Congressman regrets 'parasites' comment directed at lawyers

John O'Brien Jun. 7, 2012, 7:00am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on Wednesday took time to address a statement he made during a May hearing in which he referred to attorneys that contacted him about his friend's mesothelioma as "parasites."

Cohen, a lawyer and Democrat from Tennessee, made the comment May 10 during a House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing. The subcommittee was discussing legislation designed to increase transparency between civil courts and asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

Cohen recounted the story of his friend Warren Zevon, a singer/songwriter perhaps best known for the song "Werewolves of London," who died from mesothelioma in 2003.

"He did not seek a lawyer, didn't want damages," Cohen said in May. "I had a few parasites -- I'm an attorney -- but I had a few people call me and talk to me, quote-unquote friends.

"Friends, because they wanted to get to Warren to take his case. And Warren was good and didn't do it."

Wednesday, as the House Judiciary Committee weighed the same bill, Cohen said he regretted what he said.

"I regret that I reflected the spirit that I took the phone call in at the time," he said. "It was a very sensitive time."

He added that without attorneys, "we would not have the country we have."

He also made a reference to blocking users on Twitter and once mentioned the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Legal Newsline reported his comment on May 12. It is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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