it, for curiosity’s sake. “and that i checked out him like he was a nut,” hangley recalls with amusing. Although, the 20-12 months-antique hangley decided to offer it a shot. Simply before graduating, he paid the $10 exam charge, studied the prep substances, took the lsat, and ended up inside the 99th percentile. Scholarship gives have been coming in from reputable faculties and universities all over the united states of america. Hangley knew he ought to cross everywhere he wanted, and after his yearlong stint teaching music, he decided to sign up at the university of pennsylvania regulation college. “it became surely fascinating to me. A gap of latest worlds and mind. My head become simply exploding with it all,” he says. “through the stop of my first 12 months i knew that i wanted to be an ordeal attorney.” forty-5 years later, hangley is still excited about his work, which has earned him a countrywide reputation as one of the united states of america’s exceptional litigators. Similarly to his trial paintings, he has also served as a choose seasoned tem in the philadelphia courtroom of commonplace pleas and, by way of appointment of u. S. Ideally suited court chief justice john roberts, is one of the attorneys in non-public exercise who serve at the u. S. Judicial conference advisory committee on evidence regulations. “i can’t think about anything else i may want to have completed with my life that i'd have enjoyed as an awful lot as what i’m doing now,” he says. “i really hit the huge one.” for 2 and a half years after graduating from penn in 1966, hangley labored for schnader harrison segal & lewis in philadelphia. There, along legendary attorneys like bernie siegel and pennsylvania attorney trendy william schnader, he became given the opportunity to try all kinds of cases, laying the groundwork for his eventual popularity as a jack-of-all-trades litigator. Then, one night in 1968, lawyers stephen m. Goodman and neil epstein visited hangley at his home. The younger, ambitious attorneys stated they have been interested by starting their own company. That they had already discussed it with a handful in their friends who stated they’d be inquisitive about making a go of it. They wanted to understand if hangley, who changed into 28 on the time, could join them. “we have been young, optimistic, and i idea this was my risk to strike out on my own and build something from the ground up,” says hangley. “it all worked out superb in the end, however that doesn’t imply it wasn’t a clearly stupid concept.” those early years have been difficult however profitable. “i used to be thrilled that bill decided to enroll in us,” remembers goodman, now a partner at morgan lewis. “not simplest become he a high-quality lawyer, but he become a real humans character. You might say he had a outstanding overall performance style, which i characteristic to his having been a musician. Musicians are used to satisfying an target market, and i assume that may be a core aspect in invoice’s persona and his success as a legal professional.” hangley’s company nevertheless embodies the younger strength and optimism of these early years. “that is a teaching institution. Younger lawyers come here to learn how to legal professional. And those are trying to find us out, are searching for me out, due to the fact we can attempt instances. There simply aren’t many firms out there who do that these days,” says hangley. In a world of niche specialties, hangley has constructed his reputation on being a extremely good generalist. You call it and he’s likely tried it: instances regarding fertility medicines, antitrust legal guidelines, securities litigation and highbrow belongings. “those i enjoy the most are whilst i am getting to symbolize the little guy,” he says. In 2008, hangley had an opportunity to do that for a bucks county real estate dealer named caswell holloway. A large country wide improvement company had refused to abide by means of an agreement to buy $five million really worth of land it acquired from holloway and his accomplice. Without that payment, holloway feared the company would have to fold. After more than eleven months of litigation negotiations, hangley and associate john stapleton had been able to at ease an predicted $four. 9 million agreement three weeks before trial. “the amount of training that he and stapleton placed into getting equipped for the depositions and a possible trial was not anything short of outstanding,” says holloway. “he got here to recognise our activity and our commercial enterprise as well—if not better—than we did. No piece of proof was unnoticed, no issue of the case that he didn’t consider thoroughly. It was surely remarkable.” later that yr, hangley obtained a handwritten letter from holloway on thanksgiving. In it, holloway said that one of the matters he was maximum thankful for was the pride of being represented by way of bill hangley and john stapleton. “and that, to me, is the nearest element to faith i’ll ever have,” says hangley. “understanding that is my process, and that if i can do it proper i'm able to make a difference. If i didn’t care approximately it so much i’d don't have any commercial enterprise doing it. I virtually lucked out at the task i got.”