High-profile Seattle defense lawyers quit firm to form own
A trio of prominent attorneys from the Seattle law firm Stafford Frey Cooper, including the firm's senior counsel, have announced they will split to form a new small firm. Stafford Frey, which has been in business for more than a century, plans to continue to do business
Seattle Times staff reporters
Three prominent members of Stafford Frey Cooper, one of Seattle's oldest and most prestigious law firms, have announced they are leaving to form a boutique defense firm of their own.
Attorneys Ted Buck, Anne Bremner and the firm's senior counsel, Thomas Frey, have given notice of their intent to leave the firm, managing partner David Onsager confirmed Thursday.
Onsager said it is his intention "at this point" that Stafford Frey Cooper, which employs 22 attorneys and has been doing business in Seattle for more than 100 years, will continue on — albeit with a likely change of identity.
"At this point, I've only been told" of the lawyers' plans, Onsager said. "I have nothing in writing and no effective resignations yet. If it happens, then it happens."
However, Bremner, one of the firm's most public faces with her representation of clients including Amanda Knox and the parents of Susan Cox Powell, and with regular appearances as a legal commentator on Fox News and elsewhere, confirmed the move and said they are looking for office space and plan to open doors in May.
The firm has no name yet, though Bremner speculated it will be some combination of last names. Currently, Bremner said Thursday, the three remain shareholders at Stafford Frey Cooper.
Over the past 40 years, attorneys at the law firm — led most visibly by Buck and Bremner — have distinguished themselves as fierce advocates of police accused of wrongdoing. The firm established a hard-nosed reputation for turning down deals and winning at trial, and became a favorite with officers, who insisted on their representation.
As a result, Stafford Frey Cooper also established itself as a major line-item in the Seattle City Attorney's budget: Between 1999 and 2010, the firm billed the city more than $18 million.
That changed in 2010 when newly elected City Attorney Pete Holmes announced he would end the contract with the firm and that attorneys from his office would represent police in most cases.
More complex cases, or those involving conflicts of interest, would go out to bid, with Stafford Frey Cooper being only one of several firms asked to submit proposals.
The Seattle Police Officers' Guild responded by filing an unfair-labor-practice action against the city, arguing that officers were entitled to the best representation and that was from Stafford Frey Cooper.
The firm further alienated itself with the city when Buck this year refused orders from the city attorney to drop an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of an adverse ruling in a case involving a trio of Seattle police officers who repeatedly used Tasers on a pregnant woman. Buck, at the city's request, has since withdrawn from the case and been replaced with another private Seattle attorney, Robert Christie.
Onsager said he did not ask Buck to leave the firm despite the loss of the police contract and the controversy surrounding Buck's unauthorized appeal.
Bremner had brought unwanted attention to the firm as well when in 2010 she was arrested for drunken driving by a King County sheriff's deputy. She vehemently denied the allegations and implied she was mistreated by the deputy — a claim that didn't sit well considering she had defended officers against abuse claims for years.
She further drew attention to herself by unsuccessfully trying to seal the police report and video of her arrest.
Bremner eventually pleaded guilty to drunken driving and apologized in September 2010.
The new law firm will remain focused on the Northwest and will include practices in catastrophic-loss defense, civil defense and representation of police departments and insurance companies, Bremner said.
Frey, who has expertise in police defense, First Amendment law and civil rights, did not return a telephone message. Bremner said Buck was out of the country. A message left on Buck's phone was not returned Friday.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or email@example.com
Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.