SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Allen Ruby is used to flamboyant wrestling matches pitting one larger-than-life character against another _ and not just in the courtroom.
Barry Bonds‘ lead lawyer has a background unfamiliar to most attorneys, one that prepared him for rough exchanges and life in the glare of the spotlight.
“My dad was a wrestler, and then a wrestling booking agent and a wrestling booking promoter,” he said. “Way before Vince McMahon. And it was a family business, so I wrestled and announced and did various things in and around the business basically until I went to law school.”
Son of Bert Ruby _ aka “The Magyar Hercules” _ Allen Ruby knows a thing or two about showmanship. That comes in handy as he tries to clear his seven-time NL MVP client of charges he lied to a federal grand jury when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
Raising and lowering his resonant, baritone voice, inflecting it with irony and sarcasm at times, Ruby commands the courtroom. When he walks back to the rest of his team _ a dozen fill two tables and the first row of seats _ to get a manila folder with copies of exhibits, he lifts the papers dramatically and hands copies to the prosecution and the judge’s clerk as the jury watches. He rocks back slightly during questions in cross-examination when expressing incredulity.
Ruby wrestled professionally on weekends and summers before going to Stanford Law School. He eventually found himself on a different strand of the sports business. The NFL hired him as one of its lawyers to defend a $1 billion-plus lawsuit filed by the Oakland Raiders, who claimed they were forced out of Southern California after the 1994 season and never reimbursed for the market rights it relinquished.
He prevailed on behalf on the NFL and has gone on to other high-profile cases. In 2007, he succeeded in getting the case dismissed against Ron Gonzales, who while San Jose mayor had been indicted on charges of bribery in an alleged deal with a waste management company.
“Allen Ruby came highly recommended, and did not disappoint,” said Joe Browne, senior adviser to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “He is a man of unquestionable integrity, who is disciplined, motivated and tireless. Not only does he have superb judgment and courtroom presence, but he is a terrific communicator. He gets to the heart of a matter quickly.”
Not all praise is so effusive. Bobby Ghajar, a lawyer who represented Intel Corp. in a case against Dualcor Technologies Inc., which hired Ruby, responded to an email request for comment tersely: “I will say this about Allen: He has an unmistakable presence.” Ghajar would say no more.
Ruby, who turns 66 in July, wanted to be a lawyer since his playground days.
“I was 7 years old and talking about being a lawyer. I can’t imagine an occupation where you have this kind of opportunity to meet so many interesting and in many cases very accomplished people,” he said. “I always liked to listen to people talk. And I have to confess I always enjoyed talking myself. And it just seemed like, even from a kid’s perspective, that being a lawyer involved a lot of those things.”
It’s rubbed off on his family. Married to Cynthia since 1972, they have two children. Sarah, who is 31, is a lawyer. Daniel, who is 27, is a third-year student in law school.
Ruby grew up in Detroit and went to Michigan State. While he didn’t realize it at the time, a turning point came when he decided to go to Stanford Law School.
“That was a fluke,” he said. “I thought I was going to go East, and one slushy Midwestern day, it turned out I was going to go West. I’d never been West before. I’d never been West of Chicago. California was quite a change.”