Spotlight shines on 2 lawyers

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff, 12/8/2000

ALLAHASSEE - Barry Richard, his thick, whitened hair soaring upright as if pulled by the electricity of the moment, could barely hide his indignation.

Richard, the lesser-known of the two main lawyers who appeared before the Florida Supreme Court yesterday, already had won a huge victory this week for his client, George W. Bush, persuading Leon County Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls to reject Al Gore's request for a recount.

Now, here was Richard, getting slightly more than his 15 minutes of fame, describing the case before the Florida Supreme Court in terse, even dismissive, terms.

''This is nothing more than a garden-variety appeal,'' the Tallahassee lawyer said.

Indeed, it was just your average, everyday case that comes along every century or so, one that could determine the presidency.

Richard's line was intended to make his technical point of law - namely, that the state Supreme Court had no business even considering Gore's appeal. He cited case law and sections of legislative code, but his point was that this was just another case where a loser is trying to get an undeserved second chance.

Richard is a Democrat who some believe might just as easily have been working for Gore. But the Bush team liked the idea of having one of the town's top trial lawyers on its side, and Richard accepted. Another lawyer for Bush, Ben Ginsberg, said Richard was recommended by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who respected Richard's work before the Florida Supreme Court.

For weeks, Richard has been overshadowed by the earnest, balding Gore attorney, David Boies. Nearly every day, a profile in the newspapers or on television has detailed Boies's prowess, retelling how he successfully waged the US government's antitrust case against Microsoft and then went to work for the Internet music-sharing company known as Napster.

''I went to get a haircut with him yesterday, and he had more photographers following him than I've had around me in 20 years,'' said another Gore attorney, Dexter Douglass.

Then again, Boies lost one of the biggest cases of his career Monday when Sauls rejected each of Boies's arguments.

Yesterday, Boies, dressed in a dark suit, striped shirt, and one of those flat-edged cloth ties that went out of style about 20 years ago, showed abundant evidence of his legal intellect.

For example, when Justice Peggy Quince said that Gore's filing of a ''contest'' of the election was a first in Florida, Boies could not resist showing off his quickly acquired knowledge of her state.

''Well, actually back in 1916 in the gubernatorial race there was an attempt to bring a contest by mandamus to this court,'' Boies said. Then, perhaps remembering the importance of deference in the courtroom, he continued, ''But in the modern era, I think the court is right, you have not had a statewide contest.''

Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, said afterward that both Boies and Richard seemed tired and anxious.

''I thought Boies looked ... like a man going down to defeat,'' said Jarvis, a Democrat who voted for Gore. ''I was a little disappointed in his presentation. He didn't drop any bombshells.''

As for Richard, Jarvis said that he seemed ''so aggressive'' and like ''an attack dog'' in a setting where lawyers usually try to be collegial.

This wasn't even Richard's only trial of the day. No sooner was the hearing over than he rushed a block away to the Leon County Circuit Court, where he also was representing Bush in a case brought by Democratic voters trying to throw out absentee ballots in Seminole County.

Boies, by contrast, had time to give a nationally televised press conference that lasted for nearly 30 minutes. This will likely be the last case for Gore he will argue.