When I first saw the Super Bowl ad featuring a personal injury lawyer, I thought that it was for an upcoming television miniseries based on a John Grisham novel I hadn't read. The premise of a reformed criminal lawyer who seeks to avenge his brother’s death and represent car wreck victims was preposterous. Its audacity and conceit could only be matched by a Steven Seagal film. And the hero of the movie was "Jamie Casino" - a name perfectly tailored for a pulp fiction thriller. As it would turn out, the most talked about Super Bowl ad was for the featured injury attorney of the same name. And I was surprised at how much the media drooled over the ad but left so many obvious questions unanswered and unexplored.
Super Bowl Ad or Television Miniseries?
During halftime of Super Bowl XLVIII, injury attorney Jamie Casino's two minute attorney advertisement was broadcast on a local Savannah affiliate television station. While much of the country didn't see it live, it has since gone viral on YouTube and has exceeded 5 million views. Like it or hate it, it has certainly become a spectacle, especially among the legal profession regarding the limits of attorney advertising. The commercial begins with a Bible quote, followed by the disclaimer that what you're about to see is “Based on a true story.”
Speak up for those who cannot help themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Proverbs 31:8
Dressed and polished to resemble The Godfather's Michael Corleone, Casino begins the back story. “I once was a notorious criminal defense lawyer who was employed by some of the most cold hearted villains. My art bought me great wealth.” No he's not your ordinary criminal attorney - he's an artist.
Suddenly came a life changing event. Casino opens the door to his home and hears from a police officer that his brother, Michael, was killed during “a situation” that transpired. “Four Lives Taken Labor Day Weekend” screams the headline in the Savannah News, as Casino's voiceover refers to deception by the police department. A caricature of the police chief appears who says “no innocent people were targeted.” A headline follows which reads “Chief Covers Up Labor Day Tragedy.”
The scene switches to a young adoring boy who asks: “Daddy… what do you do when you go to work?” It was then that "The Artist" was confronted by The Ultimate Question:
“At some point a man must ask himself why G-d created him.” (Wait for the punchline.)
Cue the heavy metal music, flashbacks to his brother’s coffin in the church and then back to Casino placing a red rose at the side of his brother's grave. It's time for justice! A muted image appears of Casino placing and then crushing a red rose under his impeccably polished boots. A leather jack clad Casino, wearing sunglasses and a conspicuous silver cross, bursts through a random set of double doors. He picks up a flaming sledgehammer in the cemetery which has his brother's name engraved on the handle. He proceeds to obliterate his brother’s headstone (huh?) and walks off camera. Cue to his son once more, who repeats his original question about what Daddy does at work. (Here comes the punchline.)
“I’m attorney Jamie Casino and I don’t represent villains any more. I speak for innocent victims who cannot speak for themselves." (The true calling in life for God's avenging angel is to rescue all those in ambulances without a contingency fee agreement, for there is no one to chase them down and help them.) As Casino exits a cemetery surrounded by fire, a flaming hashtag appears for “Casino’s Law.” It's completely entertaining and too ridiculous to be taken seriously, at least be me. It seems that many people have and there's quite a back story.
Why the Sledgehammer?
Casino was definitely right - if you're going to do a Super Bowl ad, it has to be done well. Anything less than a Hollywood quality production would pale greatly beside efforts commissioned by multi-billion dollar conglomerates. Savannah residents had prior notice of the epic 2 minute Super Bowl advertisement in another commercial he filmed that made mention of the spot. Casino's attorney advertising "trademark" is his use of a sledgehammer in every commercial to "pound money out of stingy insurance companies." In one of his most recent commercials, he takes a hammer to a piggy bank (which has the words "stingy insurance company" written on its side) and tosses gold coins back to the camera. Some might find this type of commercial straining the limits of attorney advertising rules. So how far might Casino to to perfect his craft?
Is "Jamie Casino" His Real Name?
A Philadelphia newspaper clearly implied that Jamie Casino changed his surname from Biancosino, the same as his brother Michael and father Joe, the former mayor of Tullytown. I wondered whether the word "casino" might appeal to car wreck victims. Potential clients might experience subliminal visions of hitting the personal injury jackpot in court and receiving millions of dollars in gold bullion rolling the dice with their injury attorney. Performing some basic research, I found "The Law Office of Jamie Anthony Biancosino, LLC" with registered agent address on Abercorn Street in Savannah, Georgia (control number 0681133). It was created in September of 2006, dissolved four years later by registered agent, Jamie Anthony Casino. "Casino Law Group LLC" (control number 08002153) was created in January of 2008, naming the same registered agent and address.
Roll the dice and hit the jackpot in court!
I watched some of the personal injury attorney advertisements that Jamie Casino posted on YouTube and Facebook over the past three years. I noticed that he used the domain name "LuckyLegal.com" - which seemed far too much of a coincidence in connection with the new name of his legal practice. The domain name appears to have been registered by Jamie Casino on behalf of Casino Law Group LLC on October 11, 2007.
In his commercials back in 2011, the letter "S" in the Casino Law Group logo is substituted for the dollar sign and appears as "Ca$ino." The background of the advertisement along with the gold embossed logo would be precisely what I'd expect from a gaming establishment. The Lucky Legal ads feature people injured in car accidents (the victims who are unable to represent themselves) briefly attesting to how much Jamie cares about and helped them. In August of 2013, the law office registered jamiecasinoinjuryattorneys.com, which is where the "LuckyLegal.com" name redirects today.
Was Casino's Brother Killed by Police?
Reading the comments in many online newspapers, it seemed that many people were also under the impression that the police were somehow responsible for the accidental slaying and coverup of the tragic death of Casino's brother. It seems that most forgot that the commercial was only based on a true story. Apparently here is what actually happened. On Labor Day weekend in September of 2012, Michael Biancosino and his ex-girlfriend were murdered by an unknown gunman. His parked car was found riddled with bullets. At the time, Savannah Police Chief (Willie Lovett) stated that “there were no innocent victims.” After further investigation, it was reported that Biancosino picked up his ex-girlfriend to take her home after he finished a job for a local private investigator. The tragedy that occurred was probably the result of mistaken identity. A retraction and clarifying statement was issued by Chief Lovett stating that “neither Emily Pickles or Michael Biancosino were involved in any wrong doing as far as police know.” Casino was quoted as saying that the retraction gave this case closure, even though he was still unhappy about the initial statement. I can't imagine anyone would have been thrilled either. Six months later, one prime suspect was found shot to death outside of a Savannah nightclub. Police apprehended a second man who is currently indicted for the crime.
Is He a Reformed Criminal Attorney turned Injury Lawyer?
Jamie Casino clearly made the transition from criminal attorney to personal injury lawyer long before the tragic passing of his brother. He did say that the commercial was based on a true story. The Huffington Post interviewed Casino and inquired as to whether his representation of former clients as villains in the Super Bowl ad might raise issues with current clients. Casino said the following (paraphrased):
In criminal defense you run into a lot of people... then you have the type of person who is evil… maybe if I speak to this person, if I can break through to them and they won't do this any more... But some people want to stay evil... I represented guys who shot other people... And then it hit home and it hit in the worst way. It hit my brother. So I just couldn’t after that. I would be the biggest hypocrite, you know, especially to my parents. So that’s where I said that’s it, I’m done.
I have no idea whether Casino was still representing criminal defendants at the time of his brother's death and ceased after the tragic incident. But I did discover the obituary of Michael Biancosino online, who appears to have been actively working for the Casino personal injury law firm for several years prior to his death:
In 2009, Mike visited his brother Jamie's law firm in Savannah, Georgia, and he was hooked. Mike was soon granted the opportunity to take a major position in Casino Law Firm. Here he found his true calling and purpose to do the best good for himself, his brother, and society. Under Michael's tenure, Casino Law Firm thrived. He almost single handedly provided the biggest gains in the firm's history.
What was the Reaction to the Attorney Advertisement
Rather than summarize my impression of how the community at large received this outrageous ad, I'll leave you with some of the most interesting and amusing quotes for your reading enjoyment.
- Dude, this is the most EPIC personal injury lawyer ad I have EVER seen...
- It only shows he went from being a defense attorney to being an ambulance chaser. Just another type of criminal.
- I can understand his frustration. One of my good friends go into a back car accident and the person that hit her KNEW the cops on the scene. They both got hurt but both of the cops said that, "Well several witnesses saw you run the light" and didn't even let her defend herself. She just found out that they knew the cops and they worked in her favor. They knew the other girl ran the light. Growing up we are taught cops have integrity but as we get older we start learning that is false for most. Most cops I have come across abuse their power. I'm happy he called them out in front of MILLIONS of people. People need to know... DO NOT TRUST COPS! The less you tell them... the better.
- So THIS is why lawyers are so expensive!
- What a shameless exercise in narcissism. He uses his brother's death to explain his decision to go from criminal defense to personal injury - so he can exact justice from whom, exactly?
- For those who missed it, this might be the best lawyer commercial ever made. It's probably also the reason we can't really advertise here in Canada ...
- I'm not sure if I hate ambulance chasers or slick mob lawyers worse.
- Mike Hostillo just brown stained his pants I bet. For those that don’t know, he's the 'other' TV commercial lawyer here in Savannah.
- "I'm attorney James Casino, and for some reason I used a big hammer to destroy my brother's headstone."
- Legal Practice:
- Ethics - Professional Responsibility