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Detectives try to determine whether shooting death of prominent L.A. attorney was homicide or suicide

December 9, 2009 |  7:08 am

Jeffrey Tidus was a litigator with the boutique firm Baute & Tidus in downtown Los Angeles.

L.A. County sheriff's detectives said they are still trying to determine whether a prominent Los Angeles attorney found fatally shot in the driveway of his Rolling Hills Estates home was the victim of a homicide or committed suicide.

Officials called the death highly suspicious but stopped short of classifying it as a homicide, saying more investigation was needed.

Jeffrey Tidus, 53, an attorney with Baute & Tidus, a boutique firm specializing in civil litigation in downtown Los Angeles, was found outside his home about 8:30 p.m. Monday. He died Tuesday morning at a hospital.

Tidus was shot once, and officials would not say whether they had recovered a weapon.  On Tuesday afternoon, deputies scoured the neighborhood, searching in gardens and under bushes for clues.

Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson said authorities would be looking into Tidus' cases to determine whether his death might be linked to his work. He also tried to assure residents that the attorney's death appears not to have been random.

Attorney Brian Hennigan, a close friend for more than a decade, said he is doubtful Tidus took his own life.

"The speculation about suicide makes no sense on any number of fronts," he said. "The location and the timing make this highly unlikely speculation. From numerous conversations with Jeff over the past few years, I can say that it is inconsistent -- and contradictory -- with everything that I know about my friend."

"He is a very dedicated family man . . . a by-the-book attorney known for his work on the state bar ethics panel," added Hennigan. "I was in total shock. We only ran together Sunday. He's an avid long-distance runner. We've run a few marathons together."

Hennigan said that Tidus lived for his family and that he was planning on running the next L.A. Marathon.

Hennigan and others described Tidus as an experienced litigator who took four to five cases to trial each year. But they could not recall anything in his casework that would place him in danger.

"Being in trial was just part of daily life for him." Hennigan said, adding that his practice did not include "the kind of case that would be dangerous for an attorney's personal safety."

Photo: Screen shot of the website of Tidus' law firm

Neighbors said Tidus' wife told them that he had gone outside to get a laptop computer from his car and didn't return. They said they saw the laptop on the lawn, with blood visible on the driveway.

According to his law firm's website, Tidus has an active practice as an arbitrator and mediator over a wide range of civil disputes. Colleagues expressed shock over his death.

--Richard Winton and Jeff Gottlieb

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Detectives try to determine whether shooting death of prominent L.A. attorney was homicide or suicide