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Guiliani’s Son Channels Kramer, Sues Duke University

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If you heard about Andrew Giuliani’s lawsuit against Duke University after he was kicked off the golf team and immediately thought about Cosmo Kramer, you’re hardly alone. If you take the time to actually read the lawsuit, you’ll be even more convinced that, if anything, Kramer’s lawsuit had more merit.

As you may recall, in one episode of Seinfeld, Kramer sued Sue Ellen Mischke, the Oh Henry candy bar heiress, when he injured his shoulder after crashing his car into a lamppost. Kramer was happily distracted by Mischke walking down the street wearing only a bra. At the trial, Kramer claimed the injury stunted his dream of joining the senior golf tour. The trial ultimately got derailed when Stan the Caddy advised Kramer to have Mischke try on the bra. It didn’t fit. Mischke walked and Kramer’s dream of a pro career was derailed.

Giuliani looks to be headed for a similar fate, without the side benefit of seeing Mischke parade by in her bra.

Coming across every bit the pampered, spoiled son of privilege, young Giuliani is claiming that his dreams of joining the PGA Tour have been severely hampered by what Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles would probably call the preposterous, outrageous, and salacious conduct of the Duke mens golf coach, O.D. Vincent. Except Giuliani’s version of Jackie Chiles, attorney Robert Ekstrand, didn’t have the benefit of Seinfeld’s writers. Thus he was left to claim in rather boring fashion, that the purpose of the suit was to establish what “common sense and basic morals plainly dictate: each of the acts described…is wrongful and must be stopped.”

Of course, it tends to go without saying that common sense and basic morals were thrown out the window the minute the lawsuit was filed, but it’s worth saying anyway. Suing a coach because you didn’t make the team may be a relatively new response to an age-old issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable or even rational response. That these sorts of lawsuits are now more commonplace isn’t so much an indictment of the justice system as it is an indictment of the parents who can’t tolerate seeing junior unhappy.

The lawsuit itself is remarkable in its intent. Peeled away, Giuliani is a whiny non-scholarship golfer who claims that his tuition payments, coupled with various student handbooks, constituted a contract that Duke and its golf coach have now breached. That’s a stretch, legally, to be completely generous. Much more of a stretch are the alleged breaches.

The complaint weaves a tale of back-room dealing and imagined conspiracies all of which served to deny poor Giuliani his God-given right to play and practice for free at Duke’s golf facilities. And if it’s not too much trouble, he’d like his tuition reimbursed.

In young Andrew’s version of the events, he begrudgingly owns up to some juvenile conduct, with the emphasis on begrudgingly, but says it hardly justifies the draconian punishment of permanent banishment. Of course, as you read the 29-page complaint, a few additional layers of the onion get stripped away and make you say “hmmm, maybe there is another side to this.” For example, all the aforesaid conduct caused was an indefinite suspension, not banishment. Giuliani had various opportunities to gain reinstatement but chose instead to ignore these opportunities in favor of lawyering up.

Giuliani, for instance, was asked to sign an agreement setting forth the requirements for reinstatement. It was an agreement not in the legal sense but in the “take responsibility for your actions, you punk” sense. On the advice of his step-father, Ed Oster, also as the complaint notes, a “practicing attorney,” Giuliani twice refused to sign, essentially sealing his fate. Interestingly, the complaint contains no allegations of malpractice against Oster, though it probably could have since it seems more than likely had Giuliani just signed this very innocuous “agreement” he’d probably still be on the team. Perhaps the North Carolina bar also might wonder whether Oster was practicing in their state without a license, but that’s for another day.

The great thing about conspiracy lawsuits such as this one is that any bad fact for the plaintiff can be immediately turned on its ear. Giuliani references the fact that four of his teammates wrote him an email expressing their desire that his affiliation with the golf team be terminated. Of course, this email was supposedly masterminded by the coach. Strangely, this is just one spot that the complaint is short on specifics as to how that supposedly occurred.

There were the two university investigations into Giuliani’s complaints that are likewise acknowledged. But these were just shams, don’t you know? There’s also the fact that the beleaguered coach put Giuliani’s fate in the hands of his teammates and they, not surprisingly, nixed him.

Actually, this may be one area where Giuliani has a point about a cover-up, assuming you believe that team success takes a back seat to rampant self-interest. College kids have an undeveloped sense of right, but it’s also worth noting that completely missing from the lawsuit are any allegations that Giuliani was one of the better players on the team. He wasn’t.

Indeed, according to the New York Times, Giuliani was averaging around 74.5 strokes per round, which put him in the bottom half of the team anyway. Not to get all technical or anything, but Andrew Kim, who just turned 23 (the same age as Giuliani) is averaging just under 71 strokes per round, on the toughest courses and under the most difficult conditions. For the non-golfers out there, these 3.5 strokes per round is roughly the difference between a PGA Tour pro and the guy who finishes first or second in the scratch flight at his local club championship. In other words, Giuliani better have a back-up plan because the Tour isn’t in his future.

We live in a society where parents live so vicariously through the perceived successes of their children so litigation hardly surprises. What is interesting to note is that Giuliani was specific in news reports that his more famous dad wasn’t involved in this lawsuit. Little surprise there. The guess is that the older Giuliani, a big personal responsibility type who probably chafed at the idea of this lawsuit, told him to get over it by offering the golf version of the “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” joke. Practice.

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About Gary D. Benz

  • Marny

    Your ability to make me laugh will always be your saving grace.