Gasp! Cancer patient, 72, terrifies lawyer | AspenTimes.com
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Gasp! Cancer patient, 72, terrifies lawyer

Michael Cleverly

I don’t know why I’m wasting my time writing this column, when I could be sitting around thinking up lawyer jokes. Actually I do know. My editor at the Times says he won’t pay me to sit around thinking up lawyer jokes, unless I put them in a column, so here I am.This brings me to a news item that was in one of the local papers. It seems that Aspen attorney Ronald Garfield has had a restraining order slapped on high-profile gadfly Pete Luhn, because Mr. Garfield fears for his life. Mr. Luhn, a 72-year-old cancer victim, said something to Mr. Garfield that made him think that Mr. Luhn might like to squish him in a crosswalk. Mr. Garfield, consumed by fear, persuaded Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely to issue a restraining order against Mr. Luhn. I can’t speak for everyone in Woody Creek, but if wanting to squish a lawyer in a crosswalk merits a restraining order …How about those folks riding bicycles down the middle of Woody Creek Road, which it seems has been designated a bike path without our being told? Well, there are a lot of squishing thoughts in my neighborhood. We want our restraining orders, too. We’ve earned them, we deserve them. If Mr. Garfield is really, really terrified, I mean losing sleep, scared poopless, I’ll extend an invitation to him to move to Woody Creek. Most of us are pretty well armed and, for the right kind of money, we might be induced to do a little bodyguarding. I’ve never met a 72-year-old cancer victim who didn’t slow down a bit after a blast from a 12-gauge. Paraplegics and old women in walkers who have a mind to petrify Mr. Garfield could also find their justice meted out with extreme prejudice.As I continued to read the newspaper piece, the facts that presented themselves were sufficiently outlandish that I had to keep checking the date at the top of the page to make sure it wasn’t April 1.The mere notion that someone might want to run over a lawyer is crazy. It makes one question the veracity of everything that comes next. Later, the article revealed that Mr. Garfield is working for – now get this – a real estate developer. At that point, I had to stop and compose myself. It is common knowledge, up and down this valley anyway, that real estate developers are among the most beloved elements of society, constantly being lauded for their humanistic endeavors, aided by their stalwart attorneys, always striving to do the right thing, profit be damned. So, if you believe for one second that a man’s soul could be so dark as to want to squish, in a crosswalk, a lawyer working for a real estate developer, well, you’d probably believe those ugly rumors about a series of phone calls to Dr. Kevorkian emanating from a downtown law office.Anyway, it seems that developer Jonathan Thomas wants to evict geriatric cancer patient/homicidal maniac Luhn. Thomas wants to evict Luhn because he is alive, an egregious breach of etiquette. Luhn was promised that he could live in his cabin for the rest of his life. Apparently, Luhn’s heart is ticking to the beat of one drummer, while Thomas’ developer clock is ticking to the beat of another.The deal was struck a couple of years ago, when Luhn sold his property east of Aspen to Black Diamond LLC. Thomas was the big guy in Black Diamond. At the time, Luhn’s medical condition was no secret and the prognosis grave. Unfortunately for Mr. Thomas, in the words of John Case, Luhn’s attorney, “Luhn has failed to die.” This is inconvenient for Mr. Thomas, whose fallback position is, naturally, to whip out his lawyer. At the time of this transaction, Mr. Luhn was moved from an illegal unit to a cabin with a substandard septic system. A permit had been issued to upgrade this cabin’s system, and the county ordered Black Diamond to dig up the old, not to code, one. Black Diamond dug up the old system but didn’t build a new one. In the meantime, the permit has expired. As there is no specific agreement that Black Diamond has to renew permits, it hasn’t, and therefore it cannot legally build a new system for Mr. Luhn’s residence. As of this writing, Mr. Luhn’s domestic water system involves the use of buckets and he has a chemical toilet.Out of a deep concern for Mr. Luhn’s personal and household hygiene, Mr. Thomas and his lawyer, Mr. Garfield, have posted an eviction notice on Mr. Luhn’s door. So has the county of Pitkin; it’s what they do.By agreement, alternate housing for Mr. Luhn has to meet with his approval. Judging from a phone conversation I had with him, Mr. Luhn’s requirements as far as creature comforts go are pretty minimal, probably somewhat less cozy than Mr. Thomas’s and Mr. Garfield’s. What Luhn wants is, once moved, not to have to move again. Now we have the restraining order. My own panel of legal experts (not the dream team, more like the hallucination team) tell me that to have issued one in the first place would best be described as idiotic. At least the system is doing what it can to protect a lawyer. The lawyer is doing his best for his developer and, God willing, there’ll be a bunch of really big, really expensive new houses east of town.Pete who?


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