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A Conversation with Geoffrey Fieger: Politics Today

Jack Lessenbery
Michigan Radio


Virtually everyone knows Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney whose first name often seems to be “flamboyant.”

Though he burst into national prominence 20 years ago as the attorney who kept Jack Kevorkian free, these days, he is mostly in the news for winning huge medical malpractice verdicts.

Last month, he racked up a $144 million judgment in a birth trauma case which is believed to be the largest medical malpractice suit in state history.

Yet Fieger is also intensely interested in politics. His father was a prominent civil rights attorney; his mother, a labor organizer. Those new to the state sometimes don’t realize that Geoffrey Fieger was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1998.

His upset victory in the primary that year sent shock waves through the Democratic establishment He spent lavishly by the standards of the day -- $6 million out of his own pocket.

And his campaign was, you might say, unorthodox. The incumbent, John Engler, refused to debate Fieger after the attorney speculated publicly that the governor’s triplets had corkscrew tails.

Fieger lost overwhelmingly. Still, he won 1.2 million votes and there’s been speculation ever since that he might run again for something -- governor, or mayor of Detroit.

So I decided to ask him. I went to see him yesterday at his palatial Bloomfield Hills home, a place for which the word mansion seems too mild. “Damn right I still care about this state,” he said.

“This state and this country. It’s a disgrace!” he said heatedly. He’s not especially angry at Governor Snyder, though he thinks the emergency manager law is “evil, unconstitutional, and capable of being  used to take power away from just about anyone.“

But the man who really gets Geoffrey Fieger’s blood boiling these days is Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“He is using this office to wage war against the people,‘ Fieger said. “He is waging a one-man crusade against a medical marijuana law that was passed overwhelmingly by the people.“

“He tells police to ignore the law and seize supplies people are medically entitled to.”
Fieger shook his head angrily. Well, I asked, would you ever be tempted to run again? He thought for a moment. Probably not.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I can make more of a difference not running for office. I mean, the main thing a governor has is the bully pulpit, the ability to speak out,“ he said.

“Well, I can do that. I have the pulpit and the forum, and I intend to use it.“ The only political job that might tempt him, he said, would be mayor of Detroit. “We’d make the city a magnet for artists and immigrants. We wouldn’t enforce marijuana laws, period, or laws against the kind of civilized prostitution they have in Amsterdam.”

“And we’d cut the grass. Shovel the snow, make it look better. You have to repopulate the city before you can do anything else, and that could happen almost overnight,” he believes.

I don’t think Fieger will run for mayor. He has three adopted little children now, and I doubt if he could afford the pay cut.

But I’m sure we haven’t heard the last from him, and when he speaks, whatever else you think, it’s never dull.