One of Geoffrey Fieger's best-known clients is Dr. Jack Kevorkian—the Michigan doctor who went to prison for his part in an assisted suicide. Fieger and Kevorkian keep in touch. The man who became known as Dr. Death is running for Congress on November 4 and he's invited Fieger and a select group of other people to join him to watch the election results roll in. "I don't think he has a chance of winning," says Fieger, "but I will be there."
Sometimes described as abrasive, Fieger has been involved in many headline grabbing court battles. In 2006, he sued the City of Detroit's 911 operations for not taking seriously a call from a 6-year-old that resulted in the death of his mother. He also represented the family of a boy killed in the Columbine School Massacre.
Fieger won his first million dollar verdict in 1980 and as the saying goes, he has not looked back since.
His office is in the same building where his father started the Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson and Giroux in Southfield, Michigan in 1950. Over the last half century and more the firm has built a national reputation in civil rights litigation and working on behalf of just causes.
Never afraid to say what is on his mind, Fieger believes that many American lawyers have become, as he puts it, "afraid to win." In other words, many lawsuits Fieger contends should be decided before a jury at trial rather then hashed out in an office. "I think a lot of lawyers are afraid to win, they're afraid to try cases," he says, "because there is always the threat of failure."
It is the knee-jerk inclination to settle he sees that rankles Fieger. "They resolve cases without winning or losing," Fieger continues. "If that is the mechanism by which you do business, I don't think that does service to your client's best interests."
Fieger admits that in many situations proceeding to settlement is in the best interests of a client, however there are far too many out of court settlements for his liking. "I think in the scheme of things there are a whole lot of cases that shouldn't settle. People are afraid to go to trial because of the prejudice against people who bring lawsuits in the civil area and the prejudice that exists in the criminal system as well."
In the world of lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger is a rock star. A regular guest on network television, rarely if ever lost for words, Fieger is never one to shun the courtroom stage. "If you look at the dispute resolution mechanisms, which are all in effect circumvention of trial by jury," says Fieger, "and you look at the number of lawyers that really try cases and put their lives on the line it is very few."
READ MORE Civil Rights LEGAL NEWS
So what makes a lawyer like Geoffrey Fieger keep going? He has won dozens of multi-million dollar cases, so it is not the money. "I would say my parents, Bernie and June," Fieger lets out a chuckle and then gets serious. "I am driven to do what I think is right and I am not satisfied unless I do it. I want to be the best at what I do. I think that should be everyone's inner goal. That's true for plumbers, street cleaners or lawyers."
Geoffrey Feiger graduated from the Detroit College of Law, now the Michigan State University College of Law. He recently gave the University $4 million to start the nation's first trial practice institute for law students. Fieger's firm is reported to have won more multi-million dollar verdicts than any other firm in the US.