Will Stanislaw Burzynski finally face real justice?

The other day, I suddenly realized that it's been a long time since I've written about the Polish expat doctor in Houston who treats patients with advanced brain cancer with a concoction that he dubbed antineoplastons (ANPs). I'm referring, of course, to Stanislaw Burzynski who, despite the fact that he has no training in medical oncology, has treated thousands of cancer patients with ANPs beginning back in the late 1970s. Somehow, despite the fact that he's never even come close to showing that ANPs are effective and safe against the cancers for which he uses it, the FDA has, with a brief interruption, continued to let him do his clinical trials, and the Texas Medical Board, despite trying every several years to do so, has failed to strip Burzynski of his medical license. Indeed, when I did a search on this blog to see when the last time I wrote about Burzynski was, I was shocked to discover that it was over a year ago, when one of his patients died.

It's not because there hasn't been a lot happening, either. Over a year ago, the Texas Medical Board decided to have another go at Burzynski. Over the last 16 months, what a long, strange trip it's been. Now, the climax of this effort is fast approaching. Indeed, what reminded me that the climax of this struggle is approaching was an e-mail from one of the several quack email lists to which I subscribe (in this case, The Truth About Cancer), which urged its members to support Burzynski:

In the Weekly Digest that was sent this past Saturday, I mentioned that Dr. Burzynski’s trial was on Tuesday, November 19th, when in fact it’s actually Thursday, November 19th.

Here are all the details again...

As we’ve shared many times before, actually curing cancer would be detrimental to the pharmaceutical industry. So much so that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to silence the doctors as to keep their poisons as the only solutions.

They’re trying to do that now with Dr. Burzynski by revoking his medical license and we need your help.

We’re asking for volunteers in the Austin area to go to the State Office of Administrative Hearings on the morning of Nov 19th and exercise their right to protest these absurd charges and hearings.

It's 9:00am on Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 300 West 15th Street, Fourth Floor, Austin, Texas. Hearings will continue through November 25, 2015, before recessing until January 19, 2016, when it will reconvene at 9:00am and continue through January 29, 2016, if necessary.

There will be a lot of media attention and we need to show how powerful our voices are and that we will NOT be silenced.

Please arrive at 8:30am and bring signs that read “Dr. Burzynski saves lives” or “Stop persecuting Dr. Burzynski” or whatever else you’re inspired to write.

Unfortunately, I personally will not be able to travel and be in Austin but I’m doing my best to tell everyone I can and I’m hoping you will too. Even if you can’t make it in person, please tell everyone you can on Facebook and other social media sites.

Hopefully, if you’re in Austin (or inspired to travel there) you can go and represent our movement in a powerful way.

Thank you for your consideration.

Ty Bollinger

It's like a replay of the 1990s and just last year. If there's one way Burzynski is very predictable it's in his response to investigation and criticism. Whenever Burzynski is in trouble or his practice is actually threatened, he cynically uses desperate cancer patients as "human shields" against government investigation. He did it in the 1990s, when Burzynski was being prosecuted for 75 counts of insurance fraud and violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. It was cynical political theater featuring media appearances of the weeping parents of children with deadly brain tumors, national press stories about demonstrations by patients chanting, “FDA go away! Let me live another day!” It worked back then, although I note that at the time Rep. Joe Barton (R-Dallas) was also putting intense pressure on the FDA, dragging then-FDA Director David Kessler in front of his committee multiple times to harangue him about his "persecution" of Burzynski. The FDA told Burzynski that he could administer ANPs, but only under the auspices of an approved clinical trial. So, urged by his lawyer Richard Jaffe, Burzynski cynically submitted 72 clinical trial protocols to use ANPs to treat pretty much any cancer he wanted to treat, and the FDA approved them all. In the intervening 16 years from 1997 to 2013, Burzynski enrolled patients on his clinical trials and charged them enormous "case management" fees for the privilege, even though doing so is completely unethical.

Of course, two years ago, Burzynski's clinical trials were placed on partial clinical hold after the death of Josia Cotto of hypernatremia (very high sodium levels in the blood, a known complication of ANP treatment). In the wake of that decision, Burzynski went back to the tactic that had served him so well, mobilizing his patient base to do the same thing it did in the 1990s. Not long after that, the FDA gave in and let him begin his clinical trials again, albeit with conditions. Specifically, Burzynski had to provide ANPs for free, and he couldn't be the one administering the cocktail. Then, last year, the FDA lifted all restrictions on Burzynski's clinical trials. Burzynski had won again, but not long after that, the Texas Medical Board acted to strip Burzynski of his license.

The TMB's 200 page complaint documents the charges that Burzynski misled patients by:

  • By making patients pay a retainer before receiving any diagnosis or treatment.
  • By performing unnecessary tests and "non-therapeutic treatment" with no potential to help them.
  • By imposing "exorbitant charges" for drugs and lab tests, without telling patients that he also owned the pharmacy and lab being used.
  • By allowing unlicensed staff to treat patients, while describing the staff as doctors.

Burzynski was also charged with prescribing unapproved combinations of toxic chemotherapy. As I've documented before many times on this blog, in addition to ANPs, Burzynski routinely ordered "make it up as you go along" cocktails of expensive targeted therapies that he described as "personalized, gene-targeted therapy" and I described as "personalized, gene-targeted therapy for dummies."

A nice (and, unlike an Orac post, brief) summary of what's been happening in the case over the last several months can be found here. Basically, as is commonly the situation in cases like this, there have been a number of motions and countermotions. In March, the judge rejected a large number of Burzynski's motions to suppress evidence brought by the TMB, including testimony by FDA inspectors, FDA inspection documents, and the testimony of a former employee, the last of which looked to be particularly damaging to his defense.

Perhaps the most interesting and unexpected aspect of this whole case occurred over the summer, and when I say "unexpected," I really mean it. Remember Richard Jaffe, whom I mentioned earlier and who was the architect of Burzynski's wildly successful strategy of submitting over 70 clinical trials to the FDA, a strategy that served as the basis for Burzynski's reputation and increasing wealth over the better part of the last 20 years. It was a strategy that didn't start to fall apart until the partial clinical hold was placed on his clinical trials and Burzynski was forced to substitute his far less popular "personalized gene-targeted therapy." The reason it was far less popular is because ANPs, for whatever reason, were viewed among the alternative cancer cure crowd as being a "natural" treatment for cancer (presumably because they were originally isolated from urine and blood) while Burzynski's "personalized gene-targeted therapy" consisted of cocktails of expensive targeted therapies made by pharmaceutical companies. It turns out that Jaffe is no longer Burzynski's lawyer, even though he had been working for Burzynski for decades. As Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients drolly noted, we skeptics all thought that Jaffe would be buried in the Burzynski family crypt, so tight were Burzynski and Jaffe for so many years.

Apparently not any more.

How this shocking situation came about is not entirely clear, but it appears to involve—gasp!—enormous unpaid legal bills. Basically, a new lawyer, Dan Cogdell, started filing motions for Burzynski. It turns out that Cogdell was part of Burzynski's legal team before. In any caes, the judge became concerned that it was late in the game to be switching lawyers; so another administrative law judge heard Jaffe's explanation in private and ruled that Jaffe had to withdraw from the case. Per Judge Suzanne Marshall's finding, Jaffe's continued representation would violate the mandatory withdrawal provision of Rule 1.15. This provision reads:

A lawyer ordinarily must decline employment if the employment will cause the lawyer to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows is illegal or that violates the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.15(a)(1); cf. Rules 1.02(c), 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.04, 3.08, 4.01, and 8.04. Similarly, paragraph (a)(1) of this Rule requires a lawyer to withdraw from employment when the lawyer knows that the employment will result in a violation of a rule of professional conduct or other law. The lawyer is not obliged to decline or withdraw simply because the client suggests such a course of conduct; a client may have made such a suggestion in the ill-founded hope that a lawyer will not be constrained by a professional obligation. Cf. Rule 1.02(c) and (d).

Whoa. That's some heavy stuff. Jaffe withdrew because he was concerned that his continue representation of Burzynski would somehow result in his violating a rule of professional conduct or other law. What could this mean? The explanation came when Jaffe withdrew from representing Stanislaw Burzynski's son, Greg Burzynski and gave the following reason:

Respondent is a vice president and an employed physician at the Burzynski cancer clinic in Houston. The clinic is owned by Respondent’s father, Stanislaw R. Burzynski. Undersigned counsel had represented Stanislaw Burzynski in a related SOAH board case.

Undersigned counsel is taking legal action against Respondent’s employer which might have a material adverse effect on Respondent’s interests as an officer and employed physician at the clinic. As a result of such action, undersigned counsel will likely have a conflict of interest with Respondent, at least until the anticipated legal action is resolved.

In other words, Jaffe is suing Burzynski. But why? It turns out that Burzynski owes Jaffe nearly a quarter of a million dollars, and Burzynski hasn't paid.

I tried not to go into too much detail in this post (which, as regular readers know, is hard for me) because a lot of the legal wrangling and back-and-forth comes across as too "inside baseball." It doesn't help that I'm not a lawyer and don't understand a lot of it. The bottom line is that, despite attempts by Burzynski's new lawyer's attempts to ask for a continuance based on the claim that Richard Jaffe sabotaged Burzynski's case before he withdrew, barring some sudden and very unexpected development, the hearing is going to begin as scheduled on Thursday. We know from Ty Bollinger's e-mail blast quoted above that there will be Burzynski supporters demonstrating. What would make this trial different from Burzynski's previous trials and legal tribulations would be if it weren't just his supporters demonstrating for a change. Unfortunately I can't be there, but I know there are skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine in the Austin area. I also know that it's a tough thing to do.

They say that every story needs a victim, a hero, and a villain. I know that Burzynski's people, particularly his chief propagandist Eric Merola, producer and director of two execrable bits of hero worship of Burzynski committed to celluloid, have done their best to paint the cancer patients as victims and Burzynski as the hero, with skeptics like you and I being the villains. This is a portrayal at odds with reality because, in reality, it is Burzynski who is the villain taking advantage of cancer victims,. Unfortunately, it's a hard sell to convince others of this when faced with suffering cancer patients and families who honestly and truly believe that Burzynski is their last hope.

Still, I hope that skeptics will contact Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients at SkepticsProtect@gmail.com or at the group's website or Facebook page and find out how they can help. Burzynski has survived doing what he does for over 38 years now, while I've been following his case for only around five years. Over just that five years, I became quite disheartened at Burzynski's seemingly undefeatable ability to evade justice and keep doing what he's doing, FDA and TMB be damned. This time around, I feel an optimism that I haven't felt in a long time about the prospects of finally shutting Burzynski down and preventing him from preying on desperate cancer patients any more.

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It’s been a while since I wrote about Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish ex-pat physician who is not an oncologist but treats cancer patients in his Houston clinic with a mixture of a compound he calls “antineoplastons” (ANPs) and “gene-targeted” therapy. The former are really a mixture of various…

what a long, strange trip it’s been
Somehow I never imagined Orac as a Grateful Dead-head.

Am I to understand that Burzynski stiffed his lawyer and most capable strategist / supporter? And is now arguing that legal action against him should stop, simply because he stiffed his lawyer?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Yep. Apparently. He's really a disaster like that,

Does Betteridge's Law apply?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

I find it rather amazing that complete charlatans such as Burzynski can blame "Big Pharma" for killing people when he is untrained and unleashes far more harmful treatments onto his patients so that they don't die from cancer,but some other entirely preventable condition. He is getting people at their most vulnerable time and stripping them of their money. He can be likened to a carbuncle on the backsides of humanity.
If Pharmaceutical companies killed off the users of their products, how would they continue to function in a world were there are no sick people.
I do hope that a group of Skeptics can attend a rally against this bit of trash, and here's hoping that the trash gets taken down at last.

Suggestion for a counter-protest sign:

"If it ducks like a quack..."

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

In other words, Jaffe is suing Burzynski. But why? It turns out that Burzynski owes Jaffe nearly a quarter of a million dollars, and Burzynski hasn’t paid.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Burzynski is such a cheapskate, but when you make a living skirting the edge of the law, as he does, stiffing your lawyer is a land-war-in-Asia class blunder. Normally Jaffe would be bound by attorney-client privilege, but depending how his suit against Burzynski goes, he may be allowed, or even required, to disclose some of that stuff. Not the really good stuff, of course, but enough to substantiate his claim that Burzynski owes him money. (IANAL.)

And yes, for Jaffe to represent Greg while suing Stan would be a conflict of interest. Apart from the employee-employer relationship he mentioned, there is the family relationship. Jaffe would risk disbarment if he continued to represent Greg.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Well, one thing I left out is that the Burzynski Clinic appears to have filed for chapter 7 (if I remember correctly) bankruptcy. So maybe he can't pay Jaffe. I don't know enough about this to have included it in this post. Others know more. The thing is, we know from a couple of sources that Burzynski's business fell way off in the wake of the FDA's partial clinical hold and the USA TODAY story two years ago. He's been laying people off and shutting sections of his clinic. Apparently the FD's lifting of the hold didn't happen fast enough to save him, and the bad publicity of the last couple of years did actually hurt him.

As we’ve shared many times before, actually curing cancer would be detrimental to the pharmaceutical industry.

Oh dear. Anyone who absorbs that line without even questioning what sort of a horse its author might have in the race is even dumber than the Burk's own decision to stiff his lawyer on the deal. And that one's already Al-Capone-not-doing-his-tax-returns stupid, so we're talking massive new achievement in oxygen waste here.

In fact, at this point about the only thing even stupider than a B fan would be B letting this one run all the way to the courtroom. Here's hoping!

I might be parsing this wrong, but I think the Jaffe thing might represent a pretty substantial reason for feeling optimistic.

Because if he expected Burzynski to beat the charges, he'd have been better off suing after they'd been successfully dealt with, when money would be rolling in as usual and he could point to the successful defense as proof that he'd earned it.

So my hypothesis is that by doing it now, he's basically getting first crack at the assets that might otherwise go to settling the suits that will be brought by patients if Burzynski loses.

It's also possible that he sued to create a COI so that he wouldn't have to drop out over some more damning violation of law or principle that representing Burzynski would entail.

But that's not really incompatible with hypothesis A.

Gray Squirrel@5: Perfect! Today's internets is officially yours!

He could also be giving Burzynski a way of protecting his assets from expected malpractice claims.

But he'd be doing it at considerable risk to himself, if so. However, maybe he's extra-super-sleazy and doesn't care, .

I guess it goes without saying that I think it's extremely unlikely that Burzynski can't afford to pay him.

But another hypothesis might be that he's refusing to because Jaffe told him he's in trouble and he's so grandiose that he doesn't like hearing it and doesn't believe it's worth paying for.

Whatever the case, I can't think of any likely explanation that isn't a reason for optimism.

I guess it goes without saying that I think it’s extremely unlikely that Burzynski can’t afford to pay him.

Well, yes, but that would require Burzynski dipping into his personal wealth, I imagine, given that his clinic seems to be bankrupt.

Well, one thing I left out is that the Burzynski Clinic appears to have filed for chapter 7 (if I remember correctly) bankruptcy.

This isn't a minor detail here. If the Burzynski Clinic has really filed Chapter 7, then that entity has no hope of reorganizing to pay off its debts and will be closing permanently. That doesn't prevent Stan from opening another business, but it is good news. It would also account for the adversarial relationship between the clinic and Greg, who as an employee would have a claim for unpaid wages.

The other possibility is Chapter 11, in which the Burzynski Clinic gets some protection from creditors and a chance to reorganize its finances. That means they are still in business, though they are hurting.

Either way, it explains why Jaffe is taking legal action against the Burzynski Clinic. He has to file paperwork claiming that the Burzynski Clinic owes him money, in order to have any chance of being paid. If it's a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he'll probably only get pennies on the dollar, but it's better than nothing. And if Burzynski was careful to incorporate his clinic (which I would assume is the case; Burzynski is not stupid, at least in that fashion), he gets to weasel out of the bill, because the corporation would be a legally separate, if fictitious, person.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Orac, #13 --

Well....Maybe I'm too cynical. But there's potentially a big difference between "seems to be bankrupt" and "is bankrupt." He's not an honest man. And if he expects to be hit with a lot of lawsuits, he'd have a reason to seem to be bankrupt.

Irrespective of that, though:

Even if the business is bankrupt and he doesn't have or want to spend his own money paying almost $250,000 in legal bills, he could easily raise half that much or more on GoFundMe in less than a week, and all of it or more within two months.

If money was an issue, he'd go the Wakefield route if he wasn't expecting to lose, in short.

Bearing in mind that a loss would mean that all the patients named in the complaint plus all others who received the same standard of care (IOW: all his patients) had a malpractice claim, I therefore think that either he or Jaffe or both expect him to lose.

Presumably Burzynski's greatest asset is his (presumably controlling) interest in the clinic. With the involuntary chapter 7 filing Jaffe can wrestle that from him, whether to get off the sinking ship or because he sees some as yet unrealized upside remains to be seen.

In the past I recall some here ferretting through the set of corporations that Burzynski has set up, a combination of public and private firms with strongly related ownership. It is a common and unethical practice that, when things get hot, to "sell" assets to another related corporation and leave the selling corporation with the liabilities. Such as legal bills. Then you file for protection from your creditors or attempt a legal liquidation. The courts, if they're willing, can stop this with some effort. Many times the creditors can't afford to fund this paper chase. Whether that applies here I have no idea, other than Burzynski sounds unscrupulous enough.

I wish I could be there with a placard saying :

40 Years
60 Clinical Trials
8,000 Desperate Patients
0 Proven Cures

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

It’s chapter 7, but it’s not the Burzynski Clinic. It’s Burzynski himself.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. And as Donald Trump (who has significant experience with corporate bankruptcy) would say, not very savvy.

In most cases an obfuscating tangle of corporations, such as rs@18 mentions, is a vehicle for hiding personal assets from a proceeding such as bankruptcy or, more frequently, divorce. Often it works because nobody makes the effort to sort out the mess. But if Jaffe played a role in setting up those corporations, he can hand that to the bankruptcy court on a silver platter. He wouldn't have to track that stuff down in public filings, as most creditors would--and since the relevant records are filed with the state authorities, they aren't subject to attorney-client privilege. Which is one big reason why stiffing one's lawyer is such a bad move for a schemer like Burzynski.

In principle, the court can disallow the bankruptcy filing. But they would generally only do so if they had evidence that the filer was hiding assets. I expect that would be considered a fraud on the court, and judges don't take too kindly to that sort of thing.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

I haven't looked up the bankruptcy case on Pacer yet, but creditors can force a debtor into bankruptcy (involuntary). This prevents the debtor from using his assets to prefer certain creditors over others. Once in bankruptcy, claims are paid according to the priorities in the bankruptcy code.

Oh, this is getting just too, too scrumptious... Pass the popcorn.

@ Gray Squirrel 5

I had the same expression in mind.

If the bankruptcy is Dr B himself, could they go after his palatial estate?
(Which I believe has his initials monogramming the gate in wrought iron).

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Denice @24 - Could they stick an "O" in between his wrought-iron initials, I wonder?

By palindrom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

"could they go after his palatial estate?"

If they can find the owner, which might not be the good doctor. A foreign entity, for example, might own it. He might just be "renting" it, possibly from himself but several times removed. It depends on how much advance planning he's done for this sort of eventuality. Is he that wicked?

@Denice Walter

You would be correct about the gate.

@rs

According to the Harris County Assessor's office, Burzynski owns his home. It's not owned by a trust, like Wakefield's mansion is.

Palindrome #25 - *rimshot*

I really hope this is the beginning of The System Working As It Should. It's about time.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

In support of other posters, chapter 7 is referred to as "liquidation". His assets (those that are visible anyway) will be seized, valued and sold to pay off the creditors. This could take some time especially if the assets are scattered and encumbered.

Cool though. I can't see how this benefits old Stan in any way. Good for medicine.

@Orac, #15 --

I'm not a legal eagle, but in my exceedingly non-expert and uninformed opinion, it makes more sense that it's a personal bankruptcy, because (assuming that they expect to be shut down), the clinic, lab, and pharmacy would no longer be worth a whole lot. Thus his real problem would be personal liability.

...

The thing is: Why would the attorney who took over take him on if he's known to be a bad bet when it comes to attorney paying, and is (furthermore) on the brink of bankruptcy?

That's what makes me wonder if Jaffe might just be doing this as a way of getting the assets someplace safe because they're thick as thieves. So to speak.

@ Todd W:

I'm usually correct about things like that.

I don't have eidetic imagery. Trust me. Just good verbal labels as mnemonics.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Why would the attorney who took over take him on if he’s known to be a bad bet when it comes to attorney paying, and is (furthermore) on the brink of bankruptcy?

The new lawyer (Dan Cogdell) appears to enjoy a challenge. He may be convinced that he can keep Burzynski's clinic open, and that Burzynski will then pay him. Lawyers, like doctors, have a reputation for being easily conned.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

That's what makes me wonder if Jaffe might just be doing this as a way of getting the assets someplace safe because they're thick as thieves. So to speak.

^^Having now read the dox, I take this back. Looks like it's on the real.

There's a curious line in the board's response to his request for mediation/continuance, though. They say Jaffe's petition:

demonstrates (whether accurately or not) that Mr. Jaffe and Respondent's conflict began long enough ago to generate a quarter million dollars in unpaid attorney fees for work that Mr. Jaffe did in this case.

I'm not sure what part of that they're suggesting might not be accurate.

But maybe they just mean it hasn't been adjudicated.

My dear old dad taught me that the two people you always do your best to pay are your dentist and your lawyer. If you need either one real bad and they don't want to know you, it's going to hurt.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

That's good advice from Old Rockin' Dave pere.

Not to jinx it or anything. But I think the dox generally suggest that there is cause for cautious optimism. (By which I mean: Looks like he's done. But who knows?)

His request for mediation and the correspondence between the TMB attorney and Jaffe that's appended to the response to the motion for continuance in particular suggest that his odds are not good.

Orac had plenty to be proud of to begin with. But if Burzynski loses his license he'll have more. As will Bob Blaskiewicz. And doubtless others.

Here's hoping.

Perhaps he can find a new career
I'm Stan ... from Houston

(must be Canadian to understand)

@37 -
Soon there will be hardly a Canadian that will get that reference. Thanks, haven't though about Mike ... from Canmore in ages.

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

This is a massively interesting turn of events. Jaffe has clearly played a major role in keeping the Burzynski show on the road and can do immense damage to Burzynski. Clearly there must have been some form of falling out (a quarter of a million dollars in unpaid fees when Jaffe likely knows what Burzynski is really worth will do that).

Not being a strong believer in conspiracy theories, I can only view this as Jaffe turning on Burzynski and going for the bit that is most likely to get his fees paid.

As to the TMB proceedings, it seems Burzynski wants to delay this as long as possible. That will allow him to 1) continue in business for longer to keep raking in what money he can, and 2) allow for most of the patient witnesses to die giving him his best chance of escape. By golly I am a cynical bustard.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ Old Rockin' Dave #35--I would add one's accountant to that list as well.

Here's to hoping SB gets put out of business. Kinda feels like how Al Capone went down, but it'll do.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Chris Preston --

I agree that Jaffe's out to get money while the getting's good. My other, more fancy ideas were dumb.

What a really awful man Burzynski must be in every way that he stopped paying a guy who kept him in business for such a long time when it began to look like he could no longer do so, through no fault of his own.

Not that that's surprising. But still.

Burzynski is nothing if not very clever (but see below), so I am starting to think like you that there is something else behind this falling out.

It may simply be that the clinic is no longer making any money and Burzynski used that excuse to not pay Jaffe. We know that there are considerable assets elsewhere, but we also know that Burzynski is very protective of his hard-earned (although not sufficiently protective to adequately protect them from personal bankruptcy).

The other alternative is that the falling out was over something that Burzynski wanted to do, but which Jaffe refused to countenance, leading Burzynski to stop paying Jaffe. Based on what I have seen of the Burzynski show, I would not discount this option.

But heigh ho, I am into speculation territory. Time may reveal the true cause. And Chris Hickie, if bankruptcy was the thing that put the Burzynski show off the road, I would accept that. However, the latest round of TMB activity does have a real sense of purposefulness about it.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Yes, the pharmaceutical companies are only interested in profits. Unlike Burzynski, who gave his treatments away for free, charitable man that he is.

stewartt1982, I don't know why, since the semblance is very faint, but every time I see the picture of S.B. that Orac used today I think of Mike.

For anyone wondering what this is all about, Mike.... from Canmore was a character of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

My initial knee-jerk reaction was that Burzynski blamed Jaffe for his sinking ship after the FDA partially closed him down and things began to go south, shouting, "you're not getting one thin dime out of me unless you fix this!"

On a side note, does anybody miss Marc Stephens as much as I do? Those were glory days for Orac and Popehat.

What happens with a clinical trial that has patients enrolled if there is no longer a licensed physician on the team? I would presume that S.B.'s son is a team member, but would he be allowed to simply take over without a review by the FDA? If S.B. is named as principal investigator and he loses his license, would a review be automatically triggered?

does anybody miss Marc Stephens

Well, sorta. He was good for some serious amusement, but only for people not on the receiving end of his BS. I don't suppose Rhys Morgan has any fond memories of receiving his Letter of Marc.

According to the Harris County Assessor’s office, Burzynski owns his home. It’s not owned by a trust, like Wakefield’s mansion is.

Wakefield doesn't own his house? Really? I never knew that...

By Rebecca Fisher (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

Doug @45

I had always thought Canmore to be an odd place for Mike to be from until I realized that the character probably was created when Canmore was a coal mining town instead of a tourist town.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Nov 2015 #permalink

It occurs to me that this bankruptcy may be a move to stave of further prosecutions, or of use when making closing statements before a jury. I could see it. "Now, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, how could my client have been overcharging anyone when he's clearly had to go bankrupt ?"
Perhaps I'm over-thinking things, as the case has yet to enter a court of law. It would be very nice to see someone give Burzynski the slapping down he deserves.

Someone *please* tell me that Bob @44 is joking. SB didn't give the meds away. And he charged up the wazoo for his own pharmacy meds and the "oversight" he gave.

@Rebecca Fisher

He set up a family trust, which owns the house. It's a way to get around capital gains taxes if you want to pass the property along to a family member. It can also protect the property from creditors if sued, depending on how the trust is set up, among other benefits.

Burzynski and Wakefield are just two peas out of the same ethical pod.
I bet they both have teflon-coated protective measures in place to avoid any financial kickbacks.
I am sure SB's file for personal bankrupcy is just another cynical manouver to escape financial penalties/legal liabilities, and he will come out the other side patting his fat wallet again.

@ MI Dawn

SB didn’t give the meds away. And he charged up the wazoo for his own pharmacy meds and the “oversight” he gave.

Dr Bennett, for example, can attest that Burzynski's clinic is issuing monthly bills with 5 digits after the $ sign.
(it's half-way down the linked RI post)
Actually, in that instance, the drugs were given free. But, well, you have to pay all of these people at the clinic who lovingly packaged the drug and send it to you, and there is so much overhead these days...

By Helianthus (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

http://www.casewatch.org/bk/burzynski/response.pdf

The bankruptcy is an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Burzynski personally. Here is a response to a motion by Burzynski to dismiss the bankruptcy. I haven't had a chance to read all the bankruptcy docs, I may do so later today. I am a retired bankruptcy lawyer.

@Todd:

Thanks for the explanation.

By Rebecca Fisher (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

MI @51:

Someone *please* tell me that Bob @44 is joking

Well, I'm not Bob, but that's the way I interpreted it. Orac reiterated in this article that B. unethically charged patients to be enrolled in fig-leaf sham studies clinical trials.

We'll see if the "strike" tag works here.

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

It doesn't work. It works!

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

Hoping martha hangs around to provide inside scoop. I'm getting the popcorn ready, m'self.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

@martha, #55 --

I very much hope you do post on the bankruptcy. And thanks for that link. It was fascinating.

@Krebiozen, #59 --

I don't know about that.

I await martha's opinion, since mine is uninformed.

But it appears to me that while Jaffe is currently being circumspect because of attorney-client privilege, he might be setting up an argument for the crime-fraud exception to it.

(He argues in response to B's motion to dismiss, which invoked the three-creditor rule, that due to the special circumstances exception for "fraud, trick, artifice or scam," said rule does not apply.

As I understand it, this suggests that he plans to argue that B. is improperly concealing assets from his creditors.

He also demands that the list of B's creditors be amended to include all patients who overpaid and are owed refunds.

He could just be playing hardball in order to get his money, though.)

Also, PS --

It turns out that I definitely am too cynical, and in the remote event that Jaffe is reading this, I apologize for suspecting that he was up to hijinks that would benefit his former client.

Because while I (obviously) don't really know what I'm talking about, he actually appears to be doing something that would benefit his former client's patients and/or their estates.

I would love to hear from Martha.

ann:

You're not too cynical. If anything, you're not cynical enough regarding lawyers. Jaffe and Burnsinski (sic) had a long relationship, and it was Jaffe who engineered the clinical trials ruse to keep the clinic open. He's as dirty as they come.

The problem here is the assumption that Jaffe worked for Burzynski, when in practical terms, it may have been the other way around. In any events, whatever hijinks he is up to now, or has done before, have been to benefit Richard Jaffe. He would only help a former client if he was making bank under the table or behind the back door. If he's helping Burzynski's patients or their families, that should break our irony meter, as it was he who devised, protected and profited big-time from the scam that harmed them. He's not going after Stan out of a new-found moral rectitude. He's 'sending a message' to other sCAM frontmen: remember who's running this show, who holds the true power; do not screw with your attorney or else you will thrown to the wolves.

Speaking of Canadian humour, I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw the juxtaposition of #44 and #45... I'll take off, now.

By Richard Smith (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

Coo loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo! That's all kinds of strange brew they got down in Texas, eh? What a bunch of hosers, wasting money on snake-oil they coulda spent on Molson and had plenty left over for tickets to see Rush. That's Geddy's band, and if the name makes you think of somebody besides 'Tom Sawyer' just take off, eh?

Mention of the RCAF reminds me of an old Red Green Show in which the plot revolved around the residents of Possum Lodge finding a missile -- someone suggested calling the RCAF and was answered, "He's gone home!"

By palindrom (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

ann: apology accepted.

Generally, these hearings accept written comments. Does anyone have the email address for this?
Not the same as deluded tear jerker so but the sheer mass will have an impact.

@Xxxx --

Really? No way. But if so, I'm glad.

@the world at large --

I noted with interest that Burzynski's creditors include Lavely & Singer, a well-known entertainment law firm, one name partner of which is commonly referred to as "scary Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer." He's best known for representing Tom Cruise.

Although I suppose that Burzynski actually is in show business, what with the movies and all, it struck me as a little bit of an odd match. It maybe suggests that he was looking into the possibility of a defamation suit or something of that nature. It's always been my impression that that sort of thing is more or less Lavely & Singer's house specialty.

Also @the world at large --

The line in Jaffe's response to Burzynski's motion to dismiss that caught my eye was:

There will also likely be evidence which raises substantial public interest issues which may be relevant to the special circumstance exception under current special exception authority or a reasonable extension thereof

^^Emphasis added.

Again as I understand it (which might be wrongly), current authority recognizes the special-circumstance exception when the debtor is moving money around to suit him/herself (and/or to launder it out of sight) without regard to the interests of his/her creditors -- ie, engaging in "fraud, trick, artifice or scam" to avoid payment.

Evidence that's substantially in the public interest that constitutes a reasonable extension thereof would therefore presumably be evidence of some other type of fraud, trick, artifice or scam -- one that raises substantial public interest issues.

That sounds promising.

@sadmar #64 --

I'm speaking from the not-very-authoritative position of a Wiki-level grasp of the relevant law. But about this:

In any events, whatever hijinks he is up to now, or has done before, have been to benefit Richard Jaffe. He would only help a former client if he was making bank under the table or behind the back door. If he’s helping Burzynski’s patients or their families, that should break our irony meter, as it was he who devised, protected and profited big-time from the scam that harmed them. He’s not going after Stan out of a new-found moral rectitude. He’s ‘sending a message’ to other sCAM frontmen: remember who’s running this show, who holds the true power; do not screw with your attorney or else you will thrown to the wolves.

I really don't think so. In my limited experience, it's true that attorneys who are as good as he is kind of have to be ruthless competitors, at least professionally. But it looks to me like he's on his way to revealing confidential information

(8) To the extent revelation reasonably appears necessary to rectify the consequences of a client's criminal or fraudulent act in the commission of which the lawyer's services had been used.

^^As the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct so concisely put it.

It also looks to me like his aim is to force all of Burzynski's assets that aren't exempt (he mentions $14 million worth of property in the US and elsewhere) into a court-administered trust so that they can be disbursed to people who have some claim to them without their having to fight to get what they're owed.

In any event. My current blind uninformed guess*** is that when the latest TMB thing came along, he advised Burzynski to settle and/or amend his ways, which -- needless to say -- was a no-go. So he's now doing the ethical thing unilaterally.

***I'm the proverbial monkey with a typewriter. Or maybe stopped clock.

Ann, reading through the court documents about the bankruptcy proceedings I get the distinct impression of a bit of stand-over tactics going on. Of the nature that Jaffe is threatening to spill the beans unless Burzynski plays ball. At this stage, it may even have gone past that point, in which case Burzynski will be sunk.

The trouble with falling out with your lawyer is that they know where all the skeletons are buried (or the money in this case).

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 18 Nov 2015 #permalink

By Jove, Ann, I believe you've come up with the perfect description of many of our resident trolls:

"She/He is a monkey with a stopped clock."

Oh, look, the quack "doctor" duo of Jack "the anti-vaccine paleo cardiologist" Wolfson and Heather "the vile chiroquacktor" Wolfson have posted in support of Burzynski (http://www.donotlink.com/hegx). I thought it seemed particularly silly of them to tell people to rally for SB in Austin today, but somehow those two now have over 27k likes on facebook, so at least a few of them are probably in TX.

Quacks gotta stick together, I suppose.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 19 Nov 2015 #permalink

I work down the street from where the hearing is and I must say that the response is lackluster. I saw one guy holding about a dozen "Burzynski Saves Lives" signs as I came in this morning, but I've checked back and haven't seen anyone else.

Maybe they're letting all the protestors inside the building (which seems unlikely to me, but I can't say for sure), but the response from Burzynski supporters seems pretty dismal. I'll try to keep checking back.

Late to the party here, but if anyone's still interested, Jaffe did file the petition to force an involuntarily bankruptcy against Burzynski personally, listing the Burzynski Clinic as a d/b/a. They're doing the standard procedural jostling at the moment, but interestingly burzynski filed a disclosure of his unpaid bills that totals just over $1.1 million, many of which appear related to the clinic. I can't get on the TX secretary of state database on my phone, but the TX franchise tax board doesn't list the Clinic as a separate entity, although it does have his "research institute" so who knows, he may be personally on the hook for everything clinic related. I found it humorous that apparently he owes Merola $200 for "DVDs". Looking at the filings on Pacer and the law on point, I think Jaffe may have leapt before he looked here. Even if he survives the initial motion to dismiss, I doubt he can get an involuntary bankruptcy, which isn't often available to one creditor among many. So we may see a civil action at some point which would have probably been a better route in the first place.

@Travis --

He addresses the numeracy issue at the other end of the link @#55.

(Backing up to finish a comment I started writing before my reply to ann #64... )

I'm thinking the OP may be the most important entry Orac has ever written on RI...

Maybe the supporters of sbm have been chasing the wrong bad guys. The quacks who put the bad science out there – from the likes of Burzynski and Brian Clement, to the naturopathy and chiropractic organizations – aren't 'about' science. They're about money. They're pushing for-profit scams. Orac's post today begins to looks inside how one very successful scam has worked, and we're all plunged into deep waters of legal maneuvering where we find ourselves in over our heads. Whatever this sh!t is, it ain't science. But what it suggests to this recent viewer of The Wire is that the actual quacks are just the fronts, providing the sciency-looking veneer for a complex profit-making-and-hiding scheme.

Quackery isn't mainly a science problem. A bit of funding that would otherwise go to legit medical science may get diverted to 'quackademia'. But real science and pseudo-science are fairly well separated spheres. It's probably apostasy to say this here, but the harm quackery does to science is minimal, especially in comparison to the harm it inflicts on society in general. Quacks prey on the vulnerable, but this produces far more than harm to the individual victims. It undermines our social systems in systemic ways. It's a social problem, a political problem. a systemic organizational policy problem, an economic problem, a legal problem...

We ask ourselves over-and-over how the quacks are able to get away with it. Where are the legislatures, the law enforcement agencies, the medical boards, the professional organizations? We imagine their inaction as some combination of cluelessness and apathy. That's probably naive.

Whether we hate quackery for making a mockery of science, for the physical and financial trail of ruined lives it leaves behind, or any ratio combining the two, we want to make it stop, or at least make a serious cut into it. To me that means two things:
1) As I've often noted here, neither the general public nor the socio/political power brokers care enough about scientific righteousness or integrity to act against quackery on that account. Building a case against pseudo-science scams based on the wrongness of the the alleged 'science' is only ever going to speak to a small, relatively socially weak audience. To mobilize an effective counter-force against quackery, we need to appeal to a broader base of non-science folks, addressing things they care about, in terms they understand. IMHO, the best way to do that is to focus on the harms quackery does to them: the stolen money, the exploitation of weakness, the trail of broken lives...
2) We need to figure out what mechanisms make the scams work and stay afloat, and direct whatever force we can muster in that direction. This mechanism is NOT stupidity or lack of education. If that was so, every dumb-ass scam would rake in big bank. But only some do. What has let Burzynski's cancer scam thrive and survive is his lawyer's skill at working the system.

What big-time medical scam doesn't depend on "inside baseball" that goes beyond the education and understanding of the actual quacks? The quacks get in the game because they know how to sell a shuck to the rubes and make it look like 'science'. Do we really imagine they also know from the get go how to skirt delicate lines of legality, hide assets, spread money to the "right" people, cozy up to bigger socio-political players who will protect them if the poop hits the fan for fear of having their own skeletons drawn out of the closet? No, they have partners who specialize in that stuff. The question then is who's really running the show, really calling the shots. Who's really indispensable in making 'the game' work?

As I said, I've just finished watching The Wire. Yeah, it's fiction, but it's based on creator David Simon's knowledge of real events in Baltimore gleaned from his 12 years as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. One slow reveal in the show is that the lawyers aren't mere employees of the drug kingpins, but actually sit atop the pyramid of the homicidal black market, teaching the thugs how to hide and protect their assets, and making the connections to corruptible politicians and greedy developers so that all of them gain or protect money and power by looking the other way.

Through the first 3 seasons, Freamon, the cop who wants to chase the money, thinks that the crooked pols and businessmen are running the game, and that jailing them would the best way to clean up the streets. The business mind behind the Barksdale drug empire, directing the drug profits into real estate purchases that will increase mutlifold in value because he has inside info the run-down areas will be targeted for re-development, appears to be upwardly mobile gangster Stringer Bell. But at the end of season 3, we learn the developers have been playing Bell for a fool, and he winds up betrayed and dead. And as the final season draws to an end, Freamon learn that Clay Davis, the crooked State Senator who appears to be 'connection' between the dealers ad the developers is just another pawn. As Davis finally goes down, he 'rolls' on the lawyers to Freamon – off the record. We see how the attorneys operate, working all the angles, putting the different players together, or setting them against each other, whichever way gives the lawyers the most power and profit, but always beyond the reach of the law. Freamon realizes he can't touch them, and having stirred the pot too much to take down the murderous drug lord Marlo Stanfield, he's forced into retirement. The dealers eventually go down. The poltiicians eventually go down. Levy, the crooked lawyer just recruits new partners in 'the game' and keeps on raking in more and more money.

All along we've imagined Levy is just an unscrupulous hired gun. But at the end, he's revealed as the true Big Boss on the last level. The other crooks are more working for him – doing the scut jobs, getting their hands dirty – than he is working for them...

IMHO, if Richard Jaffe had an ounce of either ethical conscience or simple human decency he wouldn't have set up Burzynski's 70 clinical trials screen in the first place, nor protected the scam for over 20 years. Stan got too big for his britches, forgot who his daddy was, and tried to screw Jaffe out of his payday. So Jaffe not only dumped him, he's trying to bury him, so his other present or future clients will get the message that he is not to be messed with. So, of course he's revealing confidential information now. Even if he's working pro bono to force Burzynski's assets into a trust to be disbursed to creditors, that still sends the message... but he might be in for a healthy chunk of any setllement he wins as a fee from his new clients. If Jaffe is demanding that patients who overpaid be added to the list of creditors, that strikes me as a savvy PR move. I'd guess that the bulk of those creditors, the ones in line for the majority of any court ordered payouts, are pond scum like Jaffe who got in bed with Burzynski knowing full well he was scamming desparate victims of cancer...

But, my whole point here is that outside of 'quackademia' anyway, health scams can't generate big profits without the skills of folks like Jaffe who know how to work the systems of law and politics. Find a going scam, dig into its mechanisms, and I bet you'll find lawyers and/or lobbyists who are absolutely essential to making it go in every case. Everything we read here about naturopaths indicates they're fairly dim bulbs. Do we really think they could engineer the political campaigns to get them licensed or certified as PCPs with Rx privileges by themselves, or even find the sharks with the necessary skills of their own accord? Or is it more likely the sharks found them? Back in the day when the AMA went after the chiropractors, I'd be curious to find out when and how the chiropractic association got together with the lawyers and lobbyists who smacked the AMA back so hard in court that they've been hands-off the chiros ever since. Could the fixers have only showed up at the door after the AMA was raining fire on the back-crackers, saying, 'It seems you have a problem I can help you with... for a small piece of the pie, of course.'

So maybe the way to whack the worst quacks is to target the fixers behind them, to follow the money trail, expose the Jaffes to the point where they have to withdraw to cover their butts, or even to turn against their quacks out of their own interests in profit and power. Just sayin'...

Can one of the legal beagles here explain the difference in words of one syllable (I have a bad head cold) between what Burzynski is doing and financial fraud such as a Ponzi scheme?

By shay simmons (not verified) on 19 Nov 2015 #permalink

@sadmar, #80

IMHO, if Richard Jaffe had an ounce of either ethical conscience or simple human decency he wouldn’t have set up Burzynski’s 70 clinical trials screen in the first place, nor protected the scam for over 20 years.

In this country, the burden of enforcing the law and prosecuting those who violate it is borne by the state, which is also responsible for making laws that people can't scam their way around.

If the state doesn't do that, or meet its burden when going up against Richard Jaffe, that's not his fault. It's the state's.

Because:

"As advocate, the lawyer zealously asserts the client's position under the rules of the adversary system," per the ABA. Doing that is his job. And you have it completely backwards. It would be unethical of him if he didn't do it.

I mean, come on, Do you want prosecutors to go unopposed? For only the innocent to be entitled to a defense? Or what?

I mean, better Richard Jaffe than me. However, also better Richard Jaffe than no one.

Furthermore, he might well have believed in what Burzynski was doing when he first took him on. He's not a doctor himself. And there weren't really qualified critics persuasively debunking Burzynski's claims until five years ago, when the movie came out.

Still yet furthermore, people do sometimes do things that they later come to regret. Whether that's the case here remains to be seen. But going all Inspector Javert about it preemptively is a fruitless endeavor, imo. Possibly a counterproductive one, too.

Stan got too big for his britches, forgot who his daddy was, and tried to screw Jaffe out of his payday.

It is beyond me how Jaffe was his "daddy." He bills for his services, which he's entitled to do. So it's also beyond me how his fees constitute a "payday."

It's true that his services include giving legal advice. But if his clients don't feel like following it, there's nothing he can do except stop working for them.

And personally, I very much doubt that he advised Burzynski to represent five clinic employees who did not have medical degrees to his patients as doctors. Or to keep inadequate records. Or to routinely send his patients for expensive, unnecessary testing. Or to lie to them about disease progression. Or any of that stuff.

Because that would not be zealous advocacy, and anyway, he's got nothing to gain from it. It would just make his life more difficult. Plus, it's possible that he could get disbarred for it.

So Jaffe not only dumped him, he’s trying to bury him, so his other present or future clients will get the message that he is not to be messed with.

The only message he's sending to clients at the moment is that they should pay the bills they agreed to pay when they retained him.

He kind of has a right not to be messed with in that regard.

So, of course he’s revealing confidential information now.

Except that of course he's not revealing confidential information now.

He's indicating that he might. That could just be sabre-rattling. Or he could intend to do it. Time will tell.

Even if he’s working pro bono to force Burzynski’s assets into a trust to be disbursed to creditors, that still sends the message…

I don't think it's possible for an attorney who's representing himself in a Chapter 7 proceeding to be working pro bono. I mean, what would the alternative be? Billing himself by the hour?

Also: What message?

but he might be in for a healthy chunk of any setllement he wins as a fee from his new clients.

I'm lost.

He filed a petition for involuntary bankruptcy under Chapter 7. If it succeeds, Burzynski's holdings will be liquidated by a trustee who will then pay off creditors in order of priority. I believe that priority is determined in accordance with existing legal precedent (or possibly statute, I don't know).

Where do the new clients come in? It's not like people flock to attorneys who have a reputation for ditching their clients, then bankrupting them.

If Jaffe is demanding that patients who overpaid be added to the list of creditors, that strikes me as a savvy PR move.

Yeah. A legal pleading is not the best medium for savvy PR moves. Judges frown on that kind of thing.

Moreover, as I read it, he didn't necessarily have to make that demand in order to get the motion to dismiss denied. His stated reason for making it is that the rule under which Burzynski's counsel should be arguing that the petition should be dismissed (Rule 1003 (b)) requires a list of "all creditors," and that since creditors (in the form of patients who are owed refunds) are missing from the list submitted, it's not in compliance with Rule 1003 (b).

However, he's also arguing that the whole thing is defective on its face because it's not a Rule 1003 (b) motion, and that even if it were perfect it still wouldn't count, due to the special-circumstances exception, and so on and so forth.

So, you know. The more good arguments the better, within reason, I suppose. But strictly speaking, I'm not sure he was obligated by self-interest to make that demand.

I’d guess that the bulk of those creditors, the ones in line for the majority of any court ordered payouts, are pond scum like Jaffe who got in bed with Burzynski knowing full well he was scamming desparate victims of cancer…

They're mostly medical-supply vendors and credit card companies. You can see the whole list here, if you like.

However, inasmuch as they did get in bed with Burzynski in the course of providing services that they earn an honest living providing, I suppose they did get in bed with Burzynski like Jaffe did. Because representing people who need legal representation is how lawyers earn an honest living.

I have never been one of those first-we-kill-all-the-lawyers types. It's respectable work, if you ask me.

I think that secured creditors (which neither Jaffe nor the ex-patients are) are first in line. But beyond that, I know zero about it. Maybe there's an exception for the petitioner or something.
_____________

You know, there's not a whole lot I agree with Jaffe about. He specializes in healthcare litigation on behalf of alt-med practitioners. He's done a lot for chiropractors. And we do not see eye to eye when it comes to health freedom, either. So if I was sitting next to him at a dinner party, I didn't like my hosts, and I was drunk, there'd probably be a fight.

But as far as I can tell, he's a good lawyer.

Not everybody he represents gets away with murder, btw. There have been guilty pleas by Jaffe clients who were guilty of that. However, as stated earlier, even the guilty deserve zealous advocacy. That's a part of the system I like.

HTML tags. GRRR.

The bold was supposed to stop three letters after it started, at the end of "all."

randomly:
From these posts, seems like you've got ranting conspiracy nuts on your side as well.

must be comforting living in world of pitch black and pure white ensconsced in a mantle of absolute certainty.

in that dinner party brawl, I suspect that Jaffe would lose.
the one person who the monkey with a typewriter and broken clock description surely doesn't apply to is the person who made it (ann).

@xxxx --

Nobody's perfect.

And you're too kind.

IAAL (albeit not a bankruptcy lawyer, if you don't count a course 35 years ago in law school):
Thank you Ann (@82) and Martha (much earlier).
I'm mostly retired, and have the ability to decline clients for no reason, but ... it seems to me that Jaffe did his best for a long while for his client, and was then stiffed by that same client because things weren't going well.
Just because Burza's business was tanking because of his (Burza's) failings doesn't excuse his obligation to pay those who provided goods and services.
Bankruptcy law says "well, OK, you can stiff them, as long as you've played by the rules". But what Jaffe is arguing, when Burza says "Bankruptcy, alley alley oxen free, I don't have to pay you" is "You haven't played by the rules"; and Burza's problem is that is under those circumstances Jaffe may breach some of the usual attorney-client privilege to establish his case.
Jaffe's response to Burza's claim that "There are more than 12 creditors, so nyah nyah you lose" is "Alright, if there really are more than 12, list them all, not just Amex, MasterCard, Visa, and FedEx - list the insurance companies and former patients, or relatives of former patients, that are suing you to recover overpayments."
If/when that list emerges, then we will see the real extent of Burza's financial problems, and they may not stop at the initialled gate of his mansion.

By Derek Freyberg (not verified) on 19 Nov 2015 #permalink

I wonder how the new lawyer is getting paid...

After reading the list of creditors Burzynski offered up, it does rather look like the financial wheels have fallen off. Almost $400,000 on credit cards.

There is a bit over $300,000 owing to lawyers, most of that to Jaffe. But everyone else has suffered as well, including the supplier of toilet paper.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 19 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Derek Freyberg --

Thanks for posting lawyerly-ly. (Must be a better adverb than that.)

If/when that list emerges, then we will see the real extent of Burza’s financial problems, and they may not stop at the initialled gate of his mansion.

Per Jaffe's response, he lives in luxury and owns property worth approximately $14 million. If true, that means that unless he's leaving out $12 million worth of debt, he can afford to pay his bills with a million to spare.

I think he's been in trouble for not paying his bills before -- maybe stiffed a contractor who was keeping him in compliance with some city/state regulation, or something like that? But I could be confusing him with someone else. It's a vague recollection.

However, fwiw, if that's true, it suggests that for Burzynski, non-payment of bills may sometimes be more of a personal preference than it is a personal necessity.

And he's definitely been in trouble for screwing with insurance companies before. He was on the losing end of an insurance fraud case in 1994.
...

I totally know that it's wrong to engage in amateur online psychiatric diagnosis of people you don't know. For numerous reasons. But I have to say that sometimes it really doesn't feel like it.

If true, that means that unless he’s leaving out $12 million worth of debt, he can afford to pay his bills with a million to spare.

Damn you, simple math! How long must you persecute me?

What I meant was that if that's true, even if there's $12 million worth of additional debt, he can afford to pay his bills with a million to spare.

ann:
Have you seen The Wire? It's not only a textbook on corruption and the mechanisms of sophisticated criminal enterprises, it just a great show, as good as everyone says it is.

I know all about the state's burden, the purpose of defense lawyers, and I support the 'zealous defense' principle.* But courtroom representation is not what I'm talking about. I'm positing Jaffe and Burzynski have a formal 'legit' legal relationship – Stan paid Jaffe for representation – AND an informal relationship that amounts to criminal conspiracy – Jaffe creates scam strategies and tactics for Stan and receives under the table kick-backs. In such case he would have a great deal to gain from Stan's bad behavior – which he could be disbarred for – if he hadn't made the proper shielding precautions, which he's too smart not to do.

I don't know what you're lost about. If Jaffe's not working pro bono, he's getting paid – probably a lot – for representing the interests of creditors trying to get paid by Burzynski. Lawyers typically work on contingency for a % chunk of any settlement they ear, if they win.

And ann, you're one of the sharpest and most thoughtful commenters here, so IMHO the Javert reference is beneath you. Javert was PO-LICE, and devoted his life to chasing a impoverished ex-convict for the theft of a 40-sous coin. Sbm advocates don't have LEO powers, and Jaffe is at the center of a multi-million-dollar swindle that has defrauded innocents of their life-savings, health, or even their lives. The only force we can muster against crooked attorneys is to try to bring their activities out of the shadows, and into public scrutiny.
____
*Fwiw, I recently served on the jury in a criminal case that ended in mis-trial. The defendant had pretty obviously broken the law, but the police had handled the case badly (and possibly unethically) and the prosecution had not properly met it's burden. The mis-trial was declared before the beginning of deliberation, but in informal conversation afterward, I sensed the other jurors were ready to convict, and I would have been a hold-out for 'not guilty', not because the defendant was 'innocent', but because our justice system breaks if the state can cut corners and get away with it.

Javert was PO-LICE, and devoted his life to chasing a impoverished ex-convict for the theft of a 40-sous coin.

Totally off-topic, but I feel compelled to defend one of my favorite fictional characters. In the book, as opposed to the musical, Javert is not particularly obsessed with Jean Valjean - in fact, Victor Hugo goes out of his way to explain that Javert believed Valjean to be dead and had completely forgotten about him by the time he encountered him again in Paris. In Javert's black-and-white world, the magnitude and/or motives of the crime are irrelevant - someone who commits a crime is a criminal, and a criminal is a Very Bad and Dangerous Man, period. But even so, he believed in due process - his suicide note, for example, included observations of abuses being perpetuated against prisoners. Javert's tragic flaw was that he didn't, or couldn't, believe in redemption.

@sadmar, #91 --

Have you seen The Wire? It’s not only a textbook on corruption and the mechanisms of sophisticated criminal enterprises, it just a great show, as good as everyone says it is.

I need a new show to binge watch. And I think you just gave me one. Thank you!

FWIW, although I have not seen The Wire, I have seen major serious institutional corruption, the mere thought of which fills me with such profound grim, bleak despair that I prefer to be a coward and just not think about it whenever possible.

And...I guess I've technically also had some glancing interactions with organized criminals. But it wasn't while they were organizing crimes or corrupting institutions. So I can't really claim to know anything about it.

I therefore am (as usual) not speaking from an authoritative position.

However, fwiw, I don't see any evidence whatsoever that Jaffe is a power-broker, or even particularly powerful beyond what one would expect from an equivalently successful lawyer working in an equivalently narrow area of the law.

And the only reason I know of to think that he's corrupt is that....Well. I was going to say "that he lives in the state of Texas." But that's really only potential circumstantial evidence of corruption if you actually work for it. So I also know of no evidence whatsoever that he's corrupt.

It's true that I haven't looked for any. But you can't go trawling through free online public-records databases looking for signs that someone is engaging in a series of byzantine financial transactions that serve no very apparent legitimate purpose and appear designed to obscure the flow of funds with every single name that comes over the transom. Life is just too short.

I grant that it's always possible. But so is anything. And I really don't know what else to say about that part of it. It seems to me that you're engaging in speculation purely for speculation's sake.

However, that's certainly not a crime, and if it were, I would be guilty of it on a regular basis. Furthermore, while I think your suppositions are unjustified in this particular instance, I can't honestly say I have no idea how you could possibly be thinking along the general lines of there being an intersection between some redoubts of alt-med and organized crime. In light of certain associations it seems likelier than not that there sometimes are.

SHORTER VERSION: I don't agree with you and think you're mistaken. But what do I know?

I don’t know what you’re lost about. If Jaffe’s not working pro bono, he’s getting paid – probably a lot – for representing the interests of creditors trying to get paid by Burzynski. Lawyers typically work on contingency for a % chunk of any settlement they ear, if they win.

No, no, no, no.

I mean, for torts, yes. But that's not what this is. It's an involuntary bankruptcy petition. And how that happened was:

* Burzynski owes Jaffe almost $250,000 in unpaid legal bills, for services going back to at least August 2014, when -- per Jaffe's response to the motion to dismiss -- the reason for non-payment (whatever it was) was first mentioned in (presumably written) communications between the parties.

* July 2014 was when the TMB allegations that are being heard right now, this week, were first made.

* That's one month before August 2014, when the reason for non-payment was first openly bruited about between the parties.

* It therefore seems reasonable to infer that the refusal to pay arose from some sort of disagreement between Burzynski and Jaffe in relation to the handling of the TMB allegations.

* In September 2015, eight or so weeks before the hearing was scheduled to begin, Jaffe withdrew from the case, citing Rule 1.15 of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct:

(a) A lawyer shall decline to represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw, except as stated in paragraph (c), from the representation of a client, if:

(1) the representation will result in violation of Rule 3.08, other applicable rules of professional conduct or other law;

(2) the lawyer's physical, mental, or psychological condition materially impairs the lawyer's fitness to represent the client; or

(3) the lawyer is discharged, with or without good cause.

* Burzynski is presently before the board, even as I type, vigorously protesting his innocence.

* Without Jaffe.

* On September 8, 2015, Jaffe -- in his capacity as Burzynski's creditor to the tune of nearly $250,000 in unpaid legal bills -- filed a petition for involuntary bankruptcy against his former client

* So it seems reasonable to assume that he withdrew in accordance with Rule 1.15(a)(1), and not because he was mentally, psychologically, or physically unfit to practice. (IOW: He withdrew because continued representation would have been in some way illegal or unethical.)
______________

Okay? Okay. So. First of all, he's not acting pro bono because he's representing himself, for his own good. And for the same reason, neither is he acting on behalf of a client and/or clients.

And second of all, it's obviously possible that he withdrew simply because the need to take action on the unpaid bills created an unresolvable ethical conflict, and not because of any other potential legal/ethical concern. But I think there's more to it than that, because:

He doesn't actually have to put Burzynski into bankruptcy in order to collect the debt. There are less extreme options. He could send nasty demand letters, for example. Or he could just file a regular old lawsuit.

That he didn't go that route strongly suggests that he's seeking to do something besides collect the debt that can only be accomplished by putting Burzynski in Chapter 7.

And the only things that putting someone in Chapter 7 really accomplishes are:

(1) It puts them completely out of business (unlike Chapter 11 bankruptcies, which repay via reorganization); and

(2) It puts everything non-exempt that they've got into a trust, where it's liquidated and used to pay off creditors.

Now then. As you know, the you-mess-with-me-at-your-risk message-sending hypothesis doesn't make any sense to me. Because, come on. He left his longtime client in the lurch on the eve of a major case and then proceeded directly to bankruptcy court without barely pausing for breath. And Burzynski is a bold heroic rebel to a lot of his client base.

I really don't see how he stands to gain any stature, power, or acclaim in the eyes of clients by doing that. If anything, it seems to me that it's more like the reverse.

I therefore reason that he's doing what he's doing in order to do the absolute maximum to set things to rights that he's able to do.

I can't hang my hat on that or anything. I don't know enough about it. And there might be other equally good or better explanations. But if so, I can't think of them. So that's what it looks like to me.

The thing I'd really be curious to know is whether people with a malpractice claim count as creditors if the malpractice has already occurred but the claims have not yet been made at the time that bankruptcy proceedings are initiated.

Because I'm pretty sure that if a board finds that there were standard-of-care violations, defense is not a viable option wrt malpractice claims arising from the same treatment that the board found to be below the standard of care. Which would mean settlements, not litigation.

I apologize for the unintended implications of the Javert analogy. I didn't mean anything pointed by it. I just mentally reached for a figure that represented immovable and uncompromising unforgiveness of past acts, come what may. And Javert is what floated up to the surface, like a little icosahedral die in the Magic 8 Ball of my mind.

Good for you on the jury duty. I live in fear of being selected only to end up hated upon by my fellow jurors under circumstances like that. So far I've managed to avoid it.

This comment is literally infinite. I have always been writing it and always will be.

/rambling.

Fyi: texas malpractice cases requiew that patient would have survived but for malpractice, which is hard to prove if the patient is terminal prior to seeing the defendant doc. Board law doesn't require that or even harm. Without that kind of finding in a civil
Case, probably couldn't get to a jury.

I speculate the reason he's come up with
The wacko conspiracy stuff is too much tv and he's off
His meds, or needs to up the dose.

FWIW:

I therefore reason that he’s doing what he’s doing in order to do the absolute maximum to set things to rights that he’s able to do.

^^The principle reason that explanation recommends itself to me is that it would show the same kind of legal ingenuity that coming up with the clinical-trials workaround for the FDA did.

It's sort of a "recognizably the same legal mind at work" type of thing. But that's a subjective judgment, I guess.

I’m positing Jaffe and Burzynski have a formal ‘legit’ legal relationship – Stan paid Jaffe for representation – AND an informal relationship that amounts to criminal conspiracy – Jaffe creates scam strategies and tactics for Stan and receives under the table kick-backs. In such case he would have a great deal to gain from Stan’s bad behavior – which he could be disbarred for – if he hadn’t made the proper shielding precautions, which he’s too smart not to do.

It belatedly occurred to me that there is what I think you'll agree is very nearly definitive proof that the above is not the case, because:

If you're part of a criminal conspiracy with someone who's giving you your share of the ill-gotten gains via under-the-table kickbacks, the very last thing you'd want to do is force them to turn over all their books and banking records to the federal government so that a forensic accountant could go over them looking for signs of exactly that kind of transaction.

I mean, there's only so shielding that a precaution can realistically be under those circumstances.***

But that's precisely what Jaffe is going out of his way to try to do by hauling Burzynski into bankruptcy court.

***Unless maybe the whole thing happens in the Cayman Islands.

Still haven't read the bankruptcy documents--getting ready to ride a bike race tomorrow. However, I will comment a bit on procedure. If there are more than 11 creditors whose claims are not contingent or subject to bonafide dispute as to liability or amount, then it takes three such creditors to force the bankruptcy. If only one filed the petition and it turns out there are more than 11 such creditors, other creditors will be given an opportunity to join in the petition. All the petitioning creditors must have claims that are not in bona fide dispute (and over a certain dollar amount). This alone sometimes tubes an involuntary bankruptcy. The petitioner must also show the debtor is not generally paying his debts as they come due. Involuntary bankruptcies are rare because creditors would rather do their best to collect on their own, before other creditors get a chance. It seems to be most often used when fraud is suspected, for example, to try to stop the hiding of assets. Until the petition is granted, the debtor is rarely restricted from transferring assets. There are big risks in filing an involuntary bankruptcy, the debtor can get attorney fees if the case is dismissed. If the case was filed in bad faith the debtor can recover damages.

FWIW.

@Xxxx(xx) --

Get out. All malpractice cases? Doctors in Texas can stumble into an operating room and amputate the perfectly good left arm or whatever anaesthetized person they happen to find there without giving a thought to civil liability, as long as the newly one-armed patient survives?

That can't be. Can it?

Also: I didn't follow the last part. Do you mean that without the board finding a civil case couldn't get to the jury?

If you stick around these threads for long enough making comments about people being off their meds, a very awesome poster named JP will whomp you for unnecessarily stigmatizing the mentally ill, who are sensitive suffering human beings with their own private travails and triumphs, the same as you.

I'd do it myself, but she's way better at it.

* July 2014 was when the TMB allegations that are being heard right now, this week, were first made.

Correction: That's when the 200-page complaint emerged.

I don't know how the process works in Texas. But in New York, there can be a couple of years worth of investigation and thrashing around before it gets to that point.

Here, at least, it's not a very good system. It doesn't do enough to protect the public, and there's not much in the way of due process for the accused. It's kind of a lose-lose.

ann;
Well, you obviously know more about the law and the case specifics than i do. I'll keep somecontingent suspicions of Richard Jaffe in the back of my mind, but grant that he may indeed be 'doing the right thing'. Mea culpa. My thought wasn't so much about him specifically anyway...

Would you agree, more or less, with my more general thoughts:
• that quacks and scammers are at least dependent on their attorneys for setting up their legitimacy screens, handling money, etc?
• that attorneys operating in such a role are sketchy folk?
(I'm not talking about criminal defense representation.)

It seems like Burzynski's in trouble because Jaffe turned on him (for whatever reason). I was just wondering if putting public scrutiny and pressure on the managers behind the quacks might be a useful means of curtailing the quackery...

@sadmar --

I don't think I can answer either of your questions. I'd have to take them on a case-by-case basis, in part because I don't know enough about the territory to generalize.

I think you're probably right that Burzynski's in trouble because Jaffe turned on him. But I'm not so sure that it wouldn't be truer to say that he's in trouble because he turned on Jaffe.

Not that I know. But I think the most parsimonious explanation for what's going on now is that Jaffe advised him that the best course of action would be to clean up his act, which he not only refused to do but refused to pay for.

Which was really stupid. But I guess that's just what grandiosity does to a person, sooner or later.

Doctors in Texas can stumble into an operating room and amputate the perfectly good left arm or whatever anaesthetized person they happen to find there without giving a thought to civil liability, as long as the newly one-armed patient survives?

No, but don't forget the caps on damages. I presume that "Xxxxxxx" was referring to Kramer v. Lewisville Memorial Hospital or thereabouts (I haven't really looked at Estate of Milo), which pretty much gives Texas physicians a free pass for mismanaging patients with terminal illnesses.

^ That comment was started before I was driven to take a nap* and finished hastily afterward. As I recover further, it occurs to me that I've overlooked the current details of the "but for" angle.

* I hate napping.

^^ And I haven't the foggiest idea how jurisdiction works if an estate is the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case.

Bankruptcy combined with skepticism, finally my loves unite!

But in all honesty, I'm shocked that a lawyer is filing an involuntary 7 on a client. As an in-house lawyer, I've been on the "go to hell, I'm not paying" side of fee disputes a few times (always 100% in the right, naturally), but I've never had an attorney even sound like they were considering going that route with me. Most attorneys that I've worked with go out of their way to make clients comfortable with fees. It seems to me that there has to be something else there to make that huge amount of publicity worth it. Especially since a move like that will practically guarantee a bar complaint. I'd be surprised if Burzynski's new attorney didn't have one filed already.

But honestly what shocks me most is, if it's true that the clinic is a d/b/a and Burzynski really doesn't have an LLC or corporation to limit his liability, that Jaffe didn't do anything to stop that. I mean, holy smokes, advising your client of the risks of operating as a sole proprietor is step 1 of representing someone with a business. Typing up that memo for my boss is literally the very first thing I did at my first real legal internship. I don't like to side with Burzynski, but if Jaffe really didn't advise him to set up a corp/LLC/LLP/whatever limited liability entity Texas will let doctors set up, that's borderline malpractice (if I'm being generous). The whole thing just makes me think there has to be more layers to the story. No chance that what is apparently a multi-million dollar operation is a sole proprietorship.

@Pita --

That went right past me. I would have expected LLP. Because medical practice. But maybe nobody who practices there has malpractice insurance, if that's even possible. (I'm thinking that if liability is going to be a great big ugly mess anyway....Well. That doesn't really make sense, I guess.)

Is there maybe some kind of tax advantage to operating as an unincorporated business? Doesn't seem like there should be. But it's all about the money with SB. So if there' were more bucks to be skimmed or less accountability or something like that, he might have opted for it irrespective of legal advice.

Also, the Burzynski Research Institute is Inc. FWIW.

OK. This is now bugging me.

Am I right to think that operating as an unincorporated business is the most advantageous from the perspective of taxes and profits?

If so, that to me explains why the Burzynski Clinic is one.

Cheap is dear in the end, as my late grandmother used to say.

It's been several days now, but I have not seen any updates on Stan the Man. Anyone have any info/links?

By Statistique (not verified) on 23 Nov 2015 #permalink

This one isn't about potential sanctions, but rather an honor of sorts for Burzynski - he's made a list of Top Ten Most Embarrassing Houstonians.

"If you want to feel bad for the rest of the day, you can read accounts of families that have committed financial suicide to rally the thousands of dollars needed to get their sick loved ones into the Burzynski Clinic, only to watch them die. Truly an embarrassment to such a medical city where some of the best cancer medicine in the world is performed."

http://www.houstonpress.com/news/the-10-most-embarrassing-houstonians-7…

Stan may be the most well-known person in the top ten (outside of Tila Tequila), but another doc was cited as well:

"(Dr.) Steve Hotze combines two noxious smells into one giant fart for Houston. The first is a strict adherence to a bizarre conservative Christian theology, and the other is medical quackery. For instance, Hotze says that all diseases are the fault of Adam and Eve’s sins, that malpractice lawsuits are unbiblical, that taking birth control makes women less attractive, and that gay rights leads to child molestation. He also assures us that men who lose their testicles can no longer read maps, and once told the head of the Texas Medical Board she should be taken over a knee and spanked because the board was investigating a friend of his who the board thought was treating allergy patients with homeopathic injections derived from, among other things, jet fuel."

(Hotze was mentioned in an RI article several years ago about his support for a law to limit action on anonymous complaints about doctors to the Texas Medical Board).

For those who missed the Houston Press' investigative report on Burzynski from seven years ago:

http://www.houstonpress.com/news/cancer-doctor-stanislaw-burzynski-sees…

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 24 Nov 2015 #permalink