Lawyer uses unconventional style to advocate for families
By RANDALL BEACH
Jan. 08, 2018
There's a good chance you've seen Irving J. Pinsky's truck or two vans roaming around New Haven with their "Lawyer up!" and "Fast settlement" stickers and the flashing messages urging people to call "203 Attorney."
"It's an institution," Pinsky said of his promotional fleet. "It's part of New Haven."
The truck, which Pinsky calls "Betsy," is his flagship vehicle, with that colorful flashing phone number.
"I'm jealous of her because she's more famous than me!" Pinsky lamented.
Pinsky, who happily calls himself "a disturbing force in the universe," keeps his vehicles parked in a lot behind his office, a three-story house at the corner of Sherman Avenue and George Street.
When I approached his doorbell last Wednesday, I noticed, amidst more ads for Pinsky's services, two contradictory messages he has posted: "Beware of dog" and "The friendliest place on earth."
Pinsky is indeed a friendly fellow. As for his dog, there is absolutely nothing to "beware." (More on her later.)
"This is quite the building," Pinsky noted as he showed me around a maze of cluttered offices and a vacant third-floor apartment. Several young male aides worked here and there, helping themselves to the boxes of take-out pizza Pinsky had provided. He chomped away at a slice or two during our interview in his office.
Pinsky bills himself as a personal injury lawyer. He specializes in civil cases rather than criminal ones.
"I do far more pro bono cases (no fee charged) than paid work," he said. "Let me put it this way: it costs money to represent people for free, that's a fact."
Pinsky added, "I'm sort of a hippie, obviously. You see, I don't like taking money from people. I almost never sue people. So I sue insurance companies."
But last January he went after the Glastonbury Board of Education, the superintendent of schools and Glastonbury High School officials, including its principal, athletic director and varsity football coach. He sued them in Hartford Superior Court on behalf of a 16-year-old member of the football team who allegedly suffered a brain injury as a result of repeated blows to his head during practices and games.
Pinsky favors colorful language in his legal briefs: "The defendant urges, endorses, applauds and glorifies with an intense fervor, the sending of a young man into a combat-type situation in which repeated blows to the head are a certain consequence."
Pinsky alleged in his suit the defendants "conspired to commit acts of murder by sending uninformed football players into a combat-type environment."
The attorney for the Glastonbury defendants could not be reached for comment. But in a court document on the state Judicial branch website, the lawyer for the defendants disputes all counts in the complaint by Pinsky in detail and says that the counts fail "to plead facts sufficient to support their claims."
Pinsky cited a study by the Wake Forest School of Medicine, released in 2016. The research team studied 25 male football players between the ages of 8 and 13. MRIs on them showed changes in their brain white matter after just one season of playing youth football, even though none of the players had any signs of sustaining concussions.
The author of the study, Dr. Christopher Whitlow, the medical school's chief of neuroradiology, said the study did not prove the changes in the white matter will lead to "negative long-term outcomes." But Pinsky noted a recent study of deceased NFL players' brains showed 110 of 111 had brain disease.
Pinsky is hoping the state of Connecticut will take over the lawsuit for him and make it a statewide issue, "to save the kids of America."
"Hockey is worse!" he said of head injuries. "I'm gonna go after hockey too."
He acknowledged of his campaign to stop football, "That's one powerful blood lust lobby I'm going up against."
Pinsky also drew notoriety in 2012 for filing a notice of a claim against the state of Connecticut for $100 million on behalf of a girl who survived the Sandy Hook school massacre but was traumatized by what she heard and saw. Pinsky said he wanted to ensure schools are made safe from further attacks such as the one that killed 20 young students and six school staffers in 2012.
"I never actually filed the suit," Pinsky said. "I withdrew it because I didn't want the kid to be harassed."
After publicity broke about Pinsky's notice in the Sandy Hook case, he was hit with a wave of angry reaction. During that time somebody fired two bullets into his New Haven house.
"I don't know why they shot at me," he said. "It could've been people hating me because of Sandy Hook. But this neighborhood has had a lot of guns and shootings, It's a lot better now."
Pinsky showed me the bullet holes in his back window. "At least one of the bullets is still in there. I want to sell it on eBay."
In another high-profile case, Pinsky represented pro bono many of the left wing activists who camped out on the New Haven Green in the Occupy New Haven movement. Pinsky fought on their behalf in New Haven federal court, but they were evicted in April 2012.
"They were making a statement about the need to find a fairer way to run the world for the people," Pinsky said. "Let 'em live."
Pinsky also made headlines in 2003 when he was suspended from practicing law in Connecticut for a year. The Hartford Courant reported he was found to have "acted unethically in representing a client who had been in a car accident." According to the Courant, Pinsky failed to meet a deadline for filing a court action on behalf of the young woman.
When I asked Pinsky about this, he said, "That was a long time ago. I disagree (with the suspension decision). I'm allowed to disagree."
He added, "Yeah, I missed a deadline. Do you know anybody who doesn't? I heard Michael Jordan missed a lay-up once."
Although Pinsky was born and raised in New Haven, he lives in a house on Anchor Beach in Milford with his two brothers. His parents, Roland and Jennie, bought it many years ago and have since died.
"My father was a plumber. His company was Instant Plumbing. I wasn't allowed to do plumbing because my father said, 'You've got brains! Go to law school!'"
Pinsky jumped up and led me to a nearby room where a small dog was sleeping in a doggie bed. "This is my blind guard dog, Scouty. I take her wherever I go." (Well, not to court.)
In spite of the controversies and adversaries Pinsky has picked up through the years, he said, "Women stop me in the street and tell me, "I want to thank you because you tried to protect my kids.' I know I'm loved."
Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com