Allegations against Maris attorney outlined in court

Attorney Willie Gary, right, has a quiet word with Pat Maris before he and his law partner Madison McClellan went to trial on Tuesday at the Marion County Courthouse in Ocala.

Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 12:43 a.m.
OCALA - The normally outspoken attorney Willie Gary remained low-key in an Ocala courtroom Tuesday as a Florida Bar representative outlined allegations of misconduct against him.
Gary and partner Madison McClellan are charged with misconduct during the 2001 trial in Gainesville in which they represented Maris Distributing against brewer Anheuser-Busch.
Possible sanctions against both lawyers could range from admonishment to disbarment.
Gary is one of Florida's highest profile lawyers, known for winning large verdicts, including a $240 million case against Disney.
In the Maris case, Gary and McClellan won a $50 million verdict for Maris Distributing in 2001 on allegations that Anheuser-Busch breached its contract with the company and improperly took away Maris' beer distribution franchise.
Scott Tozian, one of the lawyers representing Gary and McClellan, argued that The Bar was following an agenda being pushed by the St. Louis-based brewing giant as retribution for Gary and McClellan winning their case.
The complaints against Gary and Madison McClellan include misrepresenting evidence, using profanity in the courtroom, questioning the integrity of Anheuser-Busch attorneys, trying to appeal to jurors' sympathy for the Maris family and trying to prejudice potential jurors by holding a news conference close to the start of the trial.
Anheuser-Busch awarded the Ocala-Gainesville beer distributorship to baseball legend Roger Maris in 1968. After his death in 1985, his family continued to run the company until 1997, when Anheuser-Busch terminated the contract.
The Gainesville trial that began in April 2001 and ran for nearly three months was marked by acrimony between the lawyers for both sides. Senior Circuit Judge R.A. "Buzzy" Green appointed a special master to investigate allegations of misconduct by both sides. The special master later forwarded his report to Green, who then forwarded it to The Florida Bar.
Five months before the Gainesville breach-of-contract trial began, Maris Distributing lost an anti-trust lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch in federal court in Ocala involving some of the same issues. The Maris family hired Gary and McClellan after that trial.
Circuit Judge Brian D. Lambert was appointed by the Florida Supreme Court as a referee in The Florida Bar case. Once both sides have presented their case, he will make a recommendation to the high court. The trial phase is scheduled to continue the rest of this week.
As for the state case tried in Gainesville, an appeals court has sent it back to circuit court in Alachua County.
Because Judge Green threw out Maris Distributing's allegation of defamation before it reached the jury, the appeals court said, the case isn't finished. It is pending before Circuit Judge Toby Monaco.

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