Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Roger Clemens' Lawyer Rusty Hardin: Is His Business In Jeopardy?

Roger Clemens

Let the baseball guys debate about whether Roger Clemens' career is over. It's my job to explore whether the fiasco that has ensued will drive his lawyer into retirement.

When Roger Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report, I was one of many who said sue for defamation and scream innocence.  That's exactly what Roger Clemens has done. The issue of course is that things haven't quite gone his way from Andy Pettitte turning against him to the apparent destruction of his party alibi.

Now I'm hardly suggesting that if the public decides that Clemens is guilty his lawyer Rusty Hardin, who has had a distinguished career, should call it quits. What I am suggesting is that if the Department of Justice does have enough evidence to bring Clemens up on perjury charges, Hardin is going to have to reconsider whether he should pack it in at 66. Because at the very least, his business is going to take a hit.

I understand why Hardin took this case. Look at his web site and you see he has a fascination with representing sports figures Calvin Murphy, Wade Boggs, Scottie Pippen and Warren Moon, among them. And he obviously had a client in Roger Clemens who was interested in doing everything (read: many billable hours). As a lawyer, Hardin has simply done everything his client has wanted, while presumably advising him of the legal risks. But I'm honestly shocked as to how much Hardin has been willing to put himself in the public eye. Roger's words have now become his words as well.

This weekend, Hardin went on Houston television station KTRK for more than eight minutes to talk about the case. Click here to watch a very good reporter, Tim Melton, ask all the right questions. In the interview, Hardin says "one thing we do know is that (his former trainer Brian) McNamee slandered him." While it's his job to continue to represent Clemens as long as he gets paid for the work, I'm not sure Hardin should be saying anything at this point. Because the bottom line is that if Roger doesn't win the defamation lawsuit against McNamee--it was a longshot to begin with and it's an even longer shot now--the general public will read that as yet another one in the loss column. And the more Hardin is out there, the more it will hurt his practice in the end.

Hardin also reiterates comments he made last month by comparing this to the Duke Lacrosse case. "I think people are going to be embarrassed," Hardin tells Melton. The problem for Hardin is that this case is already more meaty than the Duke lacrosse case. Who knows if McNamee's needles ever bear fruit, or Roger's blood and HGH? But we already know that McNamee wasn't lying about Pettitte, Knoblauch or about Clemens' wife.

It's ridiculous to think that the career of a lawyer should be on the line for every client they take on just like doctors shouldn't lose their practicing license because a patient, who comes to the hospital in bad health, dies on the operating table. But, as Hardin and the members of Congress know, the world pays more attention to anything athlete related.

It's why Christopher Darden went to teach after the gloves didn't fit O.J. And why Marcia Clark wrote a book and became a legal correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, while F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, the late Johnny Cochran and Barry Scheck became legal heroes.

Questions?  Comments?