A different beat


Employment lawyer has police background

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In the mid-1970s, Lou Eble left his studies at Eastern Michigan University to experience "real life." First working in retail at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, it was a Saturday night ride-along with a friend at the Detroit Police Department, that introduced Eble to policing and he was hooked.

"The job was not only exciting, it was a way to make an important contribution to the community," says Eble, a senior attorney with Nemeth Law in Detroit.

Because Detroit was laying off officers, and no other major police departments in Michigan were hiring, Eble headed to Texas and spent four years as a state trooper in the highway patrol.

"The Department of Public Safety has a great reputation and is one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country," he says. "One division, the Texas Rangers, is legendary. The people were great to work with, and I always felt proud wearing the DPS uniform.

"The best part was the ability to be proactive. In traffic enforcement you often are able to prevent a tragedy for example, by arresting a drunk driver or stopping a reckless driver before a catastrophic event occurs."

Eble then joined the Houston PD and worked in patrol, the criminal intelligence division, and as a sergeant in the homicide division.

In his mid-30s, Eble, a graduate of Finney High School in Detroit, attended the University of Houston-Downtown part-time, but found it a tough grind. "Houston was experiencing more than 600 homicides a year and the detectives were working almost around the clock," he says. "I got tired of studying for finals in the hallways of the courts waiting to testify."

Leaving the force, he earned his undergrad degree in criminal justice, magna cum laude, and three years later graduated, cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

"It seems like I wanted to be a lawyer my whole life, probably from watching too many episodes of Perry Mason," he says.

After working as a labor and employment lawyer in Houston, Eble brought his family to Michigan and eventually joined Nemeth Law, where he handles employment litigation.

"In most employment law cases, the main facts are not in dispute for example, that the plaintiff was discharged. What is in dispute is the motive," he notes. "Employment law is very people oriented. I love interviewing clients, witnesses, and opponents."

Named among Michigan Super Lawyers, and nominated as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America in 2009, Eble is amazed at things he comes up against.

"It's a good sign when I ask plaintiffs a question such as 'Why do you believe you were discharged because of your age?' and the plaintiff answers, 'Is that what I'm claiming?' Believe it or not, that has happened on occasions talk about lack of preparation."

In one case, a plaintiff had had minor knee surgery, and claimed, under the American Disabilities Act, that he was discharged as a result of his "disability" and repeatedly testified he could not perform essential job functions because of his bad knee.

"It became apparent the plaintiff was greatly embellishing the extent of his injury and that his attorney had no knowledge of the ADA," Eble says. "When I asked the plaintiff what his employer could have done to accommodate him, he replied 'Nothing.' I asked, 'Are you saying you cannot perform the essential functions of your job with or without a reasonable accommodation?" He replied, 'That's exactly what I'm saying.' The plaintiff's attorney, apparently for emphasis, asked the man the same question, with the same result. Needless to say, summary judgment was granted."

A contributor to the development of defamation law, Eble's Baylor Law Review article, "Self Publication Defamation: Employee Right or Employee Burden?" has been cited or otherwise relied on by at least five states, including four state supreme court decisions, as support for decisions to reject the self-publication defamation cause of action. It is also cited in numerous law review articles and is referenced and discussed in a 2003 published law school textbook "Torts: Cases and Materials."

Eble notes his law enforcement background is a great asset. "I believe some attorneys, especially new attorneys, are too eager to believe what witnesses tell them," he explains.

"Not me I interrogate my witnesses and/or clients much to the same extent as I do a deponent. If there are bad facts, I want to know about them as soon as possible, not in the middle of a deposition or, worse, at trial."

A member of the Oakland County Sheriff's Advisory Council, Eble also has served as a Special Deputy for the Oakland Country Sheriff's Department Cold Case Unit since its inception.

In a recent reminder he has been out of law enforcement on a full-time basis for a number of years, he and his partner were in an unmarked police car tracking down witnesses on an old homicide case. One of the witnesses called his partner's cell phone and started providing crucial information, but Eble had difficulty hearing over the busy police radio. He repeatedly pressed a button on the radio trying to turn it off until his partner pressed another button to silence it. A sergeant then called to inquire about their safety.

"It turned out the button I had repeatedly pressed was an emergency button signaling we needed help," Eble explains. "Back in the day, we didn't have emergency buttons."

Published: Thu, Apr 09, 2015