David Marsey Talks about His Dedication to the Legal System
David Marsey Talks about His Dedication to the Legal System
Based in the Tallahassee office of RumbergerKirk, David Marsey focuses his practice on constitutional law and employment discrimination matters as he represents clients in both the public and private sectors. Here, David talks about his love for the law and lends some insight into what he enjoys outside of the office.
David, you decided to become a lawyer after first enjoying a career in law enforcement. Tell us a little about your experience as an officer of the law and how that led you to law school.
I decided in college that I wanted to be a police officer so I earned a bachelors degree in criminology and joined the Tallahassee Police Department. While there, I progressed from working the streets as a patrol officer to a training position and eventually became an investigator. I then left TPD and worked as a criminal investigator for the Florida Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud. For almost 12 years I found myself working side by side with attorneys, building cases and presenting them to prosecutors. I came to admire the work attorneys did and felt the plight of litigants when I was named in a lawsuit as a result of my work as an officer. Police officers and departments are frequently sued – it’s just the way things are. As I worked with the attorney who was representing our case, I saw that much of what I did as an investigator was similar to being an attorney – doing the research, questioning witnesses, presenting the facts to the court. I really enjoy the mental challenge of building and presenting a case.
That was the first time I seriously considered going to law school. Before taking the plunge as a second career attorney, I reached out to the attorney who had previously represented me and other officers in the lawsuit. He was very accommodating and encouraging and shared his experiences as a second career attorney. He has been a wonderful e mentor for more than a decade.
Tell us about your experience in law school?
I was terrified of returning to campus at an older age. At 32, I wasn’t old by any means, but certainly older than the average law student. The reality was that there are many nontraditional students on campus and I was far from being one of the oldest. We had a nontraditional student support group – a really diverse group of people with a variety of life experiences and our oldest member was in his 60s.
Deciding to take the plunge and return to school later in life was a large commitment, both in terms of time and money. The discipline established in my career as a law enforcement officer was a tremendous asset. I treated school just like it was a job and was mostly interested in academic rather than social pursuits. I was accustomed to working long hours and continued to do so in pursuit of my law degree. taking classes year-round and participating in a criminal law externship, I was able to complete my J.D. in two-and-a-half years and took my first job as an attorney in the offices owned by my mentor.
What kind of cases do you most enjoy?
I had the opportunity to serve as lead counsel on two civil trials during my first five years as a lawyer and was bitten by the trial bug. From there, I knew I wanted to get more trial experience so I joined the prosecutors office where I tried more than 30 felony jury trials.
After a while, I found that I missed the intellectual challenge of private practice so I decided to return to private practice and was fortunate to be offered a position at Rumberger. I have always enjoyed civil law and have focused much of my practice on representing law enforcement and others in civil court proceedings. I am a self-described law geek and I’ve been able to channel my academic success and life experiences as law enforcement and corrections officers and a prosecutor into helping law enforcement agencies and officers when they faced with defending their actions, usually against allegations of false arrest, the improper use of force and wrongful death.
I’ve also found that I enjoy constitutional law and have been able to apply my skills toward helping school districts and other clients navigate issues related to First Amendment violations.
Can you tell us about a favorite case?
One case I defended is a perfect case study in civil procedure. I was tasked with defending a local police department and five officers in a wrongful death shooting case, which included allegations of constitutional violations. This case allowed me to use many of the rules of civil procedure to obtain successful results for my clients and it’s the case that got me hooked on trial work. We were able to obtain a dismissal on one defendant at the motion to dismiss stage, we obtained a summary judgment against another, directed verdict against two more and finally a jury verdict on behalf of the remaining two. The plaintiff had demanded $21 million and it took us about 18 months to clear all six defendants.
What do you attribute to your success as a lawyer and what advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a legal career?
I’ve had the benefit of having great, caring mentors throughout law school and my career. I also enjoy my work. Everything about the job revolves around conflict, it’s tough and you really have to enjoy it to be successful. I also think my law enforcement experience provided me with a solid foundation for being a lawyer. Many of the skills I developed were transportable and my interview skills have proven to be especially useful. It helps to know how to obtain information from a witness and being able to talk with people from different socio-economic and educational backgrounds has proven to be especially useful.
I encourage anyone interested in pursuing a career in the law to speak with lawyers and learn more about the profession and what happens behind the scenes. I also encourage attendance at court proceedings as most are open to the public. Observing the legal system and lawyers in action provides a real sense of what goes on in the courtroom.
How do you spend your free time?
My wife and I enjoy gardening so we spend a lot of time caring for and harvesting vegetables. I’m also a bit of a car buff and occasionally take time to keep up my target shooting skills. Mostly I enjoy a good book, primarily fiction – spy novels, science fiction and police procedurals.