He’s been called a tough negotiator, a great litigator and a superb strategic advisor. For more than 40 years, James “Jim” W. Beasley, Jr., managing partner at Beasley Kramer & Galardi, P.A. in West Palm Beach, has been resolving difficult problems for his clients.
“We rely on Jim a great deal in our development, mortgage, title and restaurant businesses,” said Reid J. Boren, managing partner, Two Roads Development in West Palm Beach, which is currently developing two luxury high-rise condominiums on Biscayne Bay in Miami. “Jim is my first call whenever we have anything going on.”
Boren added that as an advisor Beasley has the “rare ability” to simplify complex problems – a key to making effective business decisions. “As a negotiator, he also understands a deal has to be fair to both sides,” he said. “That is so important when building relationships that last beyond a single transaction.”
Through the decades, Beasley’s practice has included corporate and securities litigation, Ponzi schemes and other frauds, breach of contract and business torts, as well as real estate, probate, intellectual property, healthcare and professional liability. He has also done a substantial amount of corporate and real estate transactional work.
“I follow a similar approach to these business cases,” Beasley said. “I find out the facts, review the law and get up to speed on the issues. Then, I go ahead and prepare to try the case, even though most disputes today are resolved through settlement or arbitration. In fact, my last jury trial was two years ago in Kentucky, resulting in a $30 million recovery for my clients.”
A Student of History
Beasley has long been a student of American history. He was born in Atlanta, and grew up in Florence, Alabama, not far from the 1862 Civil War battle of Shiloh. “Florence was a county seat, and one of my father’s friends was the only circuit judge,” Beasley recalled. “I was interested in what he did, so I would come down to the courthouse after my classes in high school, and he would let me sit in on his sidebar conferences. That got me interested in a career in law and litigation.”
Beasley earned his bachelor’s degree in American history at Davidson College in 1965, and received his officer’s commission in the U.S. Army through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He then attended Harvard Law School, and earned his law degree, with honors, in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War.
Beasley began his law practice on Wall Street with Sullivan & Cromwell, and then spent two years in the U.S. Army before retiring with the rank of captain. He served in the Pentagon on the staff of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Analysis). “Our office prepared force level planning and analysis, and Defense Department budgets for review by the Secretary of Defense,” Beasley said. “It was an intellectually stimulating environment, as our team worked on matters important to the nation’s security.”
Becoming a Lawyer
After leaving the military in 1970, Beasley practiced in Washington with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Two years later, he had an opportunity to work on a case in Miami as a young associate. “My parents had moved here in 1962, so I decided to stay,” he said.
Beasley joined Paul and Thomson, a 12-lawyer firm at the time, and soon became a partner. He represented clients like The Miami Herald, General Development and the Miami Dolphins. In the late 1970s, he decided to start his own firm. His solo practice flourished and the firm eventually grew to more than a dozen lawyers.
In 1989, Beasley received a call from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, a New York law firm that wanted to start a litigation practice to add to its Trusts and Estates practice in Palm Beach. “I had already spent some time in the area, primarily working with Arvida in Boca Raton.” Beasley had also met noted Palm Beach County executive Alex Dreyfoos and developer Llwyd Ecclestone in the 1980s through ocean sailboat racing, and they had encouraged him to move to Palm Beach. “It was a natural step for me to relocate in 1989,” he said.
Beasley built the litigation group to ten lawyers, but the New York management team decided to close the West Palm Beach office in 1994. Beasley sued the firm over the termination, and engaged veteran trial attorney Bob Montgomery. Beasley drafted the complaint and prepared all other court filings in the case. Eventually he received his full partnership share of almost $2 million, plus more than $500,000 in punitive damages — a judicial order in a non-jury case that was sustained at the appellate level. “This case led to many law firms revising their partnership agreements, and an article by a law professor published about my case in the Washington & Lee Law Review,” Beasley said. The result of the case was a great vindication, but it was at the cost of more than three years of intense litigation. When it was over, “I had to move quickly to establish my own firm and maintain my practice and after the large firm experience, I decided I would always have a small collegial firm.”
Growing the Firm
In the late 1990s, he represented three of the leading attorneys hired by the State of Florida to pursue cases against the tobacco industry. After two weeks of voir dire, the case settled for over $12 billion. Beasley was one of several lawyers who argued the appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. “The three attorneys eventually got the fees specified in their contracts with the State, but the matter had to go to arbitration before it was resolved,” he said.
In 2001, Beasley brought in two experienced partners, Raymond E. Kramer, III, and Joseph G. Galardi, and continued to grow the firm’s practice. Today, Beasley is currently handling a variety of complex healthcare, real estate, securities and business-related matters.
Beasley’s active caseload includes representing the victims of two major Ponzi schemes. He is the plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel in a complex securities class action litigation arising from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in the mid 2000s. Beasley’s team is seeking billions in damages from the estate of Madoff’s associate Jeffery Picower, alleging he helped perpetuate and conceal the fraud.
“Picower’s wife gave back $7 billion of the $18 billion that was stolen,” Beasley said. “We are suing to collect billions in damages for about 3,000 members of the class who were defrauded. The action was filed here, and then transferred to New York.”
Beasley is also lead co-counsel in a class action litigation arising out of $7 billion Ponzi scheme led by Allen Stanford through Stanford International Bank and related affiliates. In this case, the suit is against a subsidiary of Bank of New York, which cleared the transactions. Beasley filed the action in West Palm Beach, and it is now pending in Texas.
On the personal side, Beasley married his wife Jeanne, a Fort Lauderdale native, in 2012. Her daughter Jenna and husband Galen Gering are in the entertainment business in Hollywood. “We enjoy traveling, and spending time at our vacation home in the Canadian Rockies during the summer,” he said. Beasley also likes to play golf and go hiking and biking in Canada.
Beasley is still a student of history who serves on the board of the Palm Beach County Historical Society. “Palm Beach County is a great place to live with an interesting past,” Beasley said. “Today, it’s a magnet for professionals and firms in financial services and other fields who can live anywhere in the country. Our community keeps growing and changing, and it’s fun to be right in the action.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2017 Edition