|Fredric G. Levin|
|Occupation||Attorney, boxing manager|
|Parents||Abe and Rose Levin|
Fredric Gerson Levin (b. 1937) is a prominent plaintiffs' attorney and principal of the law firm Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, best known for the $13.2 billion tobacco settlement he helped win for the State of Florida. He is also known for his philanthropy to the University of Florida and the Levin & Papantonio Family Foundation, and for being the advisor and manager to champion boxers including Pensacola local Roy Jones, Jr.
Early life & education
Fred Levin was born in 1937 to and Rose and Abe Levin, a South Palafox Street pawnbroker who was president of the B'Nai Israel Synagogue when it moved to its 9th Avenue location. Levin attended Pensacola High School and in 1954 was among the first class to graduate from the school's new Maxwell Street location, alongside future community leaders M. J. Menge, Lane Gilchrist and Monte Blews.
He attended the University of Florida, where he was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi International Fraternity, and received his bachelor's degree in 1958. Despite earlier intentions to be a businessman, he decided to follow his brother David into the legal profession.
|Up until I went to law school, I never had any direction. I never really thought I was good at anything other than partying. I had to go to summer school just to get over a 2.0 to get out of the University of Florida to go to law school. I got to law school, then for the first time in my life, I really knew that I was good, I mean really good, at something and I knocked their socks off. I loved it, 16, 18 hours a day, seven days a week didn't bother me.|
He met Marilyn Kapner in Gainesville, and they married after his first year in law school. She passed away Feb. 6, 2011. In 1961 he graduated third in his class from the UF College of Law. (The college was later named for him in 1999 following a $10 million donation; see below.)
Upon returning to Pensacola, Levin joined the firm that his brother David had started with Reubin Askew in 1955. His first case was for a woman whose house had burned down. The insurance company was represented by Bert Lane. "Bert was the best defense lawyer probably in the South and he had forced me into a jury trial. I wasn't planning on being a trial lawyer. I was just waiting to go to tax school. … I tried to settle for $18,500 and he had offered me $16,000. The jury came back with $50,000."
The firm's prominence took off when Askew was elected Governor of Florida. It was later renamed for the younger Levin, Mike Papantonio and the other new partners.
One of Levin's signatures is his willingness to return phone calls personally, which he traces to his law school days; his new daughter Marci had gotten sick and needed a pediatrician, but none of the doctors would return his calls for several days. This had a "profound effect" on him, and he credits his first verdict of more than a million dollars to the fact that he returned the client's phone call on a Saturday.
Levin represented Jake Horton in the Gulf Power corruption scandal before his death in an April 10, 1989 plane crash. Levin has claimed that he received blackmail and death threats during the case (including a mafia-style warning of leaving dead canaries outside his home) and has accused Gulf Power of "trying to make the public believe Jake set the plane on fire."
In 1993, Levin advocated amending the Florida Medicaid Third Party Recovery Act to enable the State of Florida to sue the tobacco industry for the costs of treating illnesses caused by cigarette smoking. He claims the idea was suggested to him by "some guy" at a bar in British Columbia. Levin helped his longtime friend State Senator W. D. Childers draft the legislation, which eventually resulted in a $13.2 billion settlement for the State of Florida in 1998. Levin's firm was awarded about $275 million for its part.
|When I came up with the idea, I went to Senator W.D. Childers and Governor Lawton Chiles and both of them enthusiastically endorsed this statutory amendment. It was passed secretly but it was the only way it could pass. Governor Chiles told me that there is no way that we could openly pass that statute. The tobacco companies … beat the United State Senate, they're that powerful. They have the money and the influence and the lobbying force where they would defeat it no matter how good it was. … I know that the passing of this statute was, as one professor said, the engine that drove the total train for the tobacco settlement in this country. Another professor said it was the most significant piece of health care legislation ever passed in this country, and more lives would be saved by this than anything that the government has ever done. |
He has received more than twenty-five jury verdicts in excess of $1 million, and six in excess of $10 million. He has held national records for jury verdicts involving the wrongful death of a child, the wrongful death of a housewife, the wrongful death of a wage earner, and the largest personal injury verdict in the state of Florida.
Levin has frequently butted heads with the Florida Bar Association and has been the subject of numerous complaints. The Florida Supreme Court reprimanded him in 1991 after he admitted to illegal gambling on football games. In 1996 he was accused by the Florida Bar of making unethical remarks to the juries of two personal injury cases, but was acquitted of the charges.
Other complaints were filed after statements Levin made during the trial of W. D. Childers, his client and friend. Levin called witness for the prosecution Willie Junior a "crook and a rat fink" in an interview with WEAR-TV and told the Pensacola News Journal, "If Willie was on the Titanic, he would dress like a woman and jump on the first lifeboat." Later, after Okaloosa County Judge T. Patterson Manley sentenced Childers to the maximum sentence for his Sunshine Law violations and denied an appeals bond, Levin said in an News Journal interview, "I've never been so embarrassed or ashamed of the legal profession. I believe the inmates have taken over the asylum." He was later cleared of ethics charges in both instances.
Levin was introduced to boxing through his brother Stanley's involvement with Boys Club, where Roy Jones, Sr. ran the boxing program. After the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea, where Roy Jones, Jr. was controversially awarded silver medal despite pummeling Korean opponent Wikipedia:Park Si-Hun in the final, Jones Sr. sought out the Levins to represent his son. Fred and Stanley were name co-managers of the year by the Boxing Writers Association in 1994.
Another of Levin's boxing clients was Ike Quartey, a former World Boxing Association welterweight champion who has been called the "Michael Jordan of Ghana." On January 22, 1999, Levin was named an honorary chief of Ghana in a ceremony held at the United Nations. "There are very few Americans with this honor. He is in very distinct company," said Ghanaian Ambassador Kody A. Koomson. "It is only conferred on individuals who have demonstrated they care for humanity."
In 2007 he began representing Juan Díaz, offering his services without a fee, but resigned in February 2008. "I can no longer in good conscience represent Juan Diaz," Levin wrote at the time, lamenting his own lack of contact with the boxer. "I have never had a client complain about anything that I have done in the practice of law until now."
Philanthropy and donations
Levin has made frequent donations to various organizations, including his alma mater, the University of Florida, and hometown University of West Florida. In 1984 he donated land valued at over $1.5 million to UWF in honor of his late father, Abe Levin. He, his brother David and law partner Lefferts Mabie gave UF land worth more than $1 million in 1994, the sale of which was used to fund six law school faculty positions.
In 1992, Levin and his partner Mike Papantonio established the Levin & Papantonio Family Foundation, a charitable organization that was for many years headed by Levin's son Martin. Martin said that many of his father's donations are made in Marilyn Levin's name. "He doesn't want people to know about this side of him. He thinks compassion and kindness make a lawyer look weak. So he does things that make him look like a complete jerk."
After the firm received around $300 million for its part in the tobacco settlement, an amount Levin conceded was "totally obscene," Levin announced two major donations: $10 million to his former law school at the University of Florida, and $2 million to the Levin & Papantonio Family Foundation. The $10 million donation was matched by the state and created the Fredric G. and Marilyn Kapner Levin Endowment Fund, and in exchange the university agreed to redesignate the College of Law, founded in 1909, the "Fredric G. Levin College of Law."
Many attorneys and legal organizations in Florida expressed displeasure over the name change, due to Levin's brusque style and past controversies, and the perception that legal institutions could be bought for a price.
"I can understand the concern that some people have about naming the college Fred G. Levin or any other name," he said. "I would have felt the same way; it would have sort of bothered me. The only thing I can say is wait until the next century," when the improvements made possible by the donation would be evident.
Like many other members of his firm, Levin is a frequent donor to Democratic politicians' campaigns.
Levin is married to the former Marilyn Kapner. They have three daughters and a son: Marci, Debra, Kimberly, and Martin. All four of Levin's children attended the University of Florida, with two of the four following their father into professions relating to law. His daughter Marci has since become a Circuit Court judge, and his son Martin was a rising star star attorney and became president of his father's firm in 1996 before renouncing the legal profession to attend Harvard Divinity School in 2002.
Fred and Marilyn live in their 47-room Gulf Breeze home, "The Phoenix," which they began in 1988 as an investment property. They moved from their home on Bayou Texar in 1991 when no buyer emerged. "It was an investment that just got out of hand," said Levin. "Not many people are looking for a 26,000-plus square-foot home." Levin also owns an extravagant condominium at the Portofino Island Resort, which his brother Allen developed.
Levin has frequently said that he regrets dedicating so much time to his career, at the expense of his family life. "My wife raised a family without a husband and it was very difficult for her," he said. "She suffered a great deal and as a result has a lot of physical problems today." He has since devoted himself to spending more time with his grandchildren than he did with his own children.
|I'm not a great father. I would not be considered father of the year. I've enjoyed this and I've enjoyed that. I've received a helluva lot more awards and a lot more credit than I deserve. I've taken advantage. But family activities suffer. I'm fortunate to have turned out a family as good as I have. It's not my doing. … Of eight college graduations and four high school graduations, I made one high school one and one college. When my daughter Marci graduated law school, I was at the Kentucky Derby that same day. It's too late for me to make up for being a lousy father.|
- Opening Statement, Florida Civil Trial Practice Ch. 8 5th ed., 1998
- Opening Statement, Fla. Civil Trial Prac.4th ed., 1990
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- Attorney's Fees, Florida Civil Practice 2d ed., 1980
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- Personal Injury Protection Coverage, Florida No-Fault Ins. Prac. 2d ed., 1979
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- Wrongful Death and Florida's '10-20' Liability Policy -- The Twilight Zone, (1960-1961), 13 Fla. L. Rev. 377
- Operations and the Rule Against Perpetuities, (1960-1961), 13 Fla. L. Rev. 214
- Closing Arguments, The Last Battle, 2003
Awards & recognition
- "Catching up with Class of '54." Pensacola News Journal, May 15, 2004.
- "Fred Levin: 'I love the law and it's been good to me.'" Pensacola News Journal, February 21, 1999.
- "Are lawyers running America?" Time, July 9, 2000.
- "Fatal Subtraction." Time, May 22, 1989.
- "Who's the Man?" Independent News Journal, June 14, 2007.
- "Web sites give glimpses of political matters local and national." Pensacola News Journal, April 20, 2004.
- FindLaw profile
- "Fred Levin cleared of ethics charges." Pensacola News Journal, December 9, 2003.
- "Levin gift will add to UF's prestige." Pensacola News Journal, January 12, 1999.
- "Attorney Levin wins Marciano boxing award." Pensacola News Journal, December 18, 2001.
- [http://blog.nj.com/ledgerboxing/2008/03/king_to_no_longer_promote_diaz.html "King to no longer promote Diaz." March 5, 2008.
- "Levin donates $12 million of tobacco money." Pensacola News Journal, January 6, 1999.
- "The Divinity Student." Pensacola News Journal, August 11, 2002.
- "Levin, Kerrigan to donate money to University of Florida law school." Pensacola News Journal, February 23, 2006.
- "Levin home is a work of art." Pensacola News Journal, February 27, 2000.