Mike Weiss Memorial Service Transcript

  • Memorial Service of Michael David Weiss

    Held at The United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Ceremonial Courtroom

    Background of people who spoke at Mike's Funeral

    Judge Edith Jones

    Judge Edith Jones was general counsel for the Texas Republican Party before President Reagan appointed her to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985. In 1990 the first President Bush selected Judge David Souter for the Supreme Court over Judge Jones. Mike was very close to Judge Jones. He had a picture of her in his office and she acted in some way as a replacement mother figure for him. Mike clerked for her, she performed his marriage ceremony and spoke at his funeral.

    Tex Lezar

    Mike worked with Tex Lezar on his political as well as law issues. Tex worked for Nixon and Reagan and ran for Texas Lt. Governor on the same ticket as George W. Bush in 1994 but lost.

    Rod De Llano

    Mike's law partner and close friend.

    Rick Hotze

    Rick Hotze is part of the Hotze family, the most powerful right wing political family in Houston.

    Paul Danziger

    Mike's law partner and close friend.

    Darryl King

    Darryl King is a powerful Democratic African American power broker in Houston. Friends with the Mayor, many of the City Council members and congresspeople. Darryl King owns Quality Concession, Aramark's minority joint-venture partner in the contract. King is also head of the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and is former chair of the Houston Area Urban League. Darryl and Mike were very close – like brothers.

    Memorial Service

    Judge Edith Jones

    (Tape start midway) : …his dedication was all more convincing as it was unselfish seeking. Michael's principles were not sacrificed for prize money, publicity or prestige. He never thought those things. The loss of Michael Weiss is, therefore, a public loss to all of those who have shared his principles and fought for the same political and social goals. But, of course, Michael's loss deeply affects his friends like us in a more personal way. I consider Michael to have been a man without guile. This is not to say that he was perfect; which of us is? But Michael yearned to do right. He strove to join the community of people who do right. He hungered for trust and intimacy with those whom he respected, and more often than not, I believe, Michael achieved the painfully high goals he set for himself. I'll never forget his raw talent, his affection, his doggedness and his triple Bohemianism. How many conservative activist litigators kept a gheko or python as pets and drove around with them in their cars? What other unapologetic right-winger dressed so unusually, even during the clerkship, that his outfits were the subject of a Halloween costume? And what strange contemporary passion he had for those rancid smelling bottles of Ginseng juice that he kept in his chambers? Mike could be outlandish, but these interludes only punctuated his loyalty and his overall lovableness.

    So I'll return to my initial observation, it seems a tragedy that he passed away, but although we mourn his loss and we feel painfully that his life ended before expiration, I believe our sentiments are finally beside the point. God decided Michael was ripe for the plucking and that should be good enough for us. And I believe that in his and most beings, Michael had committed himself to God's loving, power and righteousness, though he didn't say a lot about that publicly.

    I believe that Michael's life and legacy bespeak treasures beyond their years. Through him, we're reminded of the transience and the joy of life. We're reminded of the need to dedicate ourselves to high goals; to sacrifice if need be in pursuit of those goals; to remain cheerful when we pray, and to make our contributions now, lest the opportunity be lost.

    Michael's loss is not a tragedy if we learn from his life. And Michael's life may be summed up in the words of a missionary who was also cut down in his prime. No reserve, no retreat, no regrets. Farewell, Michael, and God bless you.

    Paul Danziger

    Thank you, Judge. The next person who is now going to speak is somebody who was Mike's best man at his wedding, somebody he was really close to and often talked about Tex Lazar.

    Tex Lazar

    As much as I loved and admired Michael, I would rather I was not here with you today. How do you judge a life? I think most of us are fearful of being judged… Certainly for most of us who are lawyers, we will hardly ever hone to such a person. I think he told us how to judge Michael's life in a speech he gave on Memorial Day. He said "life is action and passion. I think it is required of man that he should share the action and passion of his time at peril at being judged not to have lived." Michael, by that standard, led a very rich life. Passion and his time robbed him like his own life was. The only richness he was denied, that we're all denied, was a lengthy and longer life, which we all would have loved to have had for Michael.

    Michael was a remarkable pulsing person and had a great mind. He had a tremendous raw mode of force behind him, and there was nothing he was afraid of tackling. He particularly liked to get one of us, two or three of us, to fall for something witty. He always felt best when he sort of got up a little bit farther over the edge of where he wanted to go. Michael actually once got me and there are other people in this courtroom who I won't mention, to attempt to get the Supreme Court of Texas to enjoin the State of Texas on the eve of the fiscal year ending — extending the ________. That was one of the times Michael got us a little bit over the edge. On occasion, however, we managed to get Michael a little bit over the edge. Five or six years ago, I entered what I probably could describe now cheerfully as flight of fancy when I became a state-wide nominee in one of the parties in Texas, and went from one end of Texas to another covering a thousand miles a day. And, of course, there wasn't a day that went by that Michael wasn't either there with me or on the phone giving me some piece of advice. In particular, when I'd come through Houston as I did on several dozen occasions, many of which I was half awake probably at that point, Michael would always be there. He would always meet me at the airport and drive me wherever I was going, try to tell me what he thought the most important things to talk about would be that night, or tomorrow, or the next day. I remember particularly one night I was very tired. I had been in New York and San Antonio both that same day and it was late at night and I didn't know where I would end up staying, and Michael picked me up in his car, which was running that day, and I had this eerie feeling. Now, Michael was a close friend. I didn't feel eerie around Michael, but I had this eerie, eerie feeling. We were sort of going down the highway on our way in from Hobby Airport, and I was looking around. I knew there was something wrong and I was trying to figure out what it is. And I looked at Michael, and I said "Michael, there's an iguana in the back of this car!" Michael corrected me and told me exactly what it was, I forget exactly what he called it, and then he immediately went on to the next legal issue he had in mind. There just happened to be an iguana in the back of the car at 10:30 at night coming in from Hobby Airport.

    I searched and searched and tried to think, and perhaps not being a person of such great faith as Judge Jones, and I can't find any sense in why Michael was taken from us so early with so much promise ahead. All I can find is a happenstance and perhaps an irony, Michael left us on the same day as the person I would have compared Michael to only two centuries earlier. One of the greatest polemists of freedom that this country has ever produced; a man named Samuel Adams who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and he led the Boston Tea Party. We could see Michael leading the Boston Tea Party, couldn't we? Of course you could! Everyone knows Michael could have achieved that! A remarkable man who wrote some of the most stirring words. It was the British attempt to capture him that led to the "shot heard around the world" in the Battle of Lexington. Samuel Adams sparked the American Revolution as surely as anybody did. Michael had that same kind of spark in him. I'd like to think, and I hope, that there's a little corner of heaven up there reserved for those fire brands of freedom, and the Sam Adams and others, and already Michael, and invite Michael into that corner pub and I'd like to say that if they're going to be up there, they're going to have a little toast and a little cheer for each of them every time we feel freedom. Thank you.

    Paul Danziger

    And now, Mike's good friend from law school.

    Rod De Llano

    I was Mike's partner. Anybody who ever worked with Mike instantly knew how intellectually gifted he was, and it didn't take a lot of time. As a lawyer, I worked with him on a lot of cases. He had a unique ability to make things that were complicated simple and easy for somebody like me to understand, and I guess a lot of times, for the other side. And I think one of his most unique traits is he had — he possessed a real independent thought, and by that I mean he wasn't just a smart lawyer, but he could look at a problem differently, I think, from the way other people looked at it and he would find a solution that nobody else would consider. And a lot of times, and I saw this, he seemed to make the impossible, possible and that was an enormous advantage to have when he was on your side and when he was working with you.

    Mike was also one of my closest friends, and I knew him I've known him for ten years, and I think I, other than his family and the people that he lived with, I think I knew him pretty well. Although I think everybody understood his intellectual capacity I think the things that made Mike really special were the things that couldn't be measured by tests, although Mike constantly reminded me and other people how high he scored on his IQ test. And one of the qualities was his determination and perseverance. Mike didn't quit and he didn't take no for an answer. He did what it took to get the job done or got someone else to do it, but he made sure the job was done.

    Another rare quality of Mike's was with respect to his work was a supreme confidence in his ability and a lack of self doubt. Some people might look at that, or some people looked at his arrogance, and he was arrogant, but those were qualities I think everybody understands that you have to have to do exceptional things.

    Another thing about Mike is he was his own man. Anybody who knew him, knew he wasn't a phony, he never pretended to be anything that he wasn't, and he wasn't afraid to be different. Anybody who ever saw him in our office knew that he [inaudible] [laughter]. Aside from these qualities that I think made Mike a great lawyer and a great person to work with, the things that were most special to me were the things that were the most human things about Mike. He had a great heart, extraordinary warmth, he was generous to a fault, and I think anybody here who ever was with Mike will tell you, he didn't have that much money, but he would take a group of you out to dinner and he would pay for it even if he didn't have money, and then the next day he'd be complaining that he didn't have money to pay his mortgage. Maybe that's why he didn't have that much money. (Laughter) But he was a very charming, funny, person. One of the funniest people I've ever met. And either intentionally or unintentionally, Mike was a very amusing character, and so he could drive you crazy but you'd always end up laughing because you couldn't stay mad at him very long.

    Another thing — quality Mike had that I think a lot of very, very smart people don't have is he had an ability to relate to people; all types of people, and make them feel comfortable. And the funny thing is when you hear about how far Mike has come in the law, but Mike was able to basically be friends with any type of person, anywhere. And I think even though he was thirty-two, he had had a breadth of life experiences that most don't have in a lifetime — a lot not all together happy, and I think that gave him a perspective on people and a feeling for people, and he was sensitive to people. And I thought that was very important.

    The most important thing to me about Mike was the kind of friend he was. There are a lot of people who might — well, I won't say a lot, but there was several people Mike didn't particularly care for. But if you were his friend, he'd do anything for you. He'd stand behind you. If you made a mistake, he didn't criticize. He stood behind you, and it's very rare that you can say that about most people. Mike was that way. Mike understood. He had the philosophy and accepted people for what they were and if you needed someone to talk to, you could always count on Mike, especially if it wasn't interfering with his sleep cycle. He was a tremendous friend and I'm going to miss him a lot.

    Paul Danziger

    Thanks. The next person is Rick Hotze.

    Rick Hotze

    May name is Rick Hotze and I came to know Michael on January 27, 1997. Mike — I was looking for an attorney and I guess I called and talked to Frank Harmon and Frank said "the guy you need is Michael Weiss. I'll have him contact you." And Michael called me and I explained the case to him, and I said "I can meet with you at 7:30 tonight at my brother Steve's house." And Michael said "I'll be there." I started to wonder about the guy I was going to take on as an attorney, so I had heard that he worked for Edith Jones on the Fifth Circuit. Woody and I sat on the board of directors of a company together and I called over Woody and I said Woody, tell me about this Michael Weiss guy — what is he like? He said why do you ask? I said well, Woody, I'm thinking about hiring Mike for this fight against City Hall. He said will it require Mike to be in front of a jury. (Laughter) I said, why do you ask? He went on to say that Mike was not exactly the neatest dresser around and not exactly well kept. But he had a very exceptional legal mind, and he was one who loved to fight conservative causes which my family and I love to fight. So seven-thirty rolls around, seven forty-five, eight o'clock, eight fifteen, eight twenty — so I called him. Mike was lost. That was just like Mike. We always called the secretary and asked her where he was. "Oh, he left forty-five minutes ago." Mike was only a block away and [inaudible]. And we opened the door and here was our new counsel, dressed in tennis shoes, and had on cut off shorts and a t-shirt. (Laughter) I am lucky, thank Woodly, for warning me because first impressions [inaudible].

    So I reviewed the facts of my case with Michael and I always make him work, and he beamed, which Michael did when he smells blood, and he said we've got them. We've got them right where we want them, I'm ready to take the case and I'll give you a reduced cheap fee and you pay me whatever you can afford to pay me. And I said, Michael, we'll work that out. And I still owe him a bunch of money. But he took the case, and he listened to the facts and he was very quick study.

    Michael and I went on to become great friends and I'll miss him dearly, very dearly. I came to find out about Michael early on that he had spend a lot of time studying philosophy and I too had studied philosophy. We had a lot of great philosophical discussion, very few arguments. Mostly a mutual admiration society and we'd argue the fact that we were both right. He attended Harvard, and a liberal arts college up there [inaudible]. Actually Mike — he loved freedom.[inaudible].

    He often went to the bar and approached the bench and there were a crowd always sitting next to the table with him, Michael always had with him a bottle of, a jug of Promised Land milk, which was filled with water, and that was his trademark. He said Hotze, where we lived in the promised land, the United States of America, in the State of Texas, in the City of Houston, the promised land, you know? I keep that bottle of milk to remind me that's why I fight and I will miss him dearly, very dearly. For I know not where I shall find another friend who would take up with me my legal battles, and I hate legal battles and you need to have a friend like Michael.[inaudible].

    Michael spent a lot of time with my family. A whole lot of time. We ate together, we partied together, we did all sorts of things — Michael would call me and say, when's the Hotze family getting together? I want to be there. Michael loved what we stood for. And he wanted to be a part of it. I think my uncle had threatened to write up adoption papers [inaudible]. But the long and short of it is, you never — I hope that Michael has probably found the true promised land and I pray for the repose of his soul and I know each of you prays for the same I hope one day to be there with Michael in the promised land.

    Paul Danziger

    I'm going to say a couple of words. I'm Paul Danziger, Mike's partner. I've also known Mike since high school and we were in debate together. And he hasn't changed that much since high school. A lot of people have asked me what happened over the last week, so I want to try and tell you a little bit about this last week. It's been difficult, let's put it that way. Last Thursday, Mike was in very good mood, he just filed a very big lawsuit against the City of Houston Metro to stop an eight million dollar light rail project and he was pretty excited about that. On Friday, he was in the newspaper and I'm happy that he was in the newspaper because he liked being in the newspaper. Friday afternoon, council member Todd, he had a press conference which he attended to and Friday afternoon he was in pretty good spirits. Ron and I sat down to talk about the Metro case and some other cases, he seemed to be genuinely happy.

    On Saturday morning, I woke up and went out for breakfast with my wife and our baby and I got back at about nine thirty. I looked at my phone, my cell phone rang and I looked at it and it had Michael Weiss's number coming in. I thought you know, it's awfully early, nine-thirty on a Saturday morning, for Mike to be calling. And so I picked up the phone and said what's up Mike? It wasn’t Mike. It was somebody from the fire department. They said there was a situation. I went over to Mike's house, there were two ambulances there. When I got there they told me that Michael had passed away. Somebody called Leon, Mike's father, and of course Dan and he immediately came over. I spoke to the paramedics at the house and they told me that Mike had passed away in his sleep. He didn't suffer any pain. Mike was originally from Cleveland, and so his father thought it best to he go back to Cleveland with his family, and so on that Tuesday, a funeral was held for Mike in Cleveland. The funeral was attended by his parents and his grandparents and 500 of his friends, it was a large gathering.

    At the funeral, Dan, Mike's brother spoke, Rod spoke, and I spoke. What we tried to tell the people that didn't know Mike, people he was friends with back in Cleveland and that Mike had lived a life, a very full life, and I mentioned to many of the people who had spoken. I mentioned Tom Shaw and the different things that people said about Mike and how he would work on cases with people dedicated to causes and he was very involved in those causes [inaudible] and he had done things for them, and that they appreciated it. I had talked about the fact that he was [inaudible] causes and he was [inaudible] for them. I talked about what a great lawyer he was and Rod talked about the fact that it was great for him and how much he enjoyed practicing law. And I was told by those people, by all his friends, all the other friends that Mike had that appreciated him for what he was. It was a very, very sad day to see his family there, to bury their son. Mike had a lot of promise and it was a sad day.

    Afterwards, we went back to Mike's father's house, and in the late afternoon, we were getting ready to leave — I got to know Mike's father pretty well over the last three and a half years. Two years ago, I went up to Cleveland with Mike and we had gone to visit a bunch of lawyers and we stayed with his father. Mike spoke to his father pretty regularly. I spoke with Mike's to his father every other week. His father had been practicing law for twenty plus or thirty plus years. We would often consult with him about practicing law and different cases and different things. And before we left on Tuesday afternoon, he said to me, "Paul, what did you learn from this?" And I said "I don't think I have learned anything." And he said "Well, what I have learn't is that if you invest in friends and friendship you will reap the rewards in your life and especially reap them in your time of need.

    All of us supported Mike. All of his friends invested in Mike when he needed it and he invested in us and I know he appreciates all the time and I think it's a testament to the type of friendship that everyone of us had with Mike. Because he would call you in the middle of the day and he'd take you out of a deposition and tell you something was an emergency, or take you out of a meeting, telling you something was an emergency. He had no qualms about doing that. He'd also call you in the middle of the night to talk to you. And so that's a testament to how Mike felt about you and how easy it was with many of us, and a testament to the friendship that Mike had with us. Mike will be sorely missed by many of us. I'd like to call Daryl King, a good friend of Mike.

    Darryl King

    I am one of Mike's unique friends that people probably speak about. Mike and I had a long relationship over the years, and probably some of the things that were mentioned earlier, I had already written out to say. You all know about the iguana, that I know [inaudible] about [inaudible]. And the cobra and other animals, but we find ourselves in this place, that is familiar to some of us, because we participated in his wedding ceremony in this same Court House, and none of us knew then that he would be in this place again and mourn. I am here to pay tribute to a real friend. Rita and I were here celebrating with Kiri and Mike, and we really enjoyed their friendship. And his whole collection of friends, which would astound almost anybody, he went from one end to the other. He'd come to our house for dinner, someone would slide up to me and say, hey, there's this white dude in the kitchen arguing with everybody. (Laughter) Mike would be holding center court in my kitchen. Having a debate with people he'd only met twenty minutes ago, and Kiri would be in the living room the life of the party everybody loves her, and Mike would just engage people in the darnedest conversations about things. And I'd say, Mike, just eat. And drink. Let's not think that hard today. He had far-right friends, far-left friends, groupies friends, intellectual friends, stuck-up friends, and one time he invited me to a gathering where he said he had some bigot friends he wanted me to straighten out. I said Mike, "you can't be serious?" and he said "It would be a great conversation".

    Most of you know that Mike believed in engaging differences in a way that few would dare. He didn't run from adversity; he challenged it. He didn't run from difficulties; he'd move them. Mike would introduce me as his best friend — now you know I know that wasn't true. And I'd say, Mike, I heard you introduce other people as your best friend, and he'd say, I know, don't worry about it. I knew I wasn't Mike's best friend, all of his friends were his best friends. (Inaudible) it was okay. I knew I had a place in his heart and that was fine with me. If any of you could put up with the weird pets at his home, the iguana, the pit bulls and the Rottweilers, snakes and birds and other creatures, I'd go over there and Rita would sit by the door, and I'd have to sit by the door with her, because she'd be afraid to move and Kiri would say, come on in, it's okay, come on in. And Rita would sit by the front door so she could make a hasty exit in case those animals decided to turn the tables on us.

    He was a quirky guy who was always [inaudible] and think he knows enough to [inaudible]. On several occasions, and this is probably one of the things that you don't know about Mike, he taught me, he had me find a place for someone to stay, and help him get through for someone that he had decided he was going to assist. And I said, Mike, you know I'm very busy, then I'd stop and say okay, Mike, who is it and what's the situation? And I'd call the Urban League, some other organization, some other resources and I'd find some clothing and shelter. And Mike called me to follow up, as if I worked for him. I'd say, Mike, this isn't the social department, this is my business. He'd say, yeah, but did you take care of what I asked you to do and half the time I don't know if he really knew these people very well. He'd just assign me a task and expect me to do it.

    He took responsibility for many, many, people. He took precious little responsibility for himself. He didn't care for thousand dollar suits, new shoes, or hundred dollar silk neckties. What he found excited him was engaging in conversation; a duel of the mind. A treat for him was good people, no matter what their status. You could be poor, you could be rich, you could be male, female, black or white, you could be a racist as long as you were willing to state your case in an intelligent fashion. He would talk to you. With Mike, you were measured by how you treated him and other people. If you engaged him, he would light up at the opportunity to get in your mind and see what you were thinking.

    I am asking you today to measure this man by his contribution to this world, and I'm asking you to measure this man by his kindness and thoughtfulness. His generosity to so many that needed a place to be respected, to start over and get on their feet. Measure this man by the fact that he was generous to a fault. And sometimes you just couldn't say no. I'm asking you to measure this man by his strengths and not his weaknesses. All of us have weaknesses that betray us sometimes; just when life seems to be going just right, like Mike told me the other day, things were working so well. And he was so emotional about it. I was summoned the rest of my day with [inaudible]. Just when things are going right, here comes that weakness that tests our faith and our strength. Have you ever heard the farmer say, "If God willing and the creek don't rise? Sometimes that's when we're expected the creek to rise — [inaudible] something that we can't control. But measure this man by his dogged determination to win for the little guy, to take on the tough fight no matter the size of the opponent if he thought he was right. Measure this man by the same things that you want to be measured by and not his weakness. You all want to be measured by the good in you. Measure Mike by his strengths and contributions, and when you measure Mike, do it while he's standing there, looking in the mirror at yourself.

    I sit here before this door, Lord and beg of you to hear my prayers. Hearken to my pleadings faithful God, and you know I have felt crushed, hounded by this weakness. And now the old memories pursue me like an enemy in the dark. Lead me forth from the prison of my past. It is time for me to let go and bid farewell. I walk away, I feel like I have been blowing in the dark for so long and so help me, God is my light for I fell weakened by so much hurts, I place my trust in you to show me the way. Rescue me from the enemy in my path for it is in you that I place my hope, and the spirit of God lives in the coming days of the end of my journey, [inaudible] and join in the goodness that belongs in your kingdom and on your journey.

    Michael Weiss, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine softly on your face and the rain fall gently on your shoulders.