‘Heated’ critique of Toledo leads to exchange of letters; Lawyer seeks forgiveness

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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He’s sorry.

Brendan Sullivan, Jr. – the Washington lawyer whose pointed barbs ripped into Toledo’s sensitive underbelly – says he really didn’t mean it.

“My words about Toledo were not meant to offend any of the wonderful people of your community,” he said.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, those words were: “Toledo, Ohio, is the worst place in the world.”

Mr. Sullivan, whose name rarely appears in print without the term “superlawyer” attached, apologized in a letter to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The mayor had sent a letter to Mr. Sullivan asking for the opportunity to show him the best of Toledo in a two-hour tour. Mr. Sullivan has accepted.

The hubbub began in a federal court in Washington on March 25. When Judge Stanley Sporkin tried to set a May date for a trial Mr. Sullivan was going to be involved in, he objected, saying he had to be in Toledo then to represent another client.

“I don’t want to go to Toledo,” he told the judge. “Toledo, Ohio, is the worst place in the world … Toledo, Ohio, is the only place where the McDonald’s closes at 5 o’clock.”

Mr. Finkbeiner declined comment on the flap at the time. But the letter he wrote Mr. Sullivan on March 29 acknowledged his inner pain.

“While your unfortunate comments seem to have been said much more out of frustration at the judge’s action than to put down Toledo, they did hurt,” he wrote.

Mr. Sullivan said he made the comments to inject humor into a “very heated” exchange with the judge.

Mr. Sullivan successfully defended Darryl Costin, former Libbey-Owens-Ford vice president, in a 1997 federal fraud trial.

“I have tried cases throughout the country and the jurors I met in Toledo were remarkable people whose diligence and sense of responsibility were beyond anything I had experienced,” he gushed.

Mr. Sullivan will return on April 19 to defend Mr. Costin again, this time on tax fraud charges.