Next time you catch John Boorman's classic 1972 film Deliverance, Phoenix lawyer Dennis Wilenchik may come to mind.
Particularly during the notorious "squeal like a pig" scene, when a character played by Ned Beatty is raped by a Georgia redneck and made to crawl on all fours.
Earlier this year, the pugnacious, take-no-prisoners attorney was admonished by the presiding disciplinary judge of the Arizona Supreme Court for a series of blistering e-mails written between Wilenchik and ex-client Dwight Watts in April 2014, regarding a dispute over a consultation fee.
The e-mail exchange featured one response from Wilenchik that earned him a bit of infamy, once it was published as part of the court record.
"Ok drug dealer," Wilenchik wrote to Watts, who had a medical-marijuana consulting business. "I look forward to the many nights and mornings when you think of my name and squeal . . . Check out the movie Deliverance."
Cue "Dueling Banjos" and pass the fried chicken.
Watts since has signed a statement recanting his original complaint to the State Bar of Arizona, saying he was using the bar complaint to get out of paying Wilenchik.
"In no way was I offended by [Wilenchik's] conduct in reality," Watts declares in the document, adding, "In fact, I thought Mr. Wilenchik's last Deliverance e-mail to me was rather humorous."
The formerly disgruntled client confirmed to New Times via e-mail that the statement indeed was his.
In it, he praises Wilenchik as an attorney and asks that the high court's admonition of the barrister be reversed.
He also asserts that his declaration was made "without any incentive or remuneration or consideration other than to see justice done."
Watts had a different tale to tell to senior bar counsel Steve Little in 2014, when, according to Wilenchik's disciplinary record, Watts explained that he had reported the e-mail tiff to the Phoenix Police Department, in supposed fear of getting buggered by Wilenchik.
"The e-mails escalated throughout the evening to reach a finale of him threatening me with gang rape!" Watts wrote Little, later adding, "Myself and my family are terrified of this individual as he is very dangerous."
Watts was being a tad hyperbolic. There's no gang rape in Deliverance.
Well, there could have been, but the character played by Burt Reynolds put an arrow through the heart of Beatty's rapist.
In any case, the complaint lapsed with the Phoenix PD, according to court documents, as the department apparently never received the e-mails in question.
But the Arizona Bar was on the case like a hog on a truffle. This ended in February with an "agreement for discipline by consent," wherein Wilenchik was put on a year's probation and agreed to attend anger-management classes.
According to the court record, Wilenchik acknowledged that his e-mails were "intemperate" and that "he reacted inappropriately to Complainant's provocations."
Judge William O'Neil, presiding disciplinary judge of the Arizona Supreme Court, admonished Wilenchik for his bad behavior and ordered the attorney to reimburse the state bar about $1,200 for the cost of the investigation.
But now that Watts has recanted, Wilenchick's defense counsel Mark Goldman wants the court to set aside its admonition.
Goldman called it "astounding" that the bar was "using its scarce resources" to discipline a lawyer over such a picayune matter.
He pointed to a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a California rule, similar to Arizona's, that could result in discipline for an attorney's untoward actions.
The high court called the rule "unconstitutionally vague," according to Goldman.
"I have no idea how you can use offensive conduct as any way to discipline a lawyer," Goldman told New Times. "Wouldn't most of them [them] be disciplined on a daily basis?"
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Goldman would know, given that he's a member of the bar himself.
Granted, the original assertion, that Watts thought he and his family were going to be gang-raped by Wilenchik, as if Wilenchik was the real-life version of Robert DeNiro's psychopathic character Max Cady in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, appears ludicrous.
On the other hand, now that Wilenchik is taking cases adverse to his former ally, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, perhaps he could get the sheriff (metaphorically, of course) to reprise Beatty's role.