Frederick Martin Baron 1947-2008

Fred Baron

My dad lived the best life anyone could ever hope for. One day soon, I will post an update on the details of how we obtained Tysabri. I personally think the drug may turn out to be everything we expected as my father seemed to be responding positively, but may have received it too late. After doctors, lawyers, politicians and others involved have been unable to justify Biogen’s decisions, l continue to only know James C. Mullen from Biogen as inhumane. 

Yesterday I heard that Senator John Kerry is promoting the need to make some changes so this does not happen again.

For my Dad, and to everyone else who may have cancer, based on this very new science, I remain optimistic that we are very close to beating this.

Below reprinted from the Dallas Morning News:

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News
Jeffrey Weiss contributed to this report.

Frederick M. “Fred” Baron, the plaintiff’s lawyer who amassed a fortune that he used to rejuvenate the Democratic Party in Texas, died Thursday at his Dallas home of complications of cancer. He was 61.

Mr. Baron became known as the King of Torts for his more than 30 years of successfully representing clients injured by toxic substances, beginning with a 1977 asbestos case.

“Fred is a guy who changed the world, cared about helping people and wasn’t in it for himself,” said Marc Stanley, a longtime friend and chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Mr. Baron “loved anything where he felt he was helping people,” said his wife, Lisa Blue-Baron of Dallas. “His whole thing was trying to make things better for other people.”

Mr. Baron’s desire to help people fired his passion for the law and politics, Ms. Blue-Baron said.

Mr. Baron was especially well respected in Texas political circles.

Texas Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said Mr. Baron was a true champion of the people.

“A fierce advocate for those who believed they had no voice, Fred made it his life mission to protect and defend those who needed the most help,” he said.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost called Mr. Baron a great man.

“He was generous and believed in the Democratic Party,” Mr. Frost said. “He believed that people should have an opportunity in life. He single-handedly started to change the political face of Texas.”

Mr. Baron became a national pioneer in asbestos litigation, founding his own law firm to pursue a case that his employer rejected.

“Fred left with the case, because he thought he’d be able to prosecute a case like that,” Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron built a lucrative practice and shared his financial success with a host of causes from the arts to the Texas Democratic Trust, which he founded in September 2005.

“The party was literally broke,” Mr. Stanley said. “There was no energy, there were no funds. Fred enabled a structure to be rebuilt to support and elect Democratic candidates in Texas.”

Many credit Mr. Baron’s trust with giving Dallas County Democrats the wherewithal that led to their success in the November 2006 election.

“He contributed not only his money, but his time and his vision,” Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron’s philanthropic efforts weren’t limited to the political arena.

The first floor of the Baron home was devoted to public charity.

“His house was open to any organization that wanted an event there,” Mr. Stanley said. The home was used for fundraisers for all kinds of Dallas religious, cultural and social justice organizations, Mr. Stanley said.

Mr. Baron was especially proud of the Baron & Blue Foundation, which is dedicated to eliminating homelessness and improving low-cost housing in the Dallas area, his wife said.

“I don’t remember … [the Barons] ever saying no to any request,” Mr. Stanley said. “He was just so generous and open.”

National spotlight

Mr. Baron was catapulted into the national political limelight twice this fall, first when it was revealed that he had paid to move the woman who had an affair with former presidential hopeful John Edwards. Mr. Baron had been Mr. Edwards’ top fundraiser.

Earlier this month, Mr. Baron was granted FDA approval for an experimental treatment in a last-ditch effort to save his life.

In his last battle with a corporation, Mr. Baron sought permission for doctors at the Mayo Clinic to use the drug Tysabri to treat his final-stage multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

The drug company, Biogen Idec Inc., argued that the experimental use might jeopardize the drug – approved to treat multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease – for future use in chemotherapy.

Mr. Baron had a host of prominent backers in his quest for his experimental treatment, including seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

Mr. Baron, who was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, moved to Smithville, Texas, with his mother, when he was 15 years old.

Legal career

He was educated at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 and a doctor of law degree in 1971.

Mr. Baron said a 1970 Ralph Nader speech in Austin influenced him to use the law to regulate business conduct in ways the government could not.

In 1977, Mr. Baron founded his Dallas firm, Baron & Associates, which became Baron & Budd, where he later was joined by his wife.

Mr. Baron was highly successful litigating for plaintiffs injured by substances including asbestos, pesticides and lead.

Late in his career, he had been criticized for operating a legal assembly line. His detractors charged that he coached witness testimony.

“I’ve always thought that that was a rogue paralegal,” Mr. Stanley said. “I know that Fred didn’t treat his clients like a factory. He cared very deeply about each and every one of them.”

Mr. Stanley cited Mr. Baron’s last case – a toxic land settlement for a Pennsylvania client – that he took a deposition for last month in Washington, D.C.

“He was talking personally about how this would affect the lives of the clients,” Mr. Stanley said. “You could see the passion in his eyes and hear it in his voice that he felt for his client.

"He was very excited about it, it was his last case. He felt like he had really helped his clients and pretty much demolished the other side’s expert.”

Mr. Baron’s professional recognition included election as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America in 2002. He sold his firm and moved to Washington, D.C., while heading the association.

Mr. Baron had worked closely with national political figures. He had been a longtime supporter and friend of former President Bill Clinton.

In 2003, Mr. Baron all but stopped practicing law and became the lead fundraiser for Mr. Edwards. The next year, he headed the Kerry-Edwards general election finance team. He was the head of Mr. Edwards’ 2008 presidential bid.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Monday at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home. 

In addition to his wife, Mr. Baron is survived by two adult children, a son, Andrew Baron, and a daughter, Courtney Baron, both of New York; and three young children, Alessandra Baron , Nathalie Baron and Caroline Baron.

The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Texas Democratic Trust at www.texasdemocratictrust.com or the Lance Armstrong Foundation at www.livestrong.org.


In Memoriam: Texas Plaintiffs Lawyer Fred Baron

Reprinted from Law.com by Miriam Rozen and John Council

Dallas plaintiffs lawyer Fred Baron died Thursday after battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He was 61.

Baron was known for his representation of plaintiffs in asbestos litigation.

While a student at the University of Texas School of Law, from which he graduated in 1971, he was “proselytized” by a speech given by Ralph Naderabout using “the law as an instrument of social change to regulate corporate conduct,” Baron toldTexas Lawyer in December 2006.

Baron’s first job was with a Dallas labor law firm, Mullinax, Wells, Mauzy & Collins. It was there that he filed his first asbestos case.

In 1975, he left to form Dallas’ Baron & Budd. Baron sold his interest in the firm in 2002. Baron and his wife, attorney Lisa Blue, who also is a former Baron & Budd partner, subsequently formed Dallas’ Baron & Blue.

“He took toxic-tort cases when few other lawyers would take them, because they were too expensive, too risky and too complicated,” says Brent Rosenthal, a former partner of Baron’s and a close friend.

Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party, says Baron had a huge impact on law and politics in Texas.

“He blazed a trail for the little guy who couldn’t afford a lawyer and took on corporations,” Ewing says. “He did that when other people weren’t doing that.”

Baron, a former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, was a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser.

“He single-handedly revitalized the Democratic Party in Texas,” says Susan Hays, a solo practitioner in Dallas and former chairwoman of the Dallas Democratic Party.

Baron founded and heavily funded the Texas Democratic Trust, an organization that helped Democrats win more than 40 trial benches in Dallas County during the 2006 general election.

“He was willing to put the money in an organization that was floundering and was ill-equipped to fight its way back,” Ewing says. “I’m glad he got to see the fruit of some of his work.

Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust, says Baron was more than a contributor to the party. "He was someone that inspired the Democratic Party and people in the Democratic Party to fight back and to fight back smartly.

"He had such a positive outlook,” Angle says. “Anytime you saw Fred, he was in a good mood and it was a good day and good things were going to happen. It was infectious.”

Baron, who recently served as the finance chairman of U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign, came under fire this summer for providing financial assistance to a woman with whom Edwards admitted having an affair. At the time, Baron told Texas Lawyer that, when he paid for the woman’s move to California, he was simply helping out a friend. Baron said he only learned of the affair shortly before the rest of the nation did in August.

In recent weeks, news of Baron’s illness surfaced after his son, Andrew Baron, on Oct. 14 posted a letter online that Andrew had sent to James C. Mullen, the chief executive officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Idec Inc. In the letter, Andrew Baron sought to reverse Biogen’s initial decision to deny his father’s physician’s request to give Fred Baron an experimental cancer drug treatment, Tysabri, that Andrew argued could have save his father’s life. Baron subsequently received the medication.

Baron “was very passionate, very energetic and very creative,” says Rosenthal, adding, “it took a degree of perseverance to develop a successful working relationship with him because of that but once you did, he was loyal to you forever to a fault.”