With his attorney's license in jeopardy for lying to clients, Jim Feeley needed to pull something out of his hat. What he produced was way out in left field.
This is the way Dr. Francis Enos of the Institute for Human Services tried to explain Feeley's behavior to a State Bar of Arizona disciplinary board:
"Mr. Feeley was basically left-handed, but he tended to do almost all of his work with his right hand and acted as if he were right-handed."
Uh huh. Please go on, doctor.
"He indicated that he was apparently born left-handed, but his parents trained him out of it so that he became right-handed. People like this function very well if everything is going right or they are under a relaxed and nonstressful situation."
"Under a more stressful situation, they seem to be unable to know which hand to reach out with to initiate the work. There is a type of psychological blocking that becomes extreme under high stress levels. Perhaps, on a deeper level, we are seeing the results of this mixed dominance that, under a peculiar and unique situation, had a major role. . . . On a conscious level, this man has no idea why he acted as he did."
So Feeley got himself in this big fix because his folks had forced him to be a righty?
"There is so much I don't know," Enos admitted after questioning from the skeptical State Bar panel. "We can never get enough information."
The panel already had found that Feeley, a longtime Phoenix lawyer, had lied to clients about the status of a case. Feeley had told the clients--Frederick and Doris Aldorasi--that their civil case had been set for trial. But a judge actually had dismissed it because of Feeley's procedural boo-boos.
The Aldorasis sued Feeley in Maricopa County Superior Court and settled for $50,000. After Feeley forked over only $5,000, the couple filed a complaint with the State Bar in 1988.
Feeley's chances for vindication waned after it was learned he'd spent $57,052 on a "show truck" during the time he'd claimed not to have enough money to pay off his disgruntled clients.
Enos was testifying on Feeley's behalf at a mitigation hearing in late 1989 to decide his punishment. Chief Bar counsel Harriet Turney was not impressed by the witness. "Your report appears to me to be heavy on what I call `weasel words,'" she told Enos.
Later, Turney--a right-hander, by the way--told New Times, "I cannot tell you how appalled I was by this tactic. Oh, so Mr. Feeley's troubles were being right-handed or left-handed or whatever he is? One word that comes to mind is `outrageous.'"
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The Arizona Supreme Court finally decided the case this year. In a unanimous opinion filed July 25, the court agreed with Turney. Justice James Duke Cameron, not known for being sympathetic to anything to the "left," noted that Dr. Enos' testimony "did not show that `mixed dominance'" had caused Feeley to rip off the Aldorasis.
The high court suspended Feeley for at least six months, and he must pay the Aldorasis about $60,000--including interest--before the State Bar will consider re-admitting him.
If Feeley is looking for solace from southpaws, forget it.
"This is incredible," says Suzan Ireland, managing editor of Lefthander Magazine, from her office in Topeka, Kansas. "We do believe it is wrong to change a child's handedness, as it can cause problems from stuttering to learning disabilities. But we don't encourage it as a defense."
Ireland takes a strictly hands-off approach to this case. "So that's why he did it?" she says with a giggle. "He didn't know which hand to use? Brother. It's this kind of thing that gives left-handers a bad name.