Many attorneys feel like they are bigger than life. There are very few who can actually claim that they are; Mark J. Sullivan was one of those rightful few. Mark, was a great man. He was a larger than life man. He was the kind of person who filled up a room with his mere presence. He was my mentor. He was my friend.
I remember my first trip to court with Mark. I was a nervous wreck that he would figure out that I didn’t know anything. I soon realized he already figured that out, and liked that I was an empty vessel he could fill with knowledge, tips, tricks of the trade. On our way back from court he asked me how many yards were in a football field. I thought for a second, counting (being terrible at math, this took me a minute). “120” I said. His reply was “You’re a smart cookie. Everyone forgets the end zones.” I think on the one hand he was impressed I got it right. On the other hard he was mad that I ruined his game. Our working relationship was like that from then on out.
I took pride in working for Mark. I felt like I won some lottery that I was chosen to learn from the master. I was proud to state my appearances in court “Stephanie Arrache from the Law Office of Mark J. Sullivan.” I walked a little taller down those corridors just to represent him well. And I could tell clients felt the same. They breathed a little easier knowing Mark was on the case.
Mark was a beast of a man in the criminal defense world. Everyone knew that. He was the best of the best of the best. There are very few lawyers that ever have, or ever will come close to the lawyer he was. He was passionate about the law. He loved the law because he loved the country. He loved everything about the United States, especially Abraham Lincoln. I remember asking him once if he bought his giant truck because it was a “Mark Lincoln”. He loved the law and he loved politics. He claimed to be a liberal, but I think he was a closet conservative. He loved guns and big trucks too much to not be. I think he just got a kick out of debating all of his friends, who were conservatives. He told me once that I was a true Liberal, because I professed my desire to help people and help kids and told him my plan of how I was going to do both as a lawyer. He didn’t laugh. He just encouraged me to not give up that desire.
Many people don’t know that Mark was a very generous man. He offered to donate money to Desert Hot Springs High School’s theatre department when he heard they were running short on advertising funds. He bought lunch every day when we were in trial, for both myself and whichever client was there. He wouldn’t think of letting me treat him when we went out to celebrate his wins. When we would work late prepping trials, he would buy us all dinner. He took several of us shooting in the desert and supplied everything.
Mark was a kind man. Some people will find that shocking. Many people didn’t know that side of him. He went out of his way to keep that side hidden. One of my favorite stories of Mark was when we were prepping a trial for a former client. We spent many late hours with the client, getting ready. One evening, the client couldn’t find a babysitter for his young children. “You guys keep working, I’ll be right back” he said as he abruptly got up to leave. We had no clue where he went, but kept doing whatever it was we were doing. About fifteen minutes later, he came back to the office with a bag. In the bag were two boxes of crayons. He then went to his Abraham Lincoln library, his pride and joy, and got two Abraham Lincoln coloring books. He set the kids up in front of the tv, coloring book and new crayons in hand, and made sure they were happy and content. By the way, that trial, attempted murder, he won it.
After I opened my own firm (upon his blessing and encouragement), he told me to use my old office within his office. Even after I opened my own firm, he was there for me with encouragement and advice. He’d always tell me that I could handle anything. If I ran into him in court, he’d let me tag along to watch him in preliminary hearings or any other thing he was doing. After assisting him on his last trial, I sat around the courthouse for hours upon hours with him and his client until the jury came back with a verdict. I kept reassuring him that he got the win. There was no way he lost this case. Then the jury came back. I don’t think he inhaled for five minutes. When the clerk read the “not guilty”, his entire face lit up! He turned around to look at me and had the biggest grin on his face. I will never forget that moment. I don’t think I realized at the time how monumental it would be. At the time I figured it was just another win under his belt. Now it’s a moment I will cherish forever.
Another moment I will never forget happened a few weeks before his passing. He had been searching for a Bentley for as long as I’ve known him. He finally bought his dream car and was so proud of it. The day he got it he had me go down to the parking lot at the office to see it. He was so proud of every littlest detail of it. “Look at the tire valve caps!” After he gave himself that present, he still had car fever and sat at his computer looking at cars that I should consider. I went out and bought myself a new car. Not a Bentley, obviously, but a nice, professional car nonetheless. I brought it by the office and he was so excited to go down and see it. “You’ve come a long way, kiddo. That’s a lawyer’s car.” That approval meant the world to me. In fact, one of the most important conversations I ever had with Mark was when he told me that I reminded him of himself. Thinking that I in any way, shape or form resembled him meant more to me than just about anything.
The passing of Mark is a devastating blow to me professionally and personally. Professionally, I lost my mentor. Personally, I lost my friend. There are three things that I will regret most about his passing: 1) that I never was able to tell him how much he meant to me (I just hope he knows); 2) that I was never able to show him my new office and get his approval; 3) that I was never able to tell him that I am actually a conservative.