What I learned from Jim Parkman

ParkmanWritten by Joe O’Donnell

Photograph by Beau Gustafson


The first thing I learned was the connection between pancakes and justice. As Jim Parkman, the defense attorney with Parkman & White who became famous for earning an acquittal in Richard Scrushy’s HealthSouth fraud trial, said as the folksy foil to the Justice Department attorneys prosecuting Scrushy: “Every pancake, no matter how thin, has two sides.”

“I remember,” Parkman says, “A neighbor of mine asking me how I could defend somebody everybody knew was guilty. Then later this guy’s son got arrested. I didn’t know whether he was guilty or not, but I turned the tables on the guy and asked, ‘So how is that jailbird son of yours?’ I think I made my point. Everybody gets a day in court, and everybody gets to tell their side of the story. That is justice.”

Parkman has been making headlines and turning tables since, as a newly minted lawyer, he sued the local sheriff in Dothan on behalf of several fired deputies. He got them reinstated.

Born in Mobile and raised in Dothan, Parkman graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1979. His most high-profile cases after Scrushy involved defense efforts on behalf of Swedish mobster and celebrated Ferrari crasher Stefan Eriksson, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and Alabama State Senator Harri Anne Smith. Some he won. Some he lost. Some, if you ask him today, he probably shouldn’t have taken on.

“My view of life is real simple—there’s no grudges, there’s no hatred. You’re trying to win, they’re trying to win. If they beat me, they deserve a handshake; they deserve the accolades, because if you beat me, you’ve done your day’s work, and I’m proud of you,” Parkman said in an interview with WSFA12 in Montgomery.

And that is what I learned from Jim Parkman.

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