Defense attorney Gary Adler wanted to ask Vince Falcone, senior support operations manager for Steptoe & Johnson, if the law firm had contacted a host of local politicians and agencies to take a close look at Rogue States once lawyers started smelling burger fumes in their offices.
The plaintiffs attorneys immediately objected on grounds of relevancy in a trial trying to determine whether the Dupont burger joint is, legally, a private nuisance.
Judge John M. Mott promptly stepped in and suggested it wouldn’t be out of place for Steptoe to contact the government to seek remedies for a situation that it deemed a nuisance. But Mott wondered if Adler was trying to make a different point, perhaps that Steptoe was being “heavy handed” toward its neighborhood. Adler took that opening and ran with it.
“This was a coordinated and well-thought out and detailed…I’m going to say crusade” against Rogue States, Adler said to Mott in the bench trial.
Adler proceed to get plaintiff attorney Deborah Baum or Falcone to acknowledge that Steptoe had contacted the following people or agencies once the law firm decided Rogue States was the source of its problems: Jack Evans, Mayor Adrian Fenty, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the D.C. Fire Department, the D.C. Health Department, the Golden Triangle BID, and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Then Adler asked Falcone if Steptoe pulled Rogue State’s certificate of occupancy permit to see if the restaurant was operating properly. Falcone testified that Steptoe did.
Falcone also said under oath that he had established a monitoring group to be the “eyes and ears” for Steptoe on the burger-fumes front. Falcone said he either requested or just assumed certain people on every floor of the Stepotoe building would serve as reporters, noting any incidences of perceived burger odor.
Finally, Adler asked Falcone is there were ever incidences when someone reported smelling burgers fumes at Steptoe but he could not confirm them with his own nostrils.
“Yes,” Falcone said. But then he added under cross-exam, “I really don’t have a great sense of smell.” He also noted that sometimes 10 or 15 minutes may have elapsed from the report to his investigation.