By: Louis Roney
These days we hear much talk about lawyers, with the O.J. Simpson trial as daily TV fare.
A book has appeared about Marsha Clark, her marriage, victories and defeats. Newspapers and magazines carry articles on Johnny Cochran, Shapiro, and F. Lee Bailey.
But, here in Winter Park, we have our own famous advocate. Russell Troutman has figuratively landed on the beaches of Normandy many times, and has walked away unscathed. He has ambled in and out of our courtrooms with every cause imaginable on his agenda.
The other day over coffee, Russell was in the mood to talk about his legal activities. I jumped at the chance to report Russell "live" in this column. Here goes:
Recently, a motorist, arrested for recording - without permission - police officers who were citing him for speeding and inadequate seat belts, came before Judge Robert Evans. After hearing arguments by Russell and the state attorney, Evans ruled that police officers have no expectation of privacy in making arrests. The case was dismissed, establishing the precedent that if police can record us without permission, we can record them as well.
In recent weeks, Russell concluded a case favorable to his client against Longwood, for giving the broadcast media access to a video tape of a young lady undressing before cameras hidden by a travel agent supposedly photographing her for a job interview. The young lady discovered the tape, smuggled it out, and turned it over to her police department. The tape helped convict the culprit in the criminal court of Seminole County. All she got was unwanted publicity from television news showing (censored) footage of the tape.
In recent weeks, Russell blazed a new trail for law enforcement. In behalf of an Orange County Deputy Sheriff, Troutman sued a business owner for operating a convenience store that was in the center of drug activity. The deputy received a broken finger from a drug suspect who resisted arrest. Troutman alleged that law enforcement had received hundreds of police calls to the property in question in recent months and years. This case too established a precedent: businesses that tolerate drug traffic in and around their stores are liable for damages to people who are injured as a result of drug traffic.
The above are but little causes of creative lawyering.
Many of the major civil cases which occur in this area also carry Russell's imprimatur.
The most famous is the Philip Chandler case. Philip was imprisoned in the trunk of his car by a couple of hooligans on a hot Florida day. When left in a parking area by the scoundrels, Philip was unconscious and brain damaged. The offenders were arrested and sent to jail. What about damages? The thugs are penniless and therefore judgment-proof.
Phil's Dad came to Russell to get a judgment against the criminals, even if uncollectible. Russell succeeded, and in the process obtained a monetary recovery of $1500 tax-free dollars a month for life, plus $20,000 tax-free bonuses every five years for 25 years.
How did Troutman achieve monetary relief for Philip? Even Russell's partners were skeptical that any remedy at all was available. But Russell applied the uninsured motorist coverage Phil's Dad carried on the car. Phil was riding as an imprisoned passenger- but nevertheless a passenger -when he received his injury by uninsured motorists. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the structured recovery will reap 1.4 million in monetary support to Phil and provide him with bread-and-butter money for life.
Million-dollar recoveries are not unusual for Russell Troutman. He won a million dollar recovery for an Orlando cop when the police officer, riding his motorcycle, was struck by a drunk driver in a borrowed pickup truck.
Russell won a one million dollar verdict from a Kissimmee jury in behalf of a Kissimmee police officer who received a head injury while working as an undercover cop. Someone who recognized his status threw a concrete block through his car window inflicting on him a serious head injury.
For every case which receives
The civil side of the court is where Russell is best known.
But his representations in the criminal courts have been equally brilliant. He won acquittal several years ago for two prominent real estate developers indicted for opening their safety deposit boxes seized by the IRS in an income tax dispute.
The acquittal of a prominent black lawyer charged with obstruction of justice, and represented by Troutman, came a year later.
Russell represented Betty Williams following her acquittal in federal court by another attorney, when she was again investigated. The charges emanated from the same facts that had convicted her husband, son, and daughter. As a result of Russell's representation, Betty was not indicted.
The vice mayor of Kissimmee, Bill McMullan, charged with two felony grand theft counts, also won acquittal through Russell's counsel in Osceola County. The acquittal was appealed by the state attorney and upheld.
Russell tells me the ordinary working person is his favorite client. Joe Powell, a Winter Park paramedic, was arrested for taping a meeting in the city manager's office without permission. That case too was dismissed by Circuit Judge Richard Conrad on the grounds that the city manager "had no reasonable expectation of privacy" and could therefore be taped without permission.
Presently, Russell is undertaking to defend an elderly grandmother charged with instructing her grandson to kill her husband. That case comes up in July.
The famous too have sought out Russell for representation.
Paula Hawkins, while chairman of the Public Service Commission, hired him to represent the Public Service Commission in the famous Florida Power Daisy Chain scandal. Russell's representation resulted in millions of dollars in refunds to the Florida Power subscribers.
Bob Eagan, while state attorney, hired Russell to represent him in a grand jury investigation which resulted in no indictments being returned against Mr. Eagan.
Lou Wolfson, the famous financier, has employed Russell to represent him in a controversy with talk show host Larry King as well as to correct discriminatory constitutional provisions against a Florida city.
Judges, lawyers, doctors, and a whole race of humankind, have flocked to Troutman's doors seeking his advocacy to take their part. He is a lawyer whose standing in the courts is likely exceeded by no other attorney of our area.
Russell quotes his life's creed to me from a favorite Sam Foss poem: "The House By The Side Of The Road"
"Let me live in my house by the side of the road - it's here the race of men go by. They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong. Wise, foolish - so am I. And why should I sit in the scorner's seat, or hurl the cynics ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."
The Winter Park Observer