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HENNIGAN VS. OLSON : Court Rivals : 2 Lawyers Will Slug It Out in O.C. Bankruptcy Debacle : J. Michael Hennigan: Winner Over Disney, Arco Tackles Merrill Lynch

September 05, 1995|DAVAN MAHARAJ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Arizona, Charles Ares, the legendary dean of the law school, describes Hennigan as "one of my most remarkable students. He was the kind of student you want to have in your class because he keeps things alive and interesting. His self-confidence and discipline rubbed off on the others."

Classmates remember Hennigan as a student who wore shoulder-length hair and sandals to school and always came up with the most provocative questions--and answers.

When President Nixon unsuccessfully sought to place two conservative Southern judges on the Supreme Court--Clement F. Haynsworth of South Carolina and G. Harrold Carswell of Florida--Hennigan was the one who collected signatures opposing their nominations, said James Sult, a Hennigan classmate who is now judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Hennigan has since traded in his sandals for dark, pin-striped suits and natty bow ties, which he knots before a court hearing. His once-shaggy hair is now more salt than pepper.

He pauses and ponders a question about his activism in law school.

"Those were times when we thought we figured out a better order to things," he says. "We were idealistic, and I was much more sure of myself then."

He says he often thinks about the responsibility the Orange County case has placed on his shoulders--like the education of children and the jobs of government workers. But he says he is confident the county will prevail.

His message to Orange Countians, he says, is simply: "Be patient, we're coming."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Profile: Michael Hennigan

Age: 51

Born: Tucson, Ariz.

Residence: Hancock Park

Family: Wife, Phyllis; two grown children

Education: B.A., University of Arizona, 1966; J.D., University of Arizona Law School, 1970

Employment: Partner in Hennigan, Mercer & Bennett of Los Angeles

Legal specialty: Complex commercial litigation

Career highlight: $45-million cash settlement from Wall Street raider Saul Steinberg and Walt Disney Co. in a landmark "greenmail" case. Lead litigator for Orange County in $2-billion lawsuit against Merrill Lynch.

On the '60s and law: This period "got me interested in justice because it was a time when we critically examined the culture we lived in. But a terrible thing happened to some of us who lived through the '60s: We got what we prayed for. We thought most of our problems were structural, but we realize they were a lot more complicated."

\o7 Source: Michael Hennigan\f7

Researched by DAVAN MAHARAJ / Los Angeles Times

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