By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
In order to adequately protect the security of this country, it is requested that authority be granted to place a technical surveillance at his current residence and at any future address to which he may move."
Levine was not interested in talking with Soviet agents. He was trying to find a job. When he applied at the Department of Justice, however, Hoover blackballed him.
I got myself in one helluva fix with Hoover," Levine says. ÔHe made my life miserable for several years after that."
Time, of course, would prove Levine's allegations true. But in the early 1960s, he needed to escape Hoover's reach.
Reasoning that Hoover was most influential on the coasts, Levine, newly married, looked for an out-of-the-way place in between to start a law practice. He settled on Arizona.
Upon Levine's arrival in Phoenix, Hoover proved that his influence was far-reaching. When Levine applied for entry to the State Bar of Arizona, Hoover blocked his admission, charging that Levine had revealed national secrets after leaving the bureau.
The bar, then a clubby brotherhood, readily caved in to Hoover's objections and would not give Levine a license.
A handful of local attorneys, most notably Bob Begam, stood by Levine. Levine sued, and the Arizona Supreme Court ordered that he be admitted to the bar.
After his less-than-effusive welcome to Arizona, Levine settled in to practice, working for the small law firm of Langerman, Begam and Lewis-the firm that helped him in his fight for a law license-handling mostly personal-injury cases.
Personal-injury lawyers work what many derisively consider the shady side of the legal street. Rather than dabbling in high-profile criminal cases or multimillion-dollar corporate deals, personal-injury lawyers welcome the angry and wounded into their offices and try to determine if someone owes them for their pain.
That type of law nicely fitted Levine's view of the world, and he has continued in it for 30 years.
I take on the tough cases. I take on the unsavory clients," Levine says. A lot of people think that's poor judgment. I don't. I believe it's a standard of professionalism I believe in. They deserve their day."
After ten years of steady, if unspectacular, casework, an injured party walked into Levine's office with a complaint that again thrust Levine into the role of public crusader.
Robert Updike had resigned as an assistant Phoenix city prosecutor in early 1973. The reason, he told Levine, was that the office had willingly cooperated in a sweetheart deal to help then-Republican U.S. Senator Paul Fannin duck a drunk-driving charge.
Fannin had been stopped in Phoenix on November 17, 1972, and charged with driving while intoxicated. He showed a blood-alcohol level of .13, above the legal limit.
But in an unusual city court session, Fannin's lawyer was allowed to present affidavits from three doctors claiming that Fannin's gout medicine would have caused the Breathalyzer to register a high alcohol level incorrectly.
Although the city's own chemist characterized the gout argument as medically and technically impossible, the charge against Fannin was dismissed.
His principles stirred, Levine led a contingent of attorneys who appeared before the Phoenix City Council, demanding an investigation. Levine charged that the Fannin fix was bald-faced corruption.
I did not want to see Phoenix become instilled with corruption, and the Fannin case to me was a foot in that door," Levine says. It was so blatant, it offended me."
In the cold light of public exposure, Fannin was forced to plead guilty to drunk driving, pay a $100 fine and serve a day in jail.
Afterward, Levine split with the Langerman, Begam and Lewis firm. He claimed that the very attorneys who had helped him successfully sue the bar ten years earlier forced him out for stirring the pot in the Fannin affair.
The firm, however, denied that he was compelled to leave. What Levine described publicly as a departure on principle, one close onlooker says, was actually a timely retreat from a deteriorating situation.
Levine was not getting along well in the firm, the onlooker says, and used the Fannin affair as an excuse to make a graceful exit. If so, it certainly would not be the last time Levine had problems with partners.
Brief affiliations with other partners followed before Levine struck out on his own. As a solo practitioner, he joined the so-called dirty-shirt bar" made up of self-employed attorneys who eschewed the large downtown firms with their appointed offices and silver-plated clients.
Levine reveled in his vocation, teaching continuing legal-education courses for other lawyers, and actively promoting arbitration over courtroom battle.
He served as president of both the Phoenix and Arizona trial lawyers associations, chaired the State Bar's Trial Section and was a founding member of the Personal Injury Trial Lawyers Association.
Despite the fraternal associations, however, Levine was hardly part of the bar's inner circle, and was not widely regarded as a heavyweight litigator. He remained an outsider.
Behind his back, other attorneys began referring to him as Clean Levine," and the nickname was not meant as flattery. Levine developed a reputation, several attorneys say, as something of a sincere, honest but hapless kook.