RED BARTLIT WAS TOLD IT
was a case he could not win
—that no lawyer could win.
FRED H. BARTLIT JR.
In 1996, jet engine supplier
Chromalloy sued Pratt &
Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.,
claiming the defendant illegally monopolized
Born 1932 in Harvey, Ill.
Firm Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott
in Chicago and Denver.
Law school University of Illinois.
the jet engine parts market. ¶The smoking-gun
evidence in the 16-week state court trial in San
Antonio was an internal, C-level Pratt & Whitney
memo stating that its goal was to “destroy the
opposition” and “put them out of business.”
The memo was accompanied by
a drawing of a Chromalloy factory
exploding, which was followed by
the words “and we will.”
When it became clear that the
case was going to trial, Pratt &
Whitney hired Bartlit.
“Let’s put it this way,” Bartlit
says. “As facts go in antitrust cases,
this one didn’t look good.”
Bartlit told jurors that the memo
was nothing more than his client
trying to be enthusiastic about the
fight ahead, the same way a football
team tries to build excitement in the
locker room before taking the field.
“I told the jury that the memo
was just a bit of bravado and that’s
it,” Bartlit says. “I knew I had to
keep my argument simple, but I
wasn’t sure it was working.”
The plaintiff’s star witness was
a renowned antitrust expert who
had been in court for much of the
trial. Under cross-examination,
Bartlit asked the expert how much
he was being paid by the plaintiff.
The expert responded: $550 a day.
Realizing that Texas jurors were paid
a mere $6 a day—the lowest juror pay
in the nation at the time—Bartlit decided to make some hay out of it.
“So, when the jurors and I see
you sipping coffee during breaks
in the hallway, are you getting paid
“Yes, I am,” the witness responded.
“Well, when we see you sitting in
the back of the courtroom reading
the newspaper, surely you aren’t really being paid then, are you?
“Why, yes, I am,” the expert
replied. “But I am losing money on
this trial because I’ve raised my rate
to $600 a day. So every day that I am
here, I am actually losing $50 a day.”
That evening, after court had
ended, the jurors told the judge
that they had voted to donate their
$6 a day to the expert because they
felt sorry for him.
“At that point, I figured I was in
pretty good shape,” Bartlit says.
The four-month trial ended with
the jury finding for the defendant
on all counts.
1976—Successfully defended General
Motors in a $2 billion price-fixing antitrust
case in Connecticut.
1981—Defended chemical giant Monsanto
in a lawsuit brought by Super Turf claiming
treble damages for price fixing on artificial
turf products. Monsanto won at trial and
1996—Represented United Technologies
on claims brought by Chromalloy that UT’s
Pratt & Whitney unit monopolized the sale
of jet engine parts. He won.
2002—Was victorious in appeals of two
lawsuits defending Bayer’s patent on the
antibiotic drug Cipro. Also won trials of both
in lower courts.
2004—Successfully defended investment
fund Forstmann Little & Co. from $1 billion
in claims by the state of Connecticut in
Other career highlights—Trial counsel
(with partner Phil Beck) to George W. Bush
against Al Gore in 2000 Florida state court
NOW 76, BARTLIT HAS TRIED SCORES
and scores of bench and jury trials.
His 16-page online resumé lists
more than 50 major trials since 1970
in which the futures of General
Motors, United Technologies, Bayer,
Amoco and DuPont were at stake.
Oh yeah, there’s that one little
Florida case from November 2000
in which the presidency of the
United States was in question.
“It is amazing how many lawyers
have never tried a case,” he says.
“Litigators think about lawsuits.
Trial lawyers try them. And I fear
that we are witnessing a great decline in the number of trial lawyers
who have had these great courtroom
experiences to tell about.”
There’s one reason for this, he
says: “Very few cases actually go to
trial today. It is a disturbing and unhealthy trend.”
Bartlit remembers the day he decided to become a trial lawyer. He
was a first-year associate at Kirkland
& Ellis in Chicago in 1963. He was
being paid $1,000 less per year than
his fellow first-years because he
went to “the rinky-dink University
of Illinois,” while the others had
law degrees from Harvard, Yale
and the University of Chicago.