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March 24, 2000     Cape Gazette
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March 24, 2000

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16 - CAPE GAZE'PIE, Fridd Mai-h-24V:Mudi-30,-2I0 Pires talks about his .successes Continued farom page 1 A'deep emotional identification with "the little guy" and "the downtrodden" courses vibrantly through Pires' legal history. After leaving the Justice Department, he joined forces with former Sen. Hugh Scott, a Pennsylvania Re- publican, and opened a law firm that "basically represented farm- ers in agricultural issues." He said he learned a lot from his venerable law partner during their associa- tion from 1984 to 1990, and as he recalled, "I sued the United States Department of Agriculture 50 or 60 times over farmers' griev- ances." When Scott died, Pires contin- ued his agriculture law specializa- tion, forging a new partnership and opening the firm of Conlon, Frantz, Phelan & Pires in Wash- ington, D.C. Over the past 10 years, he has convinced both houses of Con- gress to unanimously pass special legislation suspending the statute of limitations clause to allow mi- nority farmers and ranchers to file 25-year-old discrimination griev- ances against the government. He then won a $22 billion set- tlement from the government for what was found to be its systemat- ic discrimination against black farmers by denying them grants and low-interest loans that were regularly given to white farmers. "That was my only case for years," he explained. "I signed up three clients first, then went all over the South speaking to groups of black farm- era in strange places like an old hanging site in Yazoo City, Mis- sissippi. I didn't get paid at all for more than a year and ended up spending my own money and mortgaging my home five times to make ends meet." A big break in the case came when Ed Bradley and the CBS "60 Minutes" crew followed Pires around for months and then aired a 17-minute segment about his case. "That gained us a lot of sup- port," Pires said, "but the Justice Department vrote me saying that even if we won, they wouldn't pay us a dime because of the statute of limitations on claims against the government. "So I took three black farmers to the White House for what was supposed to be a 30-minute meet- ing with President Clinton. It turned out to be a three-and-a- half-hour meeting, because Clin- ton and the farmers hit it off great, sharing stories about cotton farm- ing in Arkansas. "After that meeting, I took a piece of proposed legislation I wrote asking Congress to lift the statute of limitations on discrimi- nation cases, and convinced Newt Gingrich to back it," Pires related. "Believe it or not, that bill passed in the House 435-0 and in the Senate 100-0. It paved the way for us to get a financial settlement and it opened the door for similar class action discrimination suits, as long as they are filed by this summer." Pires still has not been paid for the huge legal victory in the black farmers case, Pigford vs. Glick- man, but he has an attorney work- ing out the details of his portion of the settlement. "Some people speculate I will get $20 to $25 million," he said. "I don't know what to expect, but it will be nice when it comes." Currently, Pires represents Na- tive American farmers and ranch- ers from Alaska, Arizona, Califor- nia and Washington in a class ac- tion suit against the government over years of discrimination. He spends much of his time once again traveling the country to meet with and sign up more clients in the case, Keepseagle vs. Glickman. Every month, he travels to a different reservation and gains more clients while gaining more insight into the Native American experience. "You know, it's a crime what we've done to Indians. Once, all of America was theirs, but we took it out of greed and selfish in- terests, without any regard for their humanity," he said. More recently, he has put to- gether a class action suit repre- senting tobacco growers and to- bacco quota holders who feel the government's alleged unfair treat- ment of them is putting them out of business. His active itinerary for April in- eludes visits to tobacco farmers in Greeneville, Tenn., Mars Hill( N.C., and Cave City, Ky., along with stops in six other southern tobacco towns. "Frankly, I cwted a whole le- gal industry revolving around claims against the government," he said unabashedly. "There are now 46 judges who sit every day to consider these cases, and 12 arbitrators who work on deciding the biggest cas- es and settlements, "It's rather incredible, really, but it's abouttime the government acknowledged its past discrimina- tory practices. It's time minorities were compensated for years of unfair treatment." What's next for the enterprising attorney? "rm studying a lot of material about how Delaware has allowed its big poultry operations to pollute the soil and water here," he said. "I truly love this area, and it re- ally pains me that nobody's been held accountable for the environ- mental degradation that's oc- curred. My next big case will be against the state of Delaware and the big poultry producers and oth- er industrial polluters. "Somebody has to pay for cleaning up the mess they've made. It's not personal; it's just that somebody has to stop these harmful practices." Asked how he would like to be remembered, Pires grew contem- plative and then smiled. "I always had the dream of returning to my hometown of Easton, Massachue- setts, and making a difference there," he said. "It was a small mill town of 2,000 people when I grew up, home to the industrialist Ames family who owned all the mills where people worked. There were seven or so monster mansions where the rich owners lived and then there were the small, plain houses where the rest of us lived. I went to Oliver Ames Junior High School and Oliver Ames High School. I read books in the Ames Library and lived in Ames Park." When he finished serving in the Army as a captain and went to work for the Justice Department, Pires planned a way to "leave a footprint" in the town where he grew up. "Twenty years ago, I estab- lished a scholarship fund which gives college scholarships to five graduates each year," he ex- plained. "And then I established the " Pires Family Trust, which has purchased a lot of old properties in Easton and renovated them, im- proving the town's appearance and character. I'1i never go home again, but I believe I'm helping give the town new life." He also would like to be re- membered for his legal work, as well as his many accomplish- ments in Dewey Beach - his adopted home - where he served for eight years on town council. 'TII never be accepted as a local, because I wasn't born here," he said. "But it's my home, and I tru- ly love Dewey Beach." Thirdly and in his opinion most importantly - Pires said he has accepted the fact that his tombstone could probably read: Here lies Alex He loved wine, women and song. It might not be an all-inclusive encapsulation of his life, he ad- mitted, but it would be an accu- rate one. "When everything boils down to epitaphs, I must admit my driv- ing force has always remained true to my youthful, idealistic na- ture formed in the 1960s, and to my absolute love of wine, women and song." Asked why he considers him- self an aberrant lawyer, Pires very quickly responded that in general: "I hate lawyers; they're absolutely obnoxious people. When we were all kids and an adult said, 'Sit down and be quiet or leave the room,' I believe jt was the future lawyers who always left the room." Asked what he dislikes to do, he replied: "I hate to join associa- tions, or boards or committees. I don't belong to any of those use- less organizations and never will. Decision by committee is simply the worst possible way to reach a decision; I'll have no part of it." And asked what he likes the most, Pires replied: "Wine, women and song." Security can cause delays at Sussex County Courthouse By Kerry Kester Relatively new security meas- ures at the courthouse in Sussex County could cause delays for those unaccustomed to the new procedures. Sgt. Dave Hunt, Capitol Police Department, ad- vised the public to allow enough time to get through security checks and still be on time for ap- pointments. The daily morning rush, he said, is usually between 8:30 and 9:45 a.m. All court procedures begin at their scheduled time, regardless of whether people are waiting to get through security. Another time that is customarily busy is when new jury panels report to the courthouse the first day; between 9 and 9:30 a.m., there can be a long waiting line for the security check, said Hunt. Large trials that draw a lot of media attention and public inter- est will mean there will be a high- er number of people going to court, said Hunt, so people should allow extra time if they want to be in a courtroom on time. "Try not to hit your appointment on the dot," said Hunt. He recommended people speed the process for themselves and others by follow- ing some basic guidelines: Everyone should avoid carry- ing any extra baggage, such as ad- ditional briefcases or large purses. All need to be x-rayed and searched, so people should avoid taking them to court. Sharp objects such as pocket knives, scissors or box cutters are not allowed in the courthouse. Those who bring them in must check them with security officers and reclaim when they leave the courthouse. "When the officers say take everything out of your pockets," advised Hunt, "take everything out. The machines are very sensi- tive." Even things like cigarette packages will sound the alarm, which further slows the process. "If you have steel-toed boots, tell the officer because you'll nev- er make it through the machine," said Hunt. When officers are aware of special problems, such as the boots or clothing with many metal buttons, they can conduct searches manually and others will not be delayed. Est. 1958 LISTED] HAZZARD Electrical Contractor L.P.I. Cert. 959 645-8457 MS-S60 1-800-610-8457 CERTIFIED LIGHTNING PROTECTION P.O. Box 252 Lewes, DE 19958 Bank-issued, FDIC-insured to $100,000 3-year 7.00% APY* Minimum deposit $5,000 Ann eementaoe d (APY) - Interest cannot remain on dep(m; peaoac payoot Of interest is required. Effective 3/21/00. Call or stop by today. Anthony Egeln New Devon Inn 142 Second St., Lewes 645-7710 l[ Warren C. Hardy #7 Lighthouse Plaza, Rt. I Rehoboth Beach 227-2771 Edward Jones Serving ladlviduM  Si=ee 187x " ' I