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OAKLAND — If Denver attorney Jeffrey Springer is any indication of how they practice law in the Rocky Mountain capital, we know one thing — they do it quick. Springer took just 25 minutes to explain to the Oakland jury why his client, former Raider Bill Romanowski, did not deserve to pay millions in damages for a practice-squad punch that ended a teammate’s career. “This case is about a single incident, a one-punch incident that took place in the violent world of football,” said the dark-haired, goateed litigator. James Brosnahan, by contrast, wanted to tell a broader story. The prominent Morrison & Foerster partner took nearly 90 minutes, complete with video highlights, to lead jurors through the life and career of his client, former Berkeley High star Marcus Williams. Romanowski, a 16-year NFL veteran who played on four winning Super Bowl teams and was known as one of the most intense linebackers in the game, is being sued by Williams, a Raiders teammate whom he knocked out in a scuffle during an Aug. 24, 2003, practice. Williams, who played tight end and on special teams, was assigned to block Romanowski on a running play. After the play, Romanowski allegedly ripped Williams’ helmet off and landed a punch so hard it broke a bone around the second-year player’s left eye. Williams, who claims brain damage, is seeking up to $4 million, according to court documents. “You can hear the sickening sound of [Williams'] eye bones breaking 15 yards or more away,” Brosnahan told the mostly female jury. “That punch knocked his eye up towards his brain.” No one is disputing that Romanowski hit Williams. In fact, he publicly apologized a few days after the incident. Instead, the parties disagree over whether the altercation was a mutual one, and on the economic value of Williams’ lost career. Brosnahan made the most of that career, leading jurors through Williams’ gridiron days at Berkeley High, Laney College and Washington State University to playing in the 2002 Super Bowl for the Raiders. Brosnahan said Williams’ gifts included a 41-inch vertical leap and legs fast enough to whip through a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, impressive for a 6-foot, 4-inch tight end. Jurors responded with relaxed interest to Brosnahan’s presentation, leaning back in their seats and only occasionally taking notes. Toward the end of his remarks, Superior Court Judge Cecilia Castellanos held her head in her hands. Williams filed suit in 2003. During a court recess, Brosnahan explained that he got the case after another attorney recommended him to Williams. “I liked Marcus right away, and I think the case is important,” he said. Brosnahan has gone up against the Raiders before. He defended the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority against a suit by the team. In that case, the team won $34 million of the $570 million to $833 million it had sought. Inside the courtroom, Springer attacked Williams’ character, his career and his motive for bringing suit. Williams’ medical claims of brain injury are compromised by his pot smoking, Springer claimed. He also said Williams was bringing suit simply because he was “looking for a pay day.” Williams couldn’t make it as a tight end and was inches away from being cut from the team, Springer said. In fact, he said, Williams himself wanted to quit the Raiders before Romanowski punched him. “Respectfully, he was at best a journeyman football player,” Springer said. In contrast, Romanowski turned himself from a 5-foot, 9-inch, 145-pound prep athlete of modest means into one of the most ferocious and respected players in the NFL through plain, hard work, Springer said. Jurors leaned forward during Springer’s opening remarks and took frequent notes. Springer should know his client well. His firm, Springer & Steinberg, defended Romanowski, who lives in Colorado, against charges he illegally obtained prescription drugs while he played for the Denver Broncos. Romanowski was acquitted in 2001. Springer has also represented other high-profile clients. Most recently, he defended one of several Qwest Communications executives accused of fraudulent financial reporting following a federal investigation. Springer’s client, Thomas Hall, got off with probation and a $5,000 fine earlier this month. “He’s a very good lawyer, has a great reputation and is skilled,” said Guss Guarino, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. “He represents his clients well, and he represents his clients hard, and he ain’t no slouch on the law.” Philip Cherner, a Denver solo criminal defense attorney who has seen Springer in action, wasn’t surprised when told of the difference in length between Springer and Brosnahan’s opening statements. “Any good lawyer is not going to waste the jury’s time. It distracts from the message and just confuses things,” said Cherner. “We look at these multi-week trials [in California] and go, ‘Shit, we could have done that in a few days.’”

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