In mid-May, Michigan lawyer Michael Morse was served with a $10 million sexual assault lawsuit from a woman who said he grabbed her breasts during a photo op. Nine days later, another woman came forward with similar accusations. Since then, three others have filed separate lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct.
Now those allegations have now followed Morse to Miami. Another woman says Morse, a high-profile personal injury attorney with Super Bowl commercials and a special toll-free number (855-MIKE-WINS), groped her breasts in the back of a car while in South Florida on vacation last December. She's now filed her own lawsuit. Morse has denied all the women's claims, and his attorney, Deborah Gordon, calls the complaints "fake suits."
"None of these cases have merit," Gordon tells New Times.
The latest woman to complain says she was visiting Miami with friends when Morse met up with a mutual friend in her group at a local bar. The woman says that on the ride home, Morse followed her into the back seat, where he slid his hands down her shirt, grabbed her breasts, and asked her to come back to his hotel room. The lawsuit says Morse did this "suddenly and without any permission, inducement, or any other invitation whatsoever."
So far, the woman has been identified only as Jane Doe. Her attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, originally filed the case in Michigan, where a judge ultimately ruled she would have to use her real name to proceed. Fieger has argued that the woman is a graduate student at a prominent Michigan university whose reputation could be ruined if her name were made public.
In Michigan, the lawsuits have been depicted as part of a larger war between Fieger, a megarich trial lawyer famous for keeping Dr. Jack Kevorkian out of prison, and Morse, a sharply dressed plaintiff's attorney with commercials declaring he "is like Detroit: You do not want to get on his bad side." Gordon argues that Fieger "had a major ax to grind with Morse" regarding an earlier case and claims Fieger is simply seeking publicity.
"He's very much like a Donald Trump. He has to have the limelight on him," Gordon says.
She also takes issue with the high-dollar damages the women are seeking. "The amounts of money he's requesting are literally ludicrous," Gordon says.
But Fieger dismisses portrayals of the cases as part of a personal vendetta between rival attorneys, calling Gordon's theory "patently absurd." Fieger says that after news of the first lawsuit broke, his office was contacted by a slew of women alleging sexual misconduct.
"Numerous other people came forward and said he also assaulted them," Fieger says.
Of the five victims who have filed suit so far, two were former employees who said Morse grabbed their breasts at work and at an office Christmas party. Due to a clause in their employment contracts, a judge ordered one of the cases into private arbitration in late June.
Prosecutors in Michigan are reportedly debating filing charges, though Morse has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing so far. (New Times was unable to reach the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office for an update.) Fieger also says the women have filed complaints with the Michigan State Bar.
"It's shocking that a prominent attorney in Michigan is alleged to have assaulted five different women, all of whom don't know each other, and still be allowed to practice law," Fieger says.
According to Gordon, Morse has yet to be served with the Miami complaint, but she says she will fight to have the suit refiled under the alleged victim's real name.
"Fieger picked up his marbles and ran to Florida when the Michigan judge ruled that Doe had to use her name," Gordon says. "He is not going to do any better down there in Florida."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.