Doug Kay | Attorney
About This Episode
Doug Kay joins John to share his journey from being a JAG officer in the Navy to working as an attorney in the Fairfax county area, and in particular his involvement in the Fairfax county civilian board panel. In light of George Floyd’s murder and the police officer investigation, this is a relevant topic today. Find out how the civilian board panel reviews citizen complaints about officers’ behavior, how the board pinpoints police procedure issues, and the results of how each complaint being individually investigated have made a difference in their community.
Speaker 1 [00:00:01] I’m John Jorgenson, and if you want to learn more about buying a home or selling your existing home, contact us through the show. We work with an incredible network of professionals who can help you get through the process smoothly. Again, that’s go with John Dotcom. Hey, welcome to another episode of the Go with John show today, we just wrapped up a conversation with Doug K. and man, he wears a lot of hats. It is literally not possible for me to run through the list of all of the different committees and boards and things that he sits on. But today, we’re going to talk to Doug about his work on the Fairfax County Police Civilian review panel. And he is also going to chat with us about what it’s like to be an attorney and how he became a Naval JAG officer and an attorney. Really interesting stories. I hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting with Doug K.. So here we go. All right. So welcome to another episode of the Go a John Show. We’re here with Doug K. today. Doug, thanks for coming in.
Speaker 2 [00:01:26] So nice to be here. Yeah, thanks for inviting me.
Speaker 1 [00:01:28] So, Doug, you are an attorney. I am. And you are with the law firm of Offutt Kerman. Excellent. And you also are a golfer. I am a golfer. And you also are a former naval JAG officer. I am OK. And you’re also because I want to try to get as much in today as we can. You are the are you the chair of the civilian review panel for Fairfax County? Tell us about that briefly.
Speaker 2 [00:01:58] Yeah. So I’m a former chair, OK? There’s only one chair at a time. There are up to nine members of the Fairfax County civilian review panel.
Speaker 1 [00:02:08] OK. And what do they do? Because that’s a really that’s a really relevant topic today.
Speaker 2 [00:02:12] It is. It’s become it became extraordinarily relevant, obviously, with George George Floyds murder. Right. That happened about a year ago. And so what do we do? What we do is we do two things. Primarily, we we review citizen complaints about police behavior. Right. So that’s one thing. And the other thing that we do a little bit less of, because our review of the citizen complaints takes up most of our time. Right. The other thing that we can do is we can hold public meetings and ask for input from the populace, from from our community, and ask community members to tell us what’s on their mind and what things are concerning them about the police department and what people forget. I think sometimes and I’m I’m reminded of whenever I go and I serve in this panel, is that the police work for us. Right. And we live in a democratic system. And so they work for us and we should and we do have input into how we’re policed as a community. Yes. And so so our our function is to review complaints, individual complaints. Along the way, we spot problems with police department policies and we point out those problems at least that we think are problems. Right. And the nine of us ostensibly speak for the entire community as best we can through our own lens.
Speaker 1 [00:03:48] Wonderful. So what made you want to get involved in that?
Speaker 2 [00:03:52] So the beginning of it really started when I was very active in my local bar association, which is just a group of lawyers that that meet together and associate and work on different things. And I was the president of the Bar Association. Right. And Sharon Bulova was the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. And she sent a letter to the bar association and said, we would like a lawyer to be a member of a commission that we’re standing up to take a look at police practices and behavior.
Speaker 1 [00:04:28] What year was that about?
Speaker 2 [00:04:29] So that was probably, I want to say, seven years ago. OK, so and I was the president and the executive director said here we got this letter from Sharon Bulova. We should talk about it our next meeting. Maybe somebody on the board would like to serve on it. And I said, I know who wants to serve with that commission. I want to serve on that commission.
Speaker 1 [00:04:49] OK, and so what was your motivation?
Speaker 2 [00:04:51] Yeah, so my motivation was it looked extremely interesting. The commission was set up in the wake of John Geer being killed by his front doorstep by Fairfax County police officer, member of the field. And there was a lot of controversy over how the police department, not so much the behavior of the officer, which was tragic. And he was eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. But it was the way that the department and and the. County attorney handled the fallout from it and they resisted news news outlets and oh, by the way, John Geer’s family who were fired, who filed a wrongful death action there, and they resisted the prosecutor, Ray Morrow, my old boss, right in his efforts to try to investigate and decide whether or not to prosecute that case. Right. So I was fascinated with the whole thing. I had been a prosecutor in Fairfax, so I had worked closely with the police department in that capacity. At the time, I was still taking criminal defense cases, so I was interested it from that angle. My partner at Nuttal at the time was the general counsel for the Fairfax County Police Union, and I used to assist him when occasionally officers would get in trouble with the department. But most significantly, when I assisted him with was whenever there was an officer involved shooting that that resulted in a death of a community member. If that if that police officer was a member of the union, he was entitled to a union attorney. One summer, Ed went on vacation two separate weeks and there were two officer involved shootings. And one summer that I had to go out at 4:00 in the morning and sit there side by side with the officer. Right. And protect his rights. Right. And so all these things, I was like, this is a really interesting topic to me. I want to get more involved in my community. Yeah. I think that I can actually have something to offer here.
Speaker 1 [00:07:07] Yeah, it’s so easy.
Speaker 2 [00:07:08] So I did it. You know, I think that we all want to give back to the community or a lot of us do. Right. But it’s like where and how. So I saw the opportunity and I jumped in. Nice. So I got on this commission and that’s not the end of the story. But the commission met for six months and yeah. One hundred and thirty two recommendations, one of which was we should stand up a police civilian review panel. So that recommendation was accepted and then they asked for applications for the inaugural panel. And I sent in a resume and was put on the inaugural panel.
Speaker 1 [00:07:44] Amazing. That’s fantastic. Yeah, that’s it
Speaker 2 [00:07:48] was just it was it was you know, I will say that it’s one of, you know, one of the great honors of my life to be able to do this. Right. And I feel like that it’s meaningful. I had no idea that, you know, George Floyd would be murdered five years later. Right. And it would become so much more important. Right. And but it makes it even more valuable.
Speaker 1 [00:08:13] Yeah. So so what I’ve heard is that. So you first had the opportunity to sit by the side of an officer right after he was involved in a shooting. So that’s really the first step right in the process for you, for your arriving at this desire to to be part of this. So you viscerally understand. Yeah. What and you probably had to interview them. Right. And you had to capture data and what happened and. Yeah. Did you get into their personal emotions, like what were you feeling or I mean you got into everything. Right.
Speaker 2 [00:08:50] And, you know, now there were two different police officers. Now leave their names out of it. Sure. And honestly, I can I’m not sure that I remember their names. I know them. I know their faces. And if I heard their names, I would remember in an instant and I and I occasionally see the one officer, the one officer that I remember specifically was, you know, a middle aged man. Forty two years old. He had a wife and children at home. And I had known him when I was a prosecutor. And the prosecutors, you know, I think like you see depicted on TV, sometimes they develop relationships with certain police officers. It’s sort of a natural thing to do. And I had developed a relationship with this guy. And then, lo and behold, you know, ten years later, I’m not a prosecutor anymore. Haven’t been for ten years. Yeah. You know, I’m called to the scene, you know, not to the scene, to the station house for this interview. And there’s
Speaker 1 [00:09:46] the officer, John, whatever
Speaker 2 [00:09:47] his name was. And and, yeah, I mean, it was incredibly emotional for him.
Speaker 1 [00:09:52] Yeah. Yeah. Now was it was that was that particular shooting. What was the situation behind.
Speaker 2 [00:10:00] Sure. Yeah. I mean, good question. You know, there are I think that we the media reports most vociferously about the bad shoots. Sure. Yeah. Sadly, officers have to use their weapons for self-defense or in defense of others with with too great a frequency. I mean, I think we all would agree, but. Vast majority of those are justifiable. Right, and in this case, the the APB or the all points bulletin went out that there was a a man who had who had walked out of a some kind of a group home where we’re emotionally disturbed people live. And he was wielding a knife and he was walking down and it was right in front Springfield Mall at Commerce Avenue. I think it’s in front of Springfield Mall. Yeah. And and the officer was like, huh? You know, you don’t know what you’re going to get that day. You might get a jaywalker, you might get, you know, a parking violation, you might get a running a red light and, you know, man on the loose with a knife.
Speaker 1 [00:11:09] Right. I’m sorry, but yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:11:13] So he confronted this guy. But that’s the life of an officer, right?
Speaker 1 [00:11:16] Exactly.
Speaker 2 [00:11:18] And he confronted this guy and the guy didn’t put down the knife and he and he had to fire shots. And the gentleman passed away very, very tragically and sadly. But I’ve always thought this story doesn’t come up when I’m when I’m sitting in the police review panel. Right. And and I and I would venture to say that sometimes I think the police, they don’t know that history about me. Right. And they assume that I have an agenda that’s antipolice. Yes. I don’t write. I try to be as neutral as I possibly can. And but I do have that background. Yeah. I can sympathize with a police officer. I can also sympathize with criminal defendants who is right out of right. I know there are good cops. I know there are bad cops. And and I know there are there’s good policing and bad policing and good police policy. And now I’ve seen some bad police policies.
Speaker 1 [00:12:14] So so, you know, I guess kind of what I was wondering is, you know, he was he was very upset over the shooting. Yes, it was it was a justifiable shooting, but it doesn’t make it any better for the police officer in general. I would think that if you have to fire your weapon, it’s not a good day.
Speaker 2 [00:12:35] Yeah, my my experience, the police officers are usually very proud of the fact that they’ve never fired their their their weapon. And most of them that you would go out and talk to, they would tell you that the only time they’ve discharged it is to is to euthanize a deer on the side of the road or something like that. Right. Yeah. And they and they and they take great pride in that, you know, and I think really good policing. If you’re really fortunate, you don’t get a weird situation like that fella did that one night. I described, you know, results in not having to deploy to use your weapon. Right.
Speaker 1 [00:13:12] So you’re on the panel. Yeah. And you’re you’re in a sense, you’re representing the citizens of Fairfax County. I do my best. And you have. Yeah, I would I would imagine you do very well. I know you very well. I can’t imagine you would not do very well with that. But you have a so so you have a lot of compassion for the police officer, but you also have a lot of desire, I think, to get the policies right. So a big part of what you do, I guess I’m assuming and you can tell me is you’re focused on their policies and procedures and their practices. That’s correct. Yeah. It’s really interesting because Nick and I talk about this all the time. And and we you know, we have policies and procedures in our organization. And I’ve got the same rules and procedures for everybody that works here. If you if somebody comes to me, which happens frequently and wants an exception to the to the policy or the rule, I generally say, well, let’s reassess this rule or this policy and see if we should change the policy. But I don’t really make exceptions. Right. So then, you know, we will have a discussion within our within our group and we’ll decide whether or not this policy is a good policy and should we reevaluate it? So I can imagine you’re probably doing things like that on a on a much heavier level.
Speaker 2 [00:14:30] Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. I think that the the more clear your policies and procedures are, the easier it is for the police officers to know what to do when they’re confronted with a particular situation. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:14:49] So I think that is I think to me that is the most important conversation that should be happening today is do we have the right policies and procedures in place? And how do you manage that? Because if we have the right policies and procedures in place and officers have to fire their weapon or restrain a suspect following procedure and something tragic happens that that police officer was doing his job. Conversely, if you have a situation. You had with George Floyd, I think justice was served and so you’re you’re on a really fine line in today’s world. So what is your what are your emotions every day when you go to work and you have to deal with this now when really it’s probably the foremost topic on our society’s mind? I think it seems to be to me anyway.
Speaker 2 [00:15:50] Well, you know, so fortunately, we take the way that we investigate police policies is not by opening up the the General Orders book, which is, by the way, like like at least one three ring binder that’s four inches deep and like Supertech and dense. And I would never be able to get through it. I just wouldn’t I don’t think that I could get through it if I if I tried. Rather, what we do is we deal with the complaints sort of one by one by one. Right in each complaint brings in a different, you know, impact different policies. And I will tell you that most of the time, most of our reviews of these complaints have been pretty ordinary and there really hasn’t been anything all that racy or exciting that comes out of them. Right. And and I should point out. So give us an example. Sure. I mean, I’ll give you I’ll give you an example of one that I’m working on right now. Mm hmm. There is a policy, it’s in the general order that states that when police officers go to respond to a complaint of domestic violence. That they’ll identify themselves, explain why they’re there and insist on seeing the occupants of the home. All right. And I’m probably getting that not getting that exactly right. Sure, there was a call to service and this is a complaint that we just reviewed for a second time at our last meeting, which was the first. It’s always the first Thursday of every month, seven o’clock. And anybody can appear and watch and watch our proceedings, but said the last one was would have been the first first Thursday in April, we reviewed a case where there was a complaint made at 4:00 in the morning that there was banging on the walls and two people were fighting in the apartment next door. Please come right away. What’s your name, sir? I don’t want to give my name because they know me and I don’t want to. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to stay neutral. OK, fine. So the police go to the go to, you know, one, two, three, you know, Baker Avenue and they get there and there’s got to be two officers. And when they get there, they. Yeah. Loud enough so that anybody in the apartment, no matter where they were, would be able to hear right after four minutes of knocking. There was no response. Police went back to their cars, the same guy calls back and says they’re at it again. I know you guys are just here, but they’re at it again. Cops come back to the scene. Well, about a minute after the second call from the anonymous caller, the lady and her sister who lived in the apartment had been sound asleep. There have been no domestic disturbance at all. Mm hmm. Call 911 and say there’s somebody pounding on my door. Oh, my goodness. And I’m at one, two, three, four at. Right. And the dispatcher is like, well, that’s the police. Everybody expects this like you did, that there is a horrible domestic assault going on. Yeah. Until I announce to you that there was it. Right. So the complaint is by the ladies who were in there because the police officers didn’t identify themselves. Oh, right. Yeah. Now, the reason that the investigation revealed that the reason that they didn’t identify themselves is because they didn’t their training suggests that it wasn’t safe to stand in the funnel of death, which is right by the front door. Right. And knock right. And say Fairfax County police open up. Yes. In case there’s somebody dangerous behind the door. So now what we’ve identified and, you know, if you were to go and listen to the recording, you would see that I was pretty stern with the police officers. Mike, my beef is not with the with the uniformed officer right at the scene at all. Sure. You know, and I’m not there I’m not here to second guess tactics of the police department. Right. But we have a stated policy that says X and we have I believe the investigation will conduct that where the officers did Y. Right. So now we’ve identified a policy that we need to try to get sorted out. Exactly. And what we need to as a civilian review panel, in my view, find out what training is being done for the officers and determine whether we think that it’s right and report that out. And we we make our reports and I’m writing the report right now for this.
Speaker 1 [00:20:33] It’s amazing. So that’s the kind of thing I mean I mean, it’s really cool and I think it’s really valuable. And I and I didn’t even know that existed. Yeah, yeah. But but it’s amazing. And that’s exactly the way it should work, because the work you’re doing right now is going to potentially avoid a tragic event in the future, because if you can get that policy right, it might stop bullets from coming through a door.
Speaker 2 [00:21:03] And this will force, I hope, and I’m sure because that the you know, the this is a very, very professional police department.
Speaker 1 [00:21:12] Absolutely. Very smart, completely agree with you. Yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:21:15] And they they they endeavor to get it right. They’ll I’m sure they will look at what they’re doing in Houston and what they’re doing in in Chicago and what they’re doing in other places. Where where are they? You know, of course, police are responding to scenes of domestic assault and find out exactly what the best policy is, what’s the safest for the people on the other side of the door and the safest for the for the men and women in blue. Right. We have to figure that out. And, you know, obviously, there’s no perfect answer. Yeah, but there ought to be a policy that the police officers in the line can rely on. And that and that our citizens think is right.
Speaker 1 [00:21:55] Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s ironic because we talk a lot about business on this podcast and we talk a lot about real estate and building houses. And it’s it’s I’m really glad we can have this conversation today. But it all boils down to human interaction. And when you have humans coming together, having interactions, no two interactions are ever the same. And in something like a real estate transaction and something like policing, you know, it’s really hard to have a black and white policy that is going to work in every situation. And I can see why the ladies were terrified. I could also see why somebody might, you know, want to take action against whoever is on the outside of the door, either immediately or through your panel. Right. Because if somebody is banging on my door at 4:00 in the morning,
Speaker 2 [00:22:50] here’s the other piece of it that’s interesting. There’s a new phenomenon. I don’t know how new it is, but there’s a phenomenon that’s that’s gaining popularity, sadly called swatting at swatting is tell me swotting is where you call the police and say there’s a man with a bomb. Yes. And Baker Avenue, one, two, three. And SWAT comes in and drags the guy out. And all kinds of bad things can happen. Right. Right. And so one of the side sideshows of this to me is I think the anonymous caller in this case don’t know. Yeah. I mean, he might have been given the wrong address. It might have been a hellacious domestic violence scene going on across the street. Give. The wrong address. Yeah, or he might have not had taken issue with the occupants, with the occupants who were of a certain ethnicity that maybe he wasn’t and didn’t like them or whatever. I don’t know what you never know. And there is a policy, believe it or not, that that they don’t the police don’t like to go after anonymous callers because they want people to complain about crime. Right. But I think that what I’m interested in, you know, and we’ll study it and we’ll talk to the police department is once you’ve established that this isn’t may not be an anonymous caller to maybe a swotting incident. Yeah. You know, at what point do you have an obligation to investigate that as a crime and the crime being false? Police report that in danger. You know, put these ladies out, put these police officers had to get investigated. Right, twice. I mean. Yeah, so, I mean, it’s you know, it’s like, holy cow, you know? So that’ll be another little wrinkle. So we just the neat thing about what we do is rather than comb through dense material, we just we handle each case. Yeah. And and the nine of us get together and we talk about, well, you know, here’s an issue, here’s an issue. And most of the time the police say that’s not really an issue. Here’s why we say OK, right. But every now and then we sink our teeth into something. And and and we I think we we effect change. And I think that we affect it in a positive way.
Speaker 1 [00:25:01] That’s fantastic. Yeah, I feel good about it. Well, I’m really glad you did. I’m glad you’re on the panel. That’s wonderful. So I think at the at the highest level, the the you know, the police are generally here to serve. They work for us and we I think ninety nine point nine percent of them are all great citizens and great cops. And the work that you guys are doing will certainly, I think, be very beneficial to the community, is beneficial to the community, you know. So I’m glad you’re doing that well now.
Speaker 2 [00:25:37] And I will say that to his credit, Chief Rossler, who just recently retired, was supportive of our of the civilian review panel from the start. Yeah. And and the and the police department, you know, it’s given us good people to work with good partners. Right. And they continue to work with us. And I think that that through that, you know, collaboration, it’ll will just get better and better. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:26:03] So do they see you as an adversary? The police,
Speaker 2 [00:26:06] you know, so when you say the police, that’s like twenty two thousand people. So. Right. So but but your question is a good question. I same yeah. I would say that, you know, the command staff structure that and the Internal Affairs Bureau in particular. Right. I don’t think necessarily see us as adversaries. I think they see us as as as as a group that is, you know, performing its oversight function that’s been assigned to it by the government. Right. And so they’re they’re living with it. Yeah. And there are times when we disagree. And that’s that’s
Speaker 1 [00:26:50] healthy. It is actually.
Speaker 2 [00:26:51] Yeah, but but when you say the police, there’s also the other side of the police department, which is sort of the rank and file, the rank and file officer is. So we just did a six year review. We did a four year review. Excuse me. Yeah. For the for the panel. One of the things that we identified is, is as a potential area of growth for us. Our potential area of improvement is to help the rank and file police officers understand that we’re not you know, we don’t have they shouldn’t see us as adversaries. Right. And that’s that’s a challenge that we have. And and we’re going to have to work on that. And we’re going to reach out to some of the, you know, union. There’s a friends of police, there’s a union. There’s a couple of other organizations, associations of officers who who meet. And we’re going to try to get to know them and go out and tell them what we do and what our job is an idea and try to disabuse them hopefully of maybe whatever preconceived notions they have about us is.
Speaker 1 [00:27:56] Yeah. Locker room chatter.
Speaker 2 [00:27:57] Right, right. You know, but by the same token, there are groups that come to our meetings. For example, Black Lives Matter comes to our meetings frequently and a lot of them are convinced we don’t do enough, that we’re not strong enough, we don’t have enough responsibility. We don’t have enough ability to affect the change that they would like to see. Right. So we’re kind of caught in the middle. Right. And maybe unpopular with with the two groups that that maybe are adversarial. And that’s just. Probably a fact of life that will never change, but that’s unfortunate.
Speaker 1 [00:28:38] Well, you know, maybe as your role, your panel can bring people together, which could sometimes be a very long journey. Yeah, it is. Yeah, well, it’s fantastic. All right. Well, listen, we’re going to take a quick break, Doug. That is awesome to hear what you’re doing there. And thank you for doing that. That’s fantastic service. And while needed today, when we come back, let’s talk about your experience as a Navy JAG officer. I’d love to do it. Thanks. A lot of folks think that building a custom home is a complicated and arduous process. It doesn’t have to be at Stanley Martin custom homes. We have the process down to a science. We will bring you through the fine design and building phase one step at a time. Head on over to we build on your lot dotcom and check us out. Reach out to us if you want to get started on the path to your very own Stanley Martin custom home. So, all right, we’re back with Doug K. And great segment. I really enjoyed hearing about your volunteer work. That’s fantastic. And well needed, of course. So let’s talk about your time as a Navy JAG officer. So what is what does it what does a Navy JAG officer do?
Speaker 2 [00:30:01] Well, a Navy JAG officer is that the Navy has a number of different staff core components. Right. That’s that help support the war fighting arm of the Navy, which is the part that everybody thinks about, the right guys who drive around the ships and fly the planes and drive the submarines. There are there are medical officers there, doctors there, Dennis? Yeah, medical service officers. There are supply officers and there are JAG officers and JAV JAG officers. JAG stands short for judge advocate general. And the top of the food chain for the for the JAG Corps is the judge advocate general of the Navy, who’s a three star admiral. OK, and they’re depending on on what year it is, they’re sometimes somewhere between five hundred and seven hundred lawyers in the Navy. The Navy has, you know, anywhere between three hundred thousand a half million active duty people that are in it. Exclusive of reservists in the JAG Corps does a number of functions. There are basically two two sides of it. There’s a side that where lawyers go out and they assist a command and serve as like a general counsel for a commander and a commander might be in charge of, you know, fifty or one hundred thousand sailors. Right. So you’re there. You’re their lawyer. Right. So, you know, and depending on your rank, that tells you how how big a company essentially you are the general counsel. OK, right. Yeah. So if you’re a captain, which is a you know, the sixth highest officer and the officer corps of the Navy equivalent to an Army colonel, you might be advising the commander in chief of the Pacific Naval Forces. If you’re a lieutenant, which is the equivalent of like a of a Army captain, O3, the third highest officer you might be advising, like a an air station, an air station commander who might have eight thousand people, active duty people services. So that’s one half of the JAG Corps, roughly the other half the JAG Corps is probably what you’re more familiar with. And that’s if you’ve ever saw the movie A Few Good Men. Yes. Where they do prosecutions and defense of service members. And they also under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is you CMJ. And then they also provide legal assistance and they do some claims work and things like that.
Speaker 1 [00:32:40] So if you’re so is a JAG officer on the other side, so are you both a prosecutor and a defense attorney? Could you do wear both hats in different cases or are you primarily defending or primarily prosecuting? How does that lay out?
Speaker 2 [00:32:53] So I think that’s a good question because it’s really interesting to me. OK, so when I was in the Navy and I was in the Navy active duty at a service station from 1993 to 1996, they had what were called Nilsson’s or Navy Legal Service officer offices. And, you know, a lot of acronyms in the Navy. They love their acronyms. And so I was my first duty station was Naval Air Station would be Island. And I went to a to a Navy Legal Service office detachment at Whidbey Island. And my first job was as a defense attorney. Mm hmm. And and when I was there for three years and I had three posts, I was a defense attorney. And then I was what’s called a legal assistance officer, and then I was a prosecutor. But to answer your question, when I was cycling out of my defense work and crossing over to take on prosecution cases, there were times when I hadn’t finished up all of my defense cases before my I was supposed to serve as a prosecutor. And so the judge would call a case and I would be sitting there next to Airman Schmuck Catelli. Yeah, right. And my my buddy Jerry was the prosecutor. Yeah. And then and then we’d get done with that case and the judge would call the next case and we would literally switch tables and he would be defending, you know, airman, you know, sconce or whatever. And I would be prosecuting Airman Scotts. Yeah. And and and we didn’t see that as any real problem because
Speaker 1 [00:34:30] I would see it as a problem. Yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:34:32] As as as an attorney, I think we pride ourselves on being able to be advocates for for. Or any cause, right, that we’re that we’re hired to do right? I certainly in my current job, I’m a do commercial litigation. Now, if a landlord calls me and he wants to evict his commercial tenant at over in Tysons Corner because that tenant hasn’t paid its rent, I’ll represent that landlord on the other side of the coin. If that if that tenant called me first and said, hey, Doug, you won’t believe what this landlord’s doing to me, right? I’m not paying my rent because, you know, he isn’t giving me electricity. Yeah, I would be just happy represent that that tenant.
Speaker 1 [00:35:16] It’s it’s the it’s the set of facts. You’re right. You’re signing up to take ownership and represent the set of facts on either side.
Speaker 2 [00:35:23] So I you know, we all saw it. That’s how we we we saw it back in the 90s. Well, shortly after I left the Navy, they switched it. So now, as I understand it, because I haven’t served under this rubric, but I’ve talked to people who have they have they have commands that are only defense attorneys and they have commands that are only prosecutors. And you you serve in one or the other command and you report to a single commander who’s in charge of all the defense attorneys or the single commanders in charge of all the prosecutors.
Speaker 1 [00:35:56] So I would think that you would be a better defense attorney and a better prosecutor if you have worked both sides of the fence, so to speak.
Speaker 2 [00:36:05] I think that you are I think that I agree. I think having done both makes you more skilled at it, both because you you learn a little tricks that you can do, little things that work. You can also and I think it helps any lawyer in any case to be able to understand where the other side is coming from. Right. When you’re representing your client.
Speaker 1 [00:36:33] Exactly. Yeah. So you almost and then you’ll also know what tricks they’re going to be trying to use against you.
Speaker 2 [00:36:39] Now, I will say that in my my journey as a attorney over twenty five years, I’ve come to appreciate that some people I think are more naturally inclined to be defense attorneys and some people are more naturally inclined to be prosecutors. Yes, I. I found myself hopefully my past criminal defendant clients won’t be listening to your segment, but I think I was a better natural prosecutor. I’m less naturally suspicious of authority or of the government than some of my colleagues who are really good criminal defense attorneys, who are just sort of naturally suspicious, like that person lying. And I really think so. Yeah. So anyway, I just give you that observation. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:37:24] So how did you so how did you become. Tell me the story about how you became a JAG. All right.
Speaker 2 [00:37:32] Do you want the long version. Sure. Let’s let’s have the long version. So long version
Speaker 1 [00:37:38] because I haven’t heard it yet so. Sure.
Speaker 2 [00:37:39] Yeah. The long version starts in college. OK, I went to Virginia Tech and was a history major and my senior year all my buddies. Virginia Tech is an excellent engineering school, a top notch business school. It’s not necessarily known for its history department. And when I was a senior, there were job fairs for the engineers. They were job fairs for the business students, no job fairs for the history majors. And I was wondering what the heck I was going to do when I graduated. Right. When I got a I got a letter in the mail from the Navy, OK? I was a senior in college and
Speaker 1 [00:38:16] now they send everybody a letter. Or was this specific for you because you were a history major?
Speaker 2 [00:38:21] I mean, I have I have no idea how the recruiter found me, but I did this glad I’m glad he did, because it’s part of my journey. Yeah. And so when I the recruiter was out of I think that the letter may have gone to my home address, which is back here in Northern Virginia, in Fairfax. Anyway, I met the recruiter at some Navy base somewhere, and he was a tall, you know, handsome guy with his khakis. And he had the gold wings. He was a pilot. And so I come in, I sit down across from him and he says, so interested the Navy, you want to be a pilot. And I was like, not really, you know. No, not really. You know, some people have always want to be a pilot. I had a friend who was going to be in the Air Force, and I’m like, now what else you got as well? We have these guys who ride in the back of the planes. They’re called Rios radar intercept operators. You want to do that and like, doesn’t really sound that great either. Right? And I said, what else you have? And guys, guys. Well, we have naval intelligence. I said me up. That’s what I want. And I was I was I was fascinated with, like, spy novels. I thought, this is great. I’ll go in. So he’s like, can you do push ups and sit ups and run a mile and a half? I’m like, absolutely no problem. So I bang that out. And the Navy accepted me. And my senior year, like in April, I got orders to go to Pensacola, Florida, for officer, candidate, school aviation officer, candidate school in Pensacola, Florida. Mm hmm. And and I there’s really no substantial military history in my family. I didn’t know that there was that there were officers and enlisted in the service that didn’t. I was unfamiliar. Yeah. My father is a physician and mom’s a nurse. And there weren’t a lot of military around me when I was growing up. So I get down there and Pensacola and and I remember walking walking around the base there. And I had my orders, which were that mimeograph stuff with the little edges that you rip off the sides, you know, the Matrix printer. Right. Right. And it said I was supposed to go to Nimetz Hall or something like that. And and I’m like, you know, I saw this guy and I said, you know, Nemitz Hall is. And he looked at me and kind of said, yeah, it’s right over there. And he kind of laughed because I was wearing like a T-shirt and flip flops. Yeah. And I walk up to this building and there are these two brass missiles with a chain hanging between the missiles. It’s through these doors walks the future of naval aviation. And I went just kind of like that, like, you know. Yeah, kind of schmults. So I go in there, I walk in the door. They say, put your heels four inches from the bulkhead at a 40 at 45 degree angle and stand at attention.
Speaker 1 [00:41:09] And you didn’t even know.
Speaker 2 [00:41:10] And I’m like, OK. And I kind of do that. And then they start screaming at me. And that went on for like ten days straight. And and so I was at what’s called officer candidate school. I was class two four eight niner, which meant I was a twenty fourth class of nineteen eighty nine to go through aviation officer candidate school. And the first ten days they basically march back and forth to the hospital. Right. And you’re getting this flight physical because out of like twenty six guys in my class. Twenty two of them were either pilots or naval flight officers or no other intelligence officers in the in my class, they just don’t have that much need. And I went through all the tests. Perfect vision. Heart was good. It’s physically fit. The last test was the if you’re a man, you know what this is to turn your head and cough test. Right. So do the turn your head cough test. And the guy says, I think you have a hernia. Oh no. And I said, I’m 22 years old. That saved my life and got to be kidding me. Yeah. So they they sent me to get it checked out and yet I had a hernia. So the Navy, in its wisdom, said even though they had surgeons just sitting there at Pensacola waiting to do it, they said, you have to go home, we’re going to discharge you from the Navy. You go home and get your hernia repaired because Uncle Sam’s not paying for your hernia repair. Wow. So I was discharged from the Navy. I go home with my tail between my legs. I told all my my family and friends that I was going to be a naval officer. Right. And I get home and get my hernia and I call the recruiter. I said, OK, I’m ready, you know, three weeks later. Yeah. And he says, OK, we’ll let you know. So now you’re in line. Now I’m in line. Yeah, well, the next thing that happens, if you know your history in the fall of 89, the Berlin Wall came down and basically we that we benefited from. You know, what we now know is the peace dividend. Mm hmm. And I kept calling the recruiter. He says, look, buddy, it could be two weeks. It could be two years. Mm hmm. And I was like, well, I’m not waiting around. So I started studying for the bar exam, took the bar exam, not the bar exam. I took the LSAT right. And then applied to law school, was admitted to law school in August of 1990. And I decided I’d had enough Virginia. So I went to Cal Western, which is out in San Diego, and I start law school in the in September, August of 1990, right about the time that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Nice. Right? So this is where history intersects with your life, right?
Speaker 1 [00:43:48] Where preparation.
Speaker 2 [00:43:50] So so I’m in law school and there are lots of yellow ribbons on the doors in San Diego because it’s a big Navy town. Yes. And I was I assume the Navy was behind me. I thought there’s no way I’m ever going to be in the Navy.
Speaker 1 [00:44:03] Yeah, well, they’re in San Diego.
Speaker 2 [00:44:04] I’m in San Diego. And I’m like, look, you know, their ships and like, wow, this is really cool. I would have been kind of a cool career, but I guess I’ll be a lawyer now. Yeah, well, the best professor at my law school was a guy named Bill Lynch, and he just passed away this past year. Great guy. He had been twenty seven years a Navy JAG. Mm. And had negotiated salt to treaty when he was a senior JAG officer. And and I went and I talked to him after class one day I said, you know, I really still would like to be in the Navy, you know, tell me about this JAG. And he told me about it. So another recruiter and was. Recruited by the Navy and was accepted in the Navy lawyer program that summer, I was commissioned an ensign and that’s how I got in the JAG Corps.
Speaker 1 [00:44:51] Amazing. It’s just amazing how life works. You know, you can always all the little things that happen. Yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:44:58] Yeah. It was really it was it was a great experience. I mean, just a lot of little things that the Navy does. Right, that everybody in society I think could emulate. One of them is sort of the you know, the the Harry Truman saying the buck stops here. Yeah. The commanding officer of any command is responsible for whatever happens in that command. You know, when when a ship runs aground or a submarine gets hit by a merchant vessel. Yeah. The commanding officers probably sound asleep. Right, if somebody else was driving the ship. Yeah, but guess who gets fired? Yes, the CEO. The CEO. And the reason is, is that, you know, I think a very, very hard line that you’re responsible for what happens in your command and so accepting responsibility for the things that you do and the mistakes that you make in life. And there’s lots of opportunities for that. You know, in my career and in any career and knowing, you know, just to accept it and move on to the next the next mission is something I learn there.
Speaker 1 [00:46:08] And so what other lessons did you learn from the Navy that you think could be valuable in closing this sort of recession? It’s a great story, by the way. Well, bring us bring us a
Speaker 2 [00:46:23] bit of wisdom. You know, I think that, like, little like so little things, little things matter. Mm hmm. When I was just about 10 days when I was at officer candidate school, everything had to be a certain way. Yeah, you had to dress a certain way. You had to put your stuff in your locker a certain way. If you ever watch the movie officer and a gentleman, you may remember how his locker lockbox had to be a certain way. Everything is in order. Your belt buckle has to be polished. You’re doing a jig line is. No, I don’t. That’s the line from your shirt. Right? Right. That lines up with your zipper. OK, the jig line is is lined up. I got you. There’s no threads hanging off of your uniform. Right, right. Your your your belts polished. Your shoes are polished. And why is that a point of emphasis. And the thinking is, is that if if you start to train your mind to notice when one little thing is out of order, if you’re a pilot in a cockpit and there’s all those dials and switches, yeah. You’re more likely to spot that thing that’s out of order. Right. So I’ve become a I wouldn’t say I’m a neat freak at all. My wife would definitely say I’m not an EP. Right. But when I sit down at my desk, there can’t be a lot of clutter on it. Right. Because I need to be able to, like, feel like I’m going to be able to tell if something’s out of order.
Speaker 1 [00:48:02] Yeah, I think that’s really good advice and it’s really important.
Speaker 2 [00:48:06] I agree with it completely.
Speaker 1 [00:48:08] Fantastic. Doug, thanks for sharing that with us. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back in three with one or two more stories from Doug. So we’re back with Doug K.. So, Doug, thanks again for coming in. I’m really enjoying hearing your story and it’s and it’s really amazing. And we were just talking during the break, you know, when when when life happens and you just kind of go with the flow. You know, the story you just told about how you became a JAG officer, you know, if you had not had your hernia and if you were not discharged, you told me during the break you would have never been an attorney. And all this stuff that’s happened in your life has happened because you got your law degree. So it’s really it’s really amazing. And I think it’s a common thread with with a lot of successful people is they follow the opportunities that present themselves in front of them. You know, I always say never miss a meeting. I’ve got stories about that. But it’s really amazing to to hear your story. So thanks for sharing that. So let’s talk about what you’re doing now, your day job. So you’re an attorney and you represent all kinds of different things. And that’s really interesting. I think maybe most folks out there may not realize how interesting it is. But, you know, you take a set of facts like you brought up earlier, the landlord, the tenant. But tell us what some of your favorite what what are some of your favorite ideal situations to be involved with now? What kind of clients do you like to represent? What’s the what’s the stuff that gets you excited?
Speaker 2 [00:49:41] So any more what I what I really enjoy is, is finding clients who want an attorney who can help them with sort of all of their legal problems. So I look for a CEO of a company who might be he might do government contracting and that and I might meet him because he’s had having a conflict that takes him to court. Right. When that court matter is over with my with that Curfman, my new firm, well, new as of eight years ago, that’s new is used. It’s all relative. Yeah. What I like to be able to do is introduce him to all the other attorneys in the firm who can help that client. Right. And I like to be the point person for those for those meetings. I like to learn about what my colleagues are or are helping my my clients with. And so and I like to try to solve those problems. To other words, try to be a full service attorney, because I like the relationships that I really enjoy. I enjoy having good relationships with people and being there when they have legal problems that they need solved. Mm hmm.
Speaker 1 [00:50:58] So so what are you what did you day look like? So when you come to work every day, what do you what do you get into.
Speaker 2 [00:51:07] So my day. Yeah. Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, so my day is sort of divided in right now sadly. Probably third’s ok. Yeah. I really have as an attorney I represent people who are typically have court cases are involved in some kind of a conflict. OK, there’s almost always a contract involved. That’s what brings the two sides together. Right. Right. And so the sides are established by some kind of an agreement. Maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of the contract, which is legal thing. Yeah, but there’s always two people that are brought together to like try to do something together. Yeah. And it’s not working out. Yes. And there’s significant conflict. Yes. And it’s taking them to court. And there are the typically the temperature is very high and and and my job is to try to get the best result possible for my client. So that’s like half of what I do. OK, the other half of what I do now is I’m a department chair in my law firm. Um, the firm has over the last course of like last four years, I’ve gotten more and more heavily involved in the management of the lawyers in the firm. Right. There are two hundred and forty two lawyers and off a current presently and I. I am a department chair for four practice groups and the four practice groups have a total of eighty lawyers. Wow. And so my job, one of my jobs is to sort of try to lead and manage those practice group leaders to make sure that that certain things are being done by the various practice groups. Right. We worry about things like quality. We worry about things like workflow, we worry about things like client service, and we worry about legal education. We worry about we worry about billing and making sure that that that the invoices go out, you know, at a certain amount of time. We try to keep the lights on for the lawyers and so that the lawyers can provide the service to the clients. So I spend about half my time on. Management half my time on legal work that I’ve described, and then there’s also I’m the I think I told you we talked about earlier in the segment, civilian review panel. Yes. I’m on the board of directors for my bar association. Yes, I’m active in the state bar. I’m on a task force right now that’s looking at practice group management issues for lawyers and the state bar level. And I’m done coaching because my son plays baseball to the basketball and I don’t know, baseball as it happens. Yeah. So, you know, those are the things that they keep you busy. So when I come in the circle all the way around a question directly, it depends, you know.
Speaker 1 [00:54:02] Yeah. So so I guess for the for the folks listening, I think that we have we have a pretty big business audience. What is your advice to to to folks to avoid getting into conflicts? I mean, maybe that’s a good place to chat a little and then we’ll talk about what happens when you get into a conflict. Right.
Speaker 2 [00:54:28] So I represent a lot of small business owners and the people that I represent typically don’t have a general counsel. I’ve represented publicly traded companies that have several lawyers, and that’s a different sort of a client engagement. My bread and butter are people who are small business owners. Right. And small business owners, I think, are fearful of paying a lot of attorney fees. Right. For to engage an attorney, to advise them. And where I think an attorney could be most beneficial to business people is when the parties when the business people are starting. Right. The relationship. I told you that I deal with an agreement and two sides and there’s high temperatures. Right. A lot of that can be avoided if if you had good legal advice up front. Yes. And you got your deal terms, the critical deal terms in writing. Right. And simple English. So everybody knows what each person is, what what each person’s obligations are for the agreement you forward.
Speaker 1 [00:55:38] Do you normally lay out an exit strategy when you do something like that, or are you just laying out kind of the ground rules for the partnership?
Speaker 2 [00:55:47] Well, it depends on on the nature of the partnership and what they’re trying to accomplish. I use the word partnership. I’m using air quotes because it’s a podcast, right? Using air quotes because partnership has very
Speaker 1 [00:55:59] exact legal
Speaker 2 [00:56:00] terms. But exactly. You know, in terms of an agreement between people moving forward, it depends on how long they’re going to be in business together. But, yeah, if I think that if two people go into business together, they should know what they’re trying to do, who’s doing what, what was one of the management responsibilities. And if we disagree, how do we break this thing up without a lot of risk, a lot of high temperature. Right. What are the terms of the buyout? Right. You know, who can buy whom out on what terms if if they the parties decide they want to go their separate ways. Right. And I think that’s what you mean by accident.
Speaker 1 [00:56:38] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I think I think generally speaking, I think most folks probably don’t know this, but it’s probably easier to get divorced than it is to terminate a business arrangement between a group of people. I mean, it can get very complicated. You have, you know, loans together and you have leases together. It can get it can get really dicey.
Speaker 2 [00:57:03] Yeah. And if you have, most people will set up some sort of a corporate structure because they know enough to know that you want that shield from personal liability that the corporate structure provides. Right. Right. But now, once you have the corporate structure, you unless it’s a 50 50 split, which creates its own set of problems. Right. If somebody is the majority shareholder, they have the ability to control all the action to the detriment of the minority shareholder or shareholders.
Speaker 1 [00:57:38] Fifty one percent.
Speaker 2 [00:57:39] That’s all it takes. Yeah. And I’ve seen I’ve done I’ve done a lot around shareholder disputes. I’ve done a lot just a lot with that. And I’ve represented people who. The majority. Yeah. And I’ve represented people that are the minority. Yeah. And I don’t get to pick which one comes in my door like we talked about. Right. I just take whatever comes in. Yeah. But you have a substantial advantage if you’re in the majority. Right. Which should tell you that if you’re going to be in the minority it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go into business, but you want to know how you’re going to exit. It’s even more critical for the minority shareholder to have an exit plan. It’s in writing that is enforceable, right, otherwise, you are you own shares in a company that you’re pouring all of your energy into. Right. And there’s no market for those shares.
Speaker 1 [00:58:30] Right. And you potentially have liability, you know, and you have no control over the direction of the organization so that you it’s a pretty dicey situation to be in a very dire situation.
Speaker 2 [00:58:41] So the number one thing, you know, going back to your first question. Yeah. What do you what would you tell people? I would say talk to a lawyer at the beginning when it’s when things are good. Right. With your partner. Right. Don’t don’t wait until things are really crummy. Yes. To call the lawyer. Obviously, I usually get people call me when things are crummy, so don’t hesitate to call me then I’ll answer your phone. Sure. But, you know, if you’re looking for good business advice, it’s it’s get the advice of a lawyer early and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Speaker 1 [00:59:12] I was just going to say. Doesn’t have to be. I totally agree with you.
Speaker 2 [00:59:15] It can be. It can be, you know, an hour long conversation over a cup of coffee or an adult beverage. Right. And I can set you on your way. Yeah, but that would be my advice.
Speaker 1 [00:59:25] Yeah, that yeah. That’s good advice. And I and I’ll, I will second that again. It does not have to be expensive. I think if you have someone like you who understands business and understands the law, you can get to the right answer very quickly or you get to the right attorney and your firm who can get to the answer very quickly. So you’re you’re absolutely right. So what are your. So now you’re a golfer. So let’s talk about golf a little bit. So how often do you’re actually on the board at the Fairfax Country Club? I don’t know where you have time for all this stuff. I mean, I can barely be a dad and run my organization and spend a little time on my farm and I’m overloaded. So clearly, you have a lot of bandwidth. You’re one of those guys that I call high paying, high bandwidth leaders in our in our community. But you’re you’re on the board of the country club. So how often do you get to play golf?
Speaker 2 [01:00:26] You know, it depends on what’s going on at work, but I try to carve out Sunday mornings, OK, and I try to play every Sunday morning with with some friends. And if I can sneak in, you know, nine holes with my 14 year old son in the evening, that’s all the better. Yeah. Yeah. But I, I do I do love golf.
Speaker 1 [01:00:46] So where did that passion come from.
Speaker 2 [01:00:48] So I grew up playing it. My dad was an avid golfer growing up and I didn’t really like it, but I was a kid. I played it.
Speaker 1 [01:00:59] It’s a painful game.
Speaker 2 [01:01:01] It is. It is very painful. And I didn’t really like it until I got a little bit later in life in my 20s. And and what I tell people is that the best thing and the worst thing about golf is that it takes like four hours to play. Right.
Speaker 1 [01:01:14] Right. Now, how much business do you ever do business on the golf course or have you ever done you know, it comes up?
Speaker 2 [01:01:23] I think that I definitely have gotten you know, I’ve met clients on the golf course. I’ve taken clients to the golf course. Clients have taken me to the golf course. It’s a great way. Like I said earlier, I enjoy having good relationships with my clients. I find that that’s so much more pleasant that there are some clients where I have challenged to have any relationship, and those are the cases that I worry about the most. So, you know, if I can play around and golf with a client, you know, even if we only talk about the case for 15 minutes. Right. You know, there may be some insight gained. And the most important thing is just for a lot of what I spend my time doing is. Pointing out. The problems with the positions that my clients are taking in a particular piece of litigation, those are delicate conversations. If, if, but but they’re also the most important. I mean, if I sit there and I just tell my clients what they want to hear every time, then I’m not doing them any kind of any.
Speaker 1 [01:02:38] So can you give us an example?
Speaker 2 [01:02:41] I probably could if I if I think about it. But, you know, it’s every day I’m I’m I have to push back with a client where a client wants to press. I mean, here’s a conversation I had this morning. Client wants to seek attorney’s fees against the opposing party in a discovery dispute. Mm hmm. And and I have to sort of gently push them back because they’re also taking aggressive positions. And, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, you know? Right. The next we may we may lose the next one. Right. And be looking at the same, you know, the same sort of advocacy on the other side. Right. Right. And so if I have a good relationship with my client, the hope is, is that they’ll be more likely to trust me. Right when I tell them that I know we could do this. Yeah, but it’s my advice that we don’t do that.
Speaker 1 [01:03:41] Right. I’ve never heard that. So, yeah, fantastic. I think I’m just fascinated. You know, it all goes back to policies and procedures and rules, you know? And, you know, when you’re a lawyer, you’re dealing with the rules of our society, you know, and they’re they’re complex. And you interject humans. And it’s a fascinating topic for me always. So so, Doug, in closing out today, is there anything you want to mention about your firm, about your career? You know, do you want to do you know, I think people can tell by listening, you know, what you’re doing. And I can tell folks, you know what you’re doing. You’re great to work with your your your personable. You’re a great listener. But is there anything you want to add to what we’ve talked about today before we close out?
Speaker 2 [01:04:37] I think the one thing that I would add or that I would mention is that my example in life was always my father, who is a very, very kind and decent man. And I pride myself on being the same way. But what I would and sometimes clients come along and they really want their lawyer to be very disagreeable. Mm. To be very apparently aggressive. And that’s not my style. It doesn’t work for me. Right. But what I would say is what you want and a lawyer is not necessarily that that may work for some people. At the end of the day, you want the attorney with the experience and the confidence that they can go to court. In my case, I’m a litigator at the end of the day, when all when all of the negotiating is over. Right. And we’ve narrowed the issues as much as we can. You want somebody who can go into court and can win for you. And the advantage that I bring to the table, there is just twenty five years of experience trying cases. And it started, you know, in the Navy, you know, very early. You know, from there I was a prosecutor and most of my work since 1996 when I got out of the Navy has been in Fairfax County. And I protect very carefully my reputation with the judges in that county to be sure that they know that when I bring a case before them and I advocate for a client, that I’m not full of B.S.. Right. That that they’ll sit for and they’ll listen. Yeah. And and so, you know, the point is, is that although I’m outwardly nice, I’m inwardly incredibly competitive and and I want to win and I want to win for you as a as a client.
Speaker 1 [01:06:43] Fantastic. Doug, thanks for coming in and really enjoyed the chat today. It’s great to get to know you. We look forward to having you back. And there’s many more conversations on the horizon for us. Thanks, Doug.
Speaker 2 [01:06:56] Thank you, John. I really appreciate it. I had a great time.
Speaker 1 [01:07:03] So this wraps up another episode of the Go at John Show, thanks for listening and go out there and build something extraordinary.