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Democrat leader Darryl Rouson leaves Morgan & Morgan, rumors fly


So much for getting cushy high-paying jobs once you get in the state Legislature.

St. Petersburg Democrat Rep. Darryl Rouson is out of work at the heavy-hitting trial lawyer firm Morgan & Morgan because he needs to focus on politics right now, said John Morgan, the firm’s founder.

“It’s hard to be a trial lawyer if you’re not in trial. It’s hard to be in a Tampa court room if you’re always in Tallahassee,” Morgan said.

“I think the world of Darryl and I’d welcome him back with open arms after this,” Morgan said. “He’s a great lawyer. But right now, this isn’t the right fit.”

A major Democratic donor and President Obama fundraiser, Morgan acknowledged he broached the topic with Rouson, but he said the separation is amicable and that rumors to the contrary are just that: “false” rumors. Morgan, for instance, supports a medical-marijuana initiative. Rouson opposes it and passed a bill this session that tries to crack down on the sale of pot pipes.

Rouson couldn’t be reached.
Morgan said the firm’s most-recognizable face, former Gov. Charlie Crist, will likely leave the firm as well in the coming months if he runs for governor. There are no signs that Crist isn’t.

Rouson is scheduled to lead Democratic state House campaign efforts in 2014. Meantime, he’ll be in charge of raising money and recruiting candidates to help the Democrats’ boost their measly numbers in the House (44 of 120 seats right now).

But it hasn’t come easy for Rouson. There are hard feelings. He barely won the post against Jacksonville Rep. Mia Jones in February. Some Democrats didn’t like the way the leadership stalled legislation in the waning days of session by demanding bills be read in full.

“Why are we doing this? What’s the win?” one asked.

At the least, it helped the party flex its muscles and unified many.

A few members groused that Rouson backed the so-called anti-Shariah bill, initially drafted by critics of Islam who believe Muslim law is creeping into U.S. courts. The measure was overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, with Jewish members pointing out the bill could block the legal recognition of Jewish weddings.

And then came a vote on medical malpractice. Though a trial lawyer, Rouson backed the legislation on the floor. But it was an error, he said, and he switched his vote “the right way,” Morgan said

“He said it was an accident,” Morgan said.

But some are suspicious of how accidental it was. Turns out, Rouson was spotted by another Democrat voting yes for another member and friend, Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Alan Williams, who switched his vote later with Rouson.

“I was away from my desk and someone pushed the wrong button,” Williams said.

Was it Rouson?

“I think he said he did,” Wiliams said. “But it was an accident.”


Perhaps it was. But with trial lawyers providing a major source of funds to Democrats, the I-pushed-the-wrong-button defense is tough for some to believe in the Capitol.

Now that Rouson is leaving Morgan & Morgan, some people might want him to use the extra time to do some explaining.