Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The "Box Cutter" Gets 433 Years Plus 21 Life Sentences

KTLA in Los Angeles is reporting on the sentencing of the "slasher" dubbed the "Box Cutter,"  Charles Juan Proctor.  Here is the story, and I think we can all be grateful for the outcome:

A 45-year-old transient dubbed "the box cutter" for a series of slashings that terrorized women in Long Beach during a 2008 crime spree was sentenced to 433 years plus 21 life terms in prison.  Charles Juan Proctor (pic) was convicted earlier this month on 22 felony counts including robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder.  Proctor was charged with six robberies that targeted women who were alone inside businesses. Prosecutors say all of the women were held at the point of a knife or box-cutter during the robberies.
Two of the victims fought back during the attacks and suffered slash wounds to their throats.  One of the women, Saida Uriarte, says she is still haunted by what happened to her. 'Every time I look into the mirror I am reminded of this awful event,' Uriarte said in her victim's impact statement read Monday by Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose.

The other victim, Jennifer Wrenn, told Long Beach Superior Court Judge Gary Ferrari she also struggles with the aftermath of the attacks. She said she suffers from flashbacks and has a hard time focusing at her job. Wrenn testified during the trial that Proctor dug the razor into her neck to drive it deeper nearly killing her.

'You are a violent and dangerous human being. Your conduct toward these victims is absolutely despicable. It's unconscionable what you did to these women. You shouldn't be on any street in the city of Long Beach or Hawaiian Gardens. In fact, you shouldn't be on any street in this country,' Judge Ferrari told Proctor during sentencing.

'You inflicted great violence on at least two victims, nearly killing one of them,' Judge Ferrari said.

Judge Ferrari sentenced Proctor to a base term of 433 years and four months in prison. 10 of the 21 life sentences imposed on Proctor were stayed or ordered to be served concurrently.  That means that Proctor must serve the 433 year base term before he begins serving the 11 consecutive life terms, Rose explained.

The judge also ordered Proctor to pay more than $56,000 in victim restitution fines and court fees.  The attacks were carried out between February and May 2008. Five of the locations were in Long Beach and one victim was robbed at a hair salon where she worked in Hawaiian Gardens. News of the attacks, and the vicious nature in which two of the women were slashed, spread rapidly into the area leaving women on edge."
Frightened?  I am.  It's probabaly too much to hope that he doesn't harm prison employees and inmates.

Usually, these fantasy sentences are ridiculous, this is one that actually gives me a sense of relief. 

Florida Chief Justice: "You Are a Bad Judge"

The Orlando Sentinel has the report and a video of Seminole County Judge Ralph Ericksson being reprimanded by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.  This is reporter Rene Stutzman's story:

"Showing no emotion and saying not a word, Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson this morning stood before the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee and was publicly reprimanded for being a bad judge.

The reprimand was delivered by Chief Justice Charles Canady. For four minutes, Canady calmly and without emotion read to Eriksson his list of failings. It was a long list. Eriksson had decided to punish an attorney one day in 2007. The lawyer had asked for a new judge, and Eriksson responded by throwing the lawyer's client in jail.  That, said Canady, was an abuse of power. The lawyer was only trying to exercise a legitimate legal right. And Canady rebuked Eriksson for being mean and dismissive to several people who appeared before him one day in 2007 in back-to-back domestic violence injunction hearings.

Eriksson had earlier complained about having to handle those hearings. He had never done it before and had said it wasn't part of his job.  Still they appeared, individuals who had filed paperwork, saying they were afraid for their safety. They had no attorneys, and Eriksson mocked and berated them and hustled them out of his courtroom, denying their requests for protection.

Canady described that behavior as 'intolerable' and said Eriksson had punished innocent people, turning away those who needed help, because he was dissatisfied with a work assignment.

Those actions, Canady said, had violated five of Florida's canons of judicial ethics, including failing to make sure every person had the right to be heard and failing to handle cases fairly.

Eriksson, 63, of Longwood, has insisted that he never intentionally did anything wrong.

He has been a judge for 15 years and is set to retire at the end of the year, when his term expires, but his legal problems are not over.  The state agency that polices judges, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, has filed another set of charges against him. This time, he's accused of repeatedly defying an appeals court by ordering former defendants to jail for refusing to pay court costs.  In JQC pleadings, Eriksson has said he did nothing wrong."
I originally reported on Judge Ericksson back in January comparing him unfavorably with one of the best Small Law judges I ever knew.  It can not be overstated how important the municipal courts are, these are the venues where most citizens have their interaction and form their impressions about the Rule of Law.  I've been blessed to know some great small law judges.  They are truly giants.

Bengal's Cheerleader Update

Dixie Heights High School teacher, Sarah Jones (pic, left), the moonlighting "Ben-Gals" cheerleader publicly addressed local media Monday for the first time since obtaining an $11 million default judgment versus an Internet company that operates a gossip website.

Ms. Jones told the Kentucky Enquirer, "This is not a publicity stunt, this is not for media. I don't want my face out there. I want to teach, and that is all I want to do."

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman entered the default  judgment against Dirty Word Entertainment Recordings last week, it remains to be seen whether Ms. Jones' attorney Eric Deters sued the correct defendant or beyond a publicity coup, whether he will be able to collect his judgment.  I have my doubts.

Attorney Deters, alleged in the suit that the California limited liability corporation that does business under the name Thedirt.com, and the website which ran a story saying Ms. Jones had two venereal diseases carried disclaimers noting that the information came from an ex-boyfirend (nice!)  Want to date this "prince?" 

Thedirty.com, is run by some character named, Hooman Karamian.  He isn't responding to media inquiries, but he wrote on his website that Ms. Jones sued the wrong company.  Mr.Karamian, also goes by the name Nik Richie, is a named defendant in the case, but Mr. Deters did not get "service" on his complaint and so does not have a default against Karamian, personally.

Ms. Jones says she is using the publicity as a "teachable moment" since her students are abuzz with the story, the gossip, and the pictures from the Internet. "I decided I had nothing to hide. [no kidding!] There is nothing I need to back down from."

Ms. Jones teaches four English classes of 15-year-olds.    Good luck, on that!

Anonymous Gossip

No, this isn't another A.A. post, the Legal Profession blawg tips to this Indiana Disciplinary Case, In Re Anonymous.  Only slightly ironically, the Indiana Disciplinary authorities "privately" reprimanded an attorney who blew the confidentiality of a divorce client.  The disciplined attorney represented a company where the client was employed.  She sought his advice on locating a divorce attorney.  Subsequently he disclosed to third party that the client had divorced her husband, unaware that the couple had in fact reconciled.  The third party offered his sympathy to the client at a cocktail party, you can imagine her surprise.

Well in fact you don't need to, it resulted in this disciplinary case.

Uh, advice: maintain client confidences, don't gossip about client matters.

Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing alleged facts and views, but also gossip introduces errors and other variations into the information transmitted.  Gossip can harm, in fact it is often intended to harm.

The Blond Super Lawyer, has been a champ, through my career descent; and she has struggled mightily to maintain her corporate-based business and stay focused despite all the misfortune I've brought on us.  Recently she was at a professional retreat when a colleague shared some "painful gossip" the colleague heard from an attorney/competitor.  For me it's sort of funny, since at this point in my life, . . . what can you say about me that's really going to harm my reputation which hasn't already been publicly and officially said?

But the BSL, is an awesomely talented employment defense attorney.  The gossip about her was malicious, false, and apparently motivated by a not very charitable feelings by her competitor.  It was the "evil eye."  The BSL didn't deserve this "gossip."  Gossip of this sort hurts the person who transmits it, and the person who is the target of it.  Gossip demeans the dignity of the gossip and the person gossiped about.

I have tried to offer the consoling view that the BSL must be very threatening to her competitor since he and his supervisors feel motivated to encourage gossip about the BSL--but, more importantly the gossip-er, in question, is an attorney; do you want him entrusted with your confidences?  Me neither.

He's Back!

Former Youngstown-area Congressman, ex-Mahoning County Sheriff, and fashion icon, James Traficant has been certified to possess sufficient petition signatures to run for Congress.  Traficant, an ex-con was TeaParty before there was a Tea Party.  We shall see if Ohio voters really will be angry enough to send this colorful populist back to the hallowed halls.

Irony and Ego

Reporter Rene Stutzman at the Orlando Sentinel brings us up to date on the story of the Osceola, Florida Circuit Judge who made a name, (Bad Lawyer featured the initial report on Judge Turner back in May), as a employment sexual harassment lawyer and now is suspended from the bench after allegations of sexual harassment.  This is Ms. Stutzman's current account:

"Circuit Judge N. James Turner hasn't worked since April because several women have accused him of sexually harassing them at the Osceola County Courthouse. It's an issue with which he's extremely familiar: He spent much of his career suing companies on behalf of women who made sexual-harassment claims.  He sued a theme park on behalf of a store clerk who claimed her boss put his hand up her dress in front of customers. He sued a restaurant chain for a woman whose job was to roll silverware in napkins and complained that a manager-trainee touched her buttocks and thighs. He represented a cocktail waitress who claimed her boss made her bend over so he could look up her dress.

The irony is not lost on Turner. He says the allegations against him by the women at the courthouse are false.

'I've hugged women in the office as a friendly gesture, as an act of compassion,'   Turner, 64, said in an interview this month. 'I may have, in that situation, kissed someone on the cheek. I may have put my hand on someone's shoulder … in a time of severe stress, but none of it was inappropriate.'

Turner, who lives in Orlando, is accused by the state agency that polices judges, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, of a laundry list of wrongdoing. Among the claims: running an unethical campaign for office, putting his feet on the bench during hearings and ordering an underage offender to hand over a piece of jewelry to cover court costs.  But allegations about how he treated women at the courthouse will likely get a great deal of attention this week as the women are deposed, placed under oath and forced to answer questions by Turner's attorney, Barry Rigby.

Once they're cross-examined, Rigby said, their complaints about sexual harassment may sound more benign than lewd.  According to the formal charges against him, Turner hugged, kissed and massaged women at the courthouse. He also went to their homes and involved himself in their lives uninvited, the JQC alleges.

The women include a 42-year-old Kissimmee deputy clerk of courts, who complained about Turner hugging and kissing her and coming to her home. But in defense pleadings, Rigby wrote that the judge was merely being a compassionate friend 'and such actions were welcomed and appreciated.'

Prosecutors accuse him of improperly lending money to another woman, his then-secretary.

Yes, Rigby said, the judge gave a loan to the 34-year-old single Orlando woman. She has two children, was facing a family emergency and asked for the money, he said. She also quit two months later, and, Rigby said, has never repaid it. She is now accusing Turner of, among other things, screaming at her in the office. That woman now works at the juvenile court on Michigan Street in Orlando.

Those women are not identified in public JQC pleadings and would not discuss their allegations with the Orlando Sentinel, which has decided not to publish their names.

Turner was elected circuit judge by voters in Orange and Osceola counties two years ago. Before that, he was a well-regarded Orlando attorney who specialized in employment discrimination and sexual-harassment cases.  In 1994 and 1997, The Florida Bar Journal published articles he wrote about sexual harassment. His 1997 article was called 'The Perils of (Reporting and) Not Reporting Sexual Harassment.'"
Judge Turner was previously featured on Bad Lawyer, this is a more comprehensive update on the allegations against him.  I can't help feeling that Judge Turner is an example of unchecked ego.  When he was a practitioner he was doubtlessly charismatic and perceived in a way that is at odds with the way he's viewed as a Judge.  Behavior he got away with as an attorney that was undoubtedly inappropriate, but tolerated is intolerable coming from a Judge.  This is ego, unchecked.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Facebook Post: "I'm Going to Vote Guilty!"

This is from M[ichigan]Live.com and it's almost unbelievable:

"Like all Macomb County jurors, 20-year-old Hadley Jons received a warning not to discuss her case outside of court. But that didn't stop her from sharing her thoughts on Facebook. 'actually excited for jury duty tomorrow,' she wrote Aug. 11 on the popular social media website. 'it's gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're guilty. :P'

Jons never got that chance though, and the next day proved far from fun.

The Macomb Daily reports the son of defense attorney Saleema Sheikh discovered the Facebook post before Jons eventually deleted it, and Judge Diane Druzinski asked her about it the next day in court. After initially denying the post, Jons reportedly 'put her head down' and failed to respond when Druzinski read it aloud.  Jons was serving as a juror in the trail of a 40-year-old Clinton Township resident charged with a misdemeanor and a felony for resisting arrest. The case went on without her, but prosecutors eventually dismissed it when remaining jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Now, Jons will head back to court to face a potential fine or possible jail time. WDIV reports she will appear before Druzinski on Thursday for a contempt of court hearing.

'She was explicitly explained the rules just like everybody else,'  Sheikh told the television station, arguing Jons deserves to spend a short amount of time behind bars. 'She deliberately defied a court order in something as serious as this. So I think she needs to learn something.'

As far as Facebook failures go, Jons managed a triple crown: She either had lax privacy settings or accepted a friend request from someone she didn't know, discussed a private matter in a very public setting and failed to realize deleting a post doesn't delete it from the public record. Add those to the file."
Expect this story to make it into a plot line of a television Law and Order episode, soon.

Privilege and Contempt

The following exchange occurred in February between Jefferson County District Judge Annette Karem (left) and Louisville attorney "Mikki" Adams (below), a veteran family law attorney:

At An Abortion "Bypass" hearing (this is a proceeding where a minor seeks to avoid obtaining parental consent prior to obtaining an abortion in this case "J.J." testified that her parents were drunks--the Judge sought information in order to report the child abuse and neglect testified to by "J.J."):

Attorney Adams: “ I respectfully decline to give any information that I may have. At this time I have no information. … I do not know anything other than that her initials are “J.J” and that her first name is (redacted). … And she has instructed me to decline giving any information. She is my client. The privilege is hers. It is not mine. … “

Judge Karem: “ And how do you know her first name?”

Attorney Adams: “ She gave it to me.”

Judge Karem: “ But she didn't give you her last name?”

Attorney Adams: “ She did give me her last name, and I am not going to give it to the court.”

Judge Karem: “ So you do know her last name?”

Attorney Adams: “ Yes, I do, and I'm not going to give it to the court.”

Judge Karem: “ That is contrary … to what you told me a few seconds ago, that you didn't have any other information but her first name.”

Attorney Adams: “ I misspoke. I'm sorry.”

Judge Karem: “ At this point I think you need to be quiet.”

Attorney Adams: “ Whatever.”

Judge Karem: “Ma'am, you have an attitude.”
Judge Karem found Ms. Adams in contempt of court and sentenced her to jail for 6 months.  According to an excellent story at the Louisville Courier-Journal by Andrew Wolfson, the matter is pending before the Court of Appeals and Ms. Admas' incarceration is on hold.

I've actually been in this dilemma as a lawyer, fortunately for me my client "waived" his privilege and I was able to make the disclosure demanded by opposing counsel and the court.  But I didn't preface my refusal to make the disclosure with the flippant "misstatement" which is causing attorney Adams so much grief.  You see what's going on here, is a battle of wills between two veteran attorneys neither of whom wishes to appear foolish. 

In my opinion, Ms. Adams owes Judge Karem an apology for the flippancy of her "misrepresentation," and Judge Karem should yield to the principle of privilege.

Martin Dannenberg, Rest In Peace

The Sunday New York Times had the amazing obituary of Martin Dannenberg, a retired Sun Life Insurance executive. 

The obit by Douglas Martin pulled back the curtain on something historians have looked at in great detail in recent years, the underlying legal basis for the genocide of the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazis.  Dannenberg was a counterintellegence officer at the end of World War II.  It was Dannenberg who located and turned over the original document comprising the Nuremberg Laws signed by Adolph Hitler.  The Nuremberg laws served as the doctrinal underpinnings by the allegedly rational and culturally advanced Germans, resulting in the dehumanization and attempted complete extermination of the Jews.

Historians argue that the 20th Century Germans were a law-based bureacratically-administered nation.  For the genocide of the Jews and others to have occured there had to have been a legal foundation. The Nuremberg laws which was widely-disseminated in copy throughout the Europe, was the foundation for the systematic murders that followed. 

This is Mr. Dannenberg's obit:

"It was April 28, 1945, and the war in Europe was in its final hours. Days earlier, Martin Dannenberg, an Army intelligence officer, had seen piles of dead bodies at Dachau, the concentration camp in Germany. He said they were stacked like cordwood.

Now he was in a bank vault, opening an envelope sealed with red swastika embossments. He pulled out a document — four typed, black-bordered pages — signed by Adolf Hitler and three top lieutenants. It proclaimed the Nuremberg Laws.

These laws stripped Jews of their German citizenship; forbade marriage and sex between citizens of 'German blood' and Jews; and established the swastika as the German flag while forbidding Jews to display it. Announced at a rally in Nuremberg in September 1935 and quickly rubber-stamped by the German Parliament, they provided the legal pretext for the dehumanizing of Jews that led ineluctably to the piles of bodies Mr. Dannenberg saw.

'I had the most peculiar feeling when I had this in my hand, that I should be the one who should uncover this,' Mr. Dannenberg said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 1999. 'Because here is this thing that begins the persecution of the Jews. And a Jewish person has found it.'

A retired insurance company chairman, Mr. Dannenberg died on Aug. 18 at age 94 at his home in Baltimore. His wife, Margery, said he had been having health problems since a fall four years ago.

A week after his death, on Aug. 25, the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., donated the Nuremberg document to the National Archives. The confluence of events was coincidence, but the gift marked the end of a long, strange journey for one of history’s most evil proclamations.

Gen. George S. Patton, who led the Third Army in Europe, originally decided to keep the document rather than send it to be used as evidence in war crimes trials, as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of Allied forces in Europe, had ordered. General Patton gave it to the Huntington, whose founder had been a close friend of his family.

The Huntington put it in a bombproof vault, did not display it and for 54 years kept its very existence a secret. Part of the reason for the secrecy seems to have been concerns that displaying it might blur the library’s focus on British and American history and art.

But after the Skirball Cultural Center, a museum dedicated to the Jewish experience, opened in 1996 in Los Angeles, the Huntington, under new leadership, lent the document to it.  More than three million people saw the document before it was removed from view in 2009 to protect it from light. The Huntington then decided that it belonged in the National Archives in Washington, which contain other important Nazi documents.

Martin Ernest Dannenberg was born in Baltimore on Nov. 5, 1915, and began working as a mailroom clerk at the Sun Life Insurance Company after graduating from high school. He attended Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore School of Law at night.

He dropped out of law school when his boss pointed out the window at men selling fruit. 'Each one of them used to be a lawyer before the Depression,' he said.

When World War II started, Mr. Dannenberg went to enlist in the Army, telling recruiters he hoped to do counterintelligence work, his wife said. But the recruiters told him to wait to be drafted and that counterintelligence officers might contact him after he was in the Army. It was all very hush-hush, but it worked out.   Mr. Dannenberg became a counterintelligence officer in Patton’s Third Army. His plunge into history started with a man staring at him from the back of a beer hall. Mr. Dannenberg asked why he was staring.

'I know the whereabouts of a document I think you Americans would like to have,' the man said. 'I will tell you where it is if you will see that I get to my home, which is near a town called Eichstatt.'

After a convoluted trail, Mr. Dannenberg and two other agents ended up in the vault of a bank in Eichstatt. His tale has been corroborated by written records left by the deceased interpreter who accompanied him, Frank Perls. Mr. Dannenberg took photographs with his Minox spy camera.   He confessed that he had briefly thought about keeping the document for a souvenir, but knew it was needed for what became the Nuremberg war crimes trials, where facsimiles had to be used. After learning in 1999 that General Patton had taken the document for himself, Mr. Dannenberg, in an interview with The Washington Post, called him 'that scoundrel.'

For more than 50 years, Mr. Dannenberg worked for the Sun Life Insurance Company, rising to chairman before retiring in 1987. He was also president of Har Sinai, one of the oldest Reform Jewish congregations in the United States, outside Baltimore. [ . . . }

People who saw the Nuremberg Laws with Hitler’s descending signature at the Skirball reported being transfixed as they imagined the horrors the crisply typed words engendered. Though thousands of copies were distributed throughout the Third Reich, the original seemed frighteningly different.

Mr. Dannenberg also felt another emotion, his wife said, after the museum removed Patton’s picture from the exhibit and substituted one of him. He was pleased."

Yeah, That's Right, Fire the Lawyer; In Fact, for Once That's A Good Idea!

The Des Moines Register has that rare story of a criminal defendant facing felony charges who properly fired his lawyer at the last minute before trial, and it turns out it was a very good decision.  Read, the following account and see if you concur:

"Jack Leonard Hays (pic) held on to his right to act as his own defense attorney in court while facing sexual assault and burglary charges - until the final hours before his trial. Hays - who is accused of raping an acquaintance - abruptly fired himself as his own counsel during a court appearance Friday. For months, he had attempted to mount his own defense with only a paralegal certificate earned online and work in a prison law library as his legal experience.

The move pushed back his trial, which was to start Monday, to January. Hays, 36, of Des Moines, had sought a continuance in the trial. Surrendering his right to defend himself was the only hope of being prepared for his trial, Hays said in a telephone interview with The Des Moines Register from the Polk County Jail.

Prosecutors 'were trying to force me to go to trial unprepared,' Hays said. 'This is a complicated trial, and they haven't given me access to witnesses, discovery and exculpatory evidence. A trial lawyer wouldn't be ready to go to court on Monday, let alone a paralegal.'

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone on Friday declined to comment on the case.

Legal experts say Hays has a much better shot of getting a proper defense with the aid of public defender Jason Dunn, who served as court-appointed "standby" attorney as Hays attempted to prepare his case. People who defend themselves, called pro se in legal terminology, are less likely to know the fine points of making objections and entering evidence and can even unintentionally incriminate themselves, experts say.

Linda Klein, an Atlanta lawyer who studied pro se civil cases for the American Bar Association, said she could 'count on one hand' the number of pro se felony cases she had seen in her career, which began in 1983 and includes being president of the State Bar Association of Georgia. 'I worry about someone who presumes they can do better than an attorney - even an overworked one - when they have no legal training,'  she said. The National Center for State Courts in Virginia does not track the number of criminal cases that proceed with the defendant acting as his or her own lawyer, said Greg Hurley, an analyst for the group. Anecdotally, he said, the self-taught defendants almost never succeed.

A few such cases, though, are under way in other parts of the country:

- Dr. Lishan Wang, who is charged in the shooting death of another doctor in New Haven, Conn., told a judge this month he wanted to represent himself, despite concerns from his lawyers. The judge did not immediately rule on the request.

- A former real estate agent in Fort Collins, Colo., who allegedly ran a $500,000 Ponzi scheme said he would fight his eight felony charges alone unless he could find an attorney. Jerry Brumit said he hasn't been able to hire a private attorney, but his wife's retirement income prevents him from qualifying for a public defender, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

- A former part-time Dubuque letter carrier announced plans in July to defend himself against federal charges that he mailed dud pipe bombs and threat letters to investment firms. John Tomkins, also known as "the Bishop," is charged in U.S. District Court for northern Illinois. Earlier this month, the judge in the case granted the request.

Hurley said alleged criminals who forgo lawyers almost always request one at the last minute. 'They make their opening statement, and then they panic,'  Hurley said. 'Even the worst of lawyers is going to do a better job than most people trying to represent themselves.'

Hays, in a telephone interview earlier this month from the Polk County Jail, acknowledged that he would probably lose his case if he represented himself. He said he has had insufficient time to prepare, a claim prosecutors deny.

Prosecutors say many of Hays' claims were frivolous stall tactics. Hays had plenty of time to prepare for trial, but raised the same objections 'over, and over, and over again,' said Jeff Noble, the assistant Polk County attorney trying the Hays case, at the Aug. 20 pretrial hearing.  'I have no idea what he's talking about when he says he doesn't know how the state can prove this case,' Noble told Judge Scott Rosenberg. Prosecutors have "ample evidence" to show Hays is guilty of burglary and three counts of second-degree sexual assault, Noble said.  Noble argued in court papers that Hays was using his right to act as his own counsel to abuse the courts.

'The defendant is using the privilege of self-representation to interfere with the judicial process, to engage in entertainment litigation, to gain privileges at the jail not enjoyed by other inmates, and most significantly, to gain access to witnesses and resources that will help him fabricate evidence,' Noble wrote.

[Judge] Rosenberg appointed a public defender as 'standby counsel' to help Hays with his research, and allowed him to hire a private investigator at state expense.

Hays, in interviews earlier this month, said he decided to represent himself because he thought the public defender's office was too busy to dedicate enough time to his case. He said he contacted several private attorneys to see if they would represent him for free, but no one accepted.

Friday's events provided another twist in the case, which has been unusual in almost every aspect. Hays is accused of entering the home of his friend Christopher Brazzle and climbing into bed with Brazzle's wife, Frances. Prosecutors alleged Hays raped Frances Brazzle for more than three hours on Sept. 29, 2009. Hays maintains his innocence, but has not said what happened that night.  Noble has said Hays confessed to the rape in an interview with Des Moines police.

'I'm a drunk, and I'm a womanizer,' Hays said by phone from the Polk County Jail. 'But I'm not a rapist.' In later conversation, he said: 'If anything happened - and I'm not saying it did - then it would have been consensual.'

Meanwhile, both Brazzles died before the case went to trial. Frances Brazzle suffered from fibromyalgia, a chronic muscle and connective tissue disorder that causes sufferers intense pain, sleep disturbance and other symptoms. She died of an accidental pain medication overdose on Feb. 1. Christopher Brazzle committed suicide three weeks later.  Hays has argued that Brazzle's death denies him the constitutional right to confront his accuser. Hays believes with or without court-appointed counsel, he will beat the charges.

'One way or another, I'm going home,' Hays said Friday. 'Every piece of evidence that turns up points to my innocence. I know everybody in jail says that, but I can prove it.'  Hays faces life in prison if convicted of any of the three sexual assault charges. The first-degree burglary charge carries a maximum 50-year prison sentence."
This guy is a real nasty piece of work.  He's a repeat sexual offender and the crime he committed was seriously heinous.  Here's hoping the prosecution can tuck him away.

Nothwithstanding, he needs competent counsel and doubtlessly he made a very smart decision to forgo self-representation.  I will try to follow up, because it will be interesting to see the prosecution prove all the elements of the crime.  Presumably there is a "rape kit" that can establish the fact of the sexual activity, but absent an admissible confession how is the criminal conduct to be shown?  Very interesting fact pattern!

The 1-Hour Orgasm? Dating the Public Defenders! Child Porn?

According to the ABQJournal.com a colorful New Mexico judge self-reported his own sexual harassment following a "change in medication:" and will now serve a proposed 60-day suspension.  this is an excerpt form the ABQJournal report

An "intense romantic fling" with an assistant public defender who had pending cases before state District Judge Bob Schwartz may cost the colorful judge — known for his wit and wisecracks — a 60-day unpaid suspension, according to court documents unsealed this week.   The New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission is recommending Schwartz be suspended without pay for 60 days, receive a formal public reprimand, complete a course on sexual harassment and leave the bench during future medication transitions.

According to the commission's findings, Schwartz, a former district attorney and governor's crime adviser, is accused of failing to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary; failing to avoid impropriety; failing to recuse himself from the pending cases involving the defender; and of not conducting 'extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations.'

The allegations stem from Schwartz's self-reporting to the commission last August that his judicial conduct fell below his own standards as a result of switching medications for a chronic illness in spring 2009. Schwartz, 60, called it a "very difficult time in my life". [ . . . ]

Among the alleged improprieties is a short-lived romantic relationship with a 29-year-old assistant public defender, who has since left that job.

According to the petition, the woman had represented defendants in Schwartz's court from November 2008 to late July 2009.

In early July 2009, Schwartz invited the defender to lunch on a workday. On what would be their first date, the judge gave the woman what he called a 'gag gift': a book titled 'The One Hour Orgasm,' with an official picture of himself in his judicial robe pasted over the picture of the book's author. He also gave her a pair of purple latex gloves. The next day, Schwartz took the woman to a concert in Santa Fe, according to the petition. After the concert, he told the woman he would recuse himself from her cases because he couldn't be fair. The couple went on to a bar called Anodyne in Downtown Albuquerque.

But Schwartz, who has never been accused of sexual harassment, failed to recuse himself from the cases in a timely manner, according to the petition.

He took action in two cases she was involved in on July 14, 2009, the petition states. In one of those cases, he publicly questioned his own prior decision to deny the woman's motion to dismiss. He withdrew his denial to dismiss and recused himself from that case, offering an ambiguous explanation.
The report which was sealed goes on to report that the Judge is apparently viewed by the Public Defender involved as not a "sexual harrasser," and especially talented and appropriate.  But here is a good Judge who made a mistake and dealt with it proactively.  But there is one important aspect of this story not discussed by the ABQJournal reporter, the criminal defendants implicated in the legal matters the Judge handled prior to his voluntray recusals.  Those are the rights, and the entitlement of the citizens implicated by Judge Schwartzs miscues.  It seems obvious that Judge Schwartz understood this.

Compare and contrast this with the "disgraced" Manhatten judge, James Gibbons.

 According to a report at the New York Daily News Judge Gibbons resigned following revelations of an affair with a young public defender with whom he fathered a child.  Authorities discovered massive amounts of porn, possibly including pornographic images of underage girls on his court computer.  

The news accounts surrounding the unfolding scandal involving Judge Gibbons include observations that this gentleman was "whip smart," a brilliant former prosector, and an excellent Judge.

Attend Your AA Meetings, Mark C.!

Lansing, Michigan attorney Mark C is one lucky drunk according to the disciplinary report lengthening his 60-day suspension to 120-days.  You can read the report of the Michigan disciplinary authorities for yourself, but in a nutshell, Mr. C. was told to AA meetings as condition of reinstatement following his recent suspension.  According to the disciplinary opinion Mark C. decided to keep drinking and forge the signatures of the AA chairs of meetings he falsely claimed to have attended. 

Attorney Mark C. still has a license after his fraudulent representation of attendance at meetings, he did not attend.  In my opinion Mr. C. dodged a bullet that I don't believe you would have dodged in  most states, then again Mr. Fieger has gotten away with conduct in Michigan that would probably not have been tolerated in most states.  When I last looked in on Geoffrey Fieger, the verbal flame-thrower was threatening to run for Mayor of Detroit.  Michigan is one hell of a lenient place, if you ask me.

But, I digress, Mr. C.'s suspension raises the interesting question of whether A.A. attendance should be required as part of any disciplinary or legal process.  I talked about this awhile back and engaged in some debate with the commentariat over the question.  Some of my commentators believe that Alcoholic Anonymous being based on 12-[Suggested] Steps as a program of recovery that expressly embrace the notion of a "higher power" transgress the Constitution.  I disagree. 

In the usual, circumstance, a drunk "on paper" is required to attend A.A. meetings and obtain the signature of the "Secretary" or other presiding member at a given meeting.  Sometimes a judge will tell an individual with a alcohol or drug problem to attend 3 or more meetings a week.  A.A. founded 75-years ago by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. is based on 12-Steps and 12-Traditions.  The traditions are in fact a deliberate and express embrace of pure unadulterated anarchy.  A group and only a group governs its meeting.  If you are active in a group but grow disenchanted with the direction of the group, the traditions invite you to create a group to your own liking provided you can attract membership consistent with the AA principles. 

OurTown is one of the original A.A. cities, and OurTown is frequently alluded to in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, aka the Big Book.  OurTown has thousands of A.A. meetings and several 24-hour clubs operate continuously.  There are regular A.A meetings in OurTown which by "group conscience" have chosen not to sign "court attendance" sheets.  The logic underlying this decision of those groups is that AA is not associated with "any related facility or oustside enterprise" and does not "endorse" outside enterprises; also,  A.A. is "non-professional;" and, A.A. does not want the A.A. "name" to be "drawn into public controversy."  Most groups, here, do "sign" court slips or attendance sheets.  I agree that this courtesy, should be extended especially since, I'm "on paper" via my voluntary participation in OurState Lawyers' Assistance Program[ming.] 

But let's think about this critically, if you are a Lawyer in disciplinary trouble, should you be required as a condition of your restricted license to attend A.A. meeting, where they talk about God? 

I say, why not? If you have a good counter argument, make it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's OK to be Chicken, But You Won't Sit On the Jury

A story at the San Jose Mercury News explores the problems with jury selection when the prospective juror is frightened.  This is reporter Julia Prodis Sulek's account:

"A potential juror in a Los Gatos murder-for-hire trial who described herself  'to be a chicken in general' was excused from serving Wednesday after she said the idea that killers could be in the room made her feel 'fearful and intimidated.'  The woman was one of four potential jurors excused 'for cause' by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge David Cena in the case against restaurateur Paul Garcia, who is accused of ordering the 2008 shooting death of Mark Achilli, who sold both Mountain Charley's Saloon and the 180 Restaurant and Lounge to Garcia.

Prosecutors say Garcia was jealous of Achilli because his sometime bartender girlfriend was also dating Achilli. The two men accused of helping carry out the plot, including the shooting suspect, are also on trial.

Since last week, lawyers have winnowed what had been a jury pool of nearly 600 down to just more than 100, with most being excused because they couldn't afford to sit through a two-month trial. They hope to seat 12 jurors plus four alternates by next week.

The pool of jurors sweltered in a crowded courtroom Wednesday afternoon when the air-conditioning broke down, prompting prosecutor Jeff Rosen to take off his jacket and joke to jurors that when he went to the gym Wednesday morning, 'I was disappointed they took the sauna out, then I came to court today.'

Wednesday was the first day lawyers questioned jurors about how much they had heard about the case and whether they could be fair. The juror who said she felt fearful also said she can be guilty of  'making assumptions' and 'judging people partly on appearance.'  She said she didn't know whether she could withhold judgment until after she's heard all the evidence.

[A] woman who has a relative who was friends with Achilli [was also dismissed.] The relative [spoke] to the juror at length some time ago about who she thought was responsible for the killing and why. A chemist who also called himself a homemaker was dismissed after he said he would be distracted during the trial thinking that he should be taking care of his young children. One of his relatives was a lawyer, he said, and he 'wasn't sure' if he could be fair. An Asian man who had trouble understanding English was also excused."
You see this sort of thing in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Philadephia local news websites.  I can only imagine how frustrating this is for the lawyers, judges, and others connected to trying these violent crimes.  We've seen numerous situations over the last year where even after the jury is selected there is jury and witness intimidation by spectators (so-called friends of the defendant) who gesture from the gallery or point cameras at the jury box. 

While I carry stories of bad judges, lawyers, prosecutors and others, you should not conclude that I think what we do for a living is easy or enviable.  It is often deadly serious.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Zombies Settle Suit

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting on the Minneapolis City Council's  decision to settle the First Amendment lawsuit of locals dressed as Zombies who sued over their 2006 arrests in downtown while protesting mindless consumerism.  This is reporter Randy Furst's account:

"The Minneapolis city attorney's office has decided to pay seven zombies and their attorney $165,000. The payout, approved by the City Council on Friday, settles a federal lawsuit the seven filed after they were arrested and jailed for two days for dressing up like zombies in downtown Minneapolis on July 22, 2006, to protest 'mindless'consumerism.

When arrested at the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street N., most of them had thick white powder and fake blood on their faces and dark makeup around their eyes. They were walking in a stiff, lurching fashion and carrying four bags of sound equipment to amplify music from an iPod when they were arrested by police who said they were carrying equipment that simulated 'weapons of mass destruction.'

However, they were never charged with any crime.

Although U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen had dismissed the zombies' lawsuit, it was resurrected in February by a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that police lacked probable cause to arrest the seven, a decision setting the stage for a federal trial this fall. The settlement means there will be no trial.

'I feel great that the city is being held accountable for the actions of their police,' said Raphi Rechitsky, 27, of Minneapolis, one of the seven zombies, who said he and his friends were performing street theater when they were arrested. He is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan L. Segal said it was in the best interests of the city to settle. 'We believe the police acted reasonably, but you never know what a jury is going to do with a case,' she said. If a jury had concluded that the seven plaintiffs' constitutional rights had been violated and awarded $50,000 to each, plus defense attorney's fees, 'it could have been quite substantial,' Segal said."
I don't know, I don't think of Minneapolis as a place of intolerance.  What prompts law enforcement to make arrests like the arrests made in this case?  Stupidity?

Bad Minister

According to the Charlotte Observer the Rev. Bill Cabe is a Bad Minister, let's see if you agree: 

"The Rev. Johnny William 'Bill' Cabe, a Rock Hill minister, was arrested today after a police investigation. Cabe, 50, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, committing lewd act on a child under 16 and unlawfully practicing medicine, according to York County Sheriff’s Office records. Cabe, a pastor at of Riverside Baptist Church in Rock Hill, has a criminal history that includes past allegations of touching children.

Previous misdemeanor charges of practicing medicine without a license after allegations from two teenage boys that he performed hernia-like checks on them were dismissed. He was convicted of assault in 1989 in connection with a confrontation with a church member.

Cabe was also sentenced to nine years in Federal prison in 2001 after being found guilty of 26 charges related to bilking religious investors out of millions of dollars. Prosecutors argued during Cabe's trial that he promised investors a return of as much as 500 percent on $8.5 million in investments in 1998 in an international high-yield investment scheme called HisWay International Ministries."
How does a guy like this get a second chance?  There should be a one-touch-rule among Protestant ministers.  I suppose part of the problem is there is no database or hiearchy for the hiring by local churches, but you would think in the era of the Internet the elders or whoever hired the Reverend Cabe would have at least put his name in a search engine.  If I were the treasurer or other responsible elder at the Riverside Baptist Church I would be asking a lawyer to read the insurance policy very closely.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stealing From the Dead

The Hartford Courant reports on the Conneticut funeral director who has confessed to stealing from the dead.  This story really attracts my attention because as you know, I suspect that this is one dirty industry and essentially unsupervised.  We saw recently the case of the Indiana funderal director who was plundering pre-paid funeral plans.  Here, we have a funeral director who was actually plundering the bodies, the personal possessions and the estates of the dead.  This is reporters: Dave Altimari and David Owens account:

A funeral home director accused of stealing assets of dead people as he removed their bodies from their homes was found guilty Thursday of a host of larceny charges and faces two years in prison at his sentencing. Kevin Riley (pic), owner of Hartford Trade Services, was accused by state investigators of using a contract to pick up bodies for the state Medical Examiner's Office as a way to steal from the dead.

Riley would have himself appointed administrator of the estates of people with no relatives, giving him access to money and property with little or no scrutiny. Riley and his co-conspirator Yolanda Faulkner would then steal money, jewelry and paintings and sell some of them through an auction house where Faulkner also was the bookkeeper. Faulkner was also found guilty Thursday and also faces a two-year prison sentence.

Faulkner pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine to two counts of first-degree larceny, two counts of second-degree larceny, attempted larceny, forgery and filing a false tax return. While not admitting guilty, she conceded the state had enough evidence to convict her at trial. With the plea agreement, she faces significantly less time in prison than if she'd gone to trial.

Riley pleaded guilty under the Alford Doctrine to first-degree larceny, second-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for crimes involving the taking of money and property from the homes of dead people and for providing an extravagant funeral for a man whose life insurance policy he'd cashed in.

He entered straight guilty pleas to charges that he double-billed the state and the families of dead people for whom he made arrangements at a facility in Meriden. The dead were cremated and the cost of a box in which their remains were placed was included in the cost of service. Riley admitted double-billing the state Department of Social Services and families of the dead for the boxes."
A sharp-eyed magistrate caught discrepancies in one of the estates that the magistrate was supervising.  Inventories of personal property filed by Riley relating to decedents versus reports filed by others who were in the residence did not match. 

The question I have (which will doubtlessly remain unanswered), is how many times did this crook pull this routine?  The question I have is how widespread is this abuse of decedent property by funeral operators?  I'm guessing, very widespread.

"You Owe Me $38 Quadrillion Dollars!" Attorney: "Will You Take a Check?"

According to the Utah Daily Hearld, a Las Vegas area man sued a number of local lawyer for the tidy sum of the $38 Quadrillion dollars.  Here's their story, in excerpt:
John Theodore Anderson, claims attorneys[:] Douglas Shumway, Benjamin Schramm and Michael Van fraudulently served him with a lawsuit, according to court records.

The dispute stems from a complaint Anderson originally filed against clients of the law firm of Shumway, Van and Hansen for $918 billion. Shumway said his client, Private Capital Group et al, came into possession of mining property in Southern Utah recently after the original owner of the mine defaulted on a loan. The capital group then tried to sell the property, and Anderson put a $918 billion lien on it. In response, Shumway filed a lawsuit for $10,000 in damages to remove the lien, because he said the property cannot be sold with a cloud on the title. 'It'll cost us a fortune if this isn't cleared up,' [Attoreny Shumway pointed out.]

In court filings, Anderson said he had a contract with the original owner of the mining property for consulting work. He said he was paid $500 when he signed the contract, but did not get the $4,000 monthly payments that were promised him over 16 months of work. Anderson claims he performed extensive research over the 16 months and paid for travel expenses out of pocket. Shumway, however, said the owners claimed they stopped communication with Anderson because he never really provided any services.

Anderson['s claim arises out of this consulting contract to] the property [which he claims] has been valued $36 billion (!) and asked for 12.5 percent of that value, $4.5 billion. He also asked for additional compensatory damages of four times that amount and punitive damages of 200 times the amount, which added up to $918 billion. In his initial complaint, Anderson said silence on the matter by the defendants would constitute a binding contract.

According to a lawsuit [to clear title] filed by Shumway in July, Anderson put a lien on the property for $918 billion when he was not paid what he asked for. Shumway said he wrote a letter to Anderson after the original complaint, but Anderson refused to accept it because it was not certified mail.

[Attorney] Shumway said he filed his lawsuit in July, but Anderson refused service until mid-August. Once Anderson accepted service in the suit, he filed a second complaint for $38 quadrillion, having multiplied the $918 billion complaint by 204 two times.

Shumway said Anderson wanted to buy the property at one point for $2.5 million. He said Anderson was told to make an offer and put down earnest money, but he never did.

The property is currently being assessed to determine its worth, Shumway said. There is some ore on the property, and if the ore is worth money, it could be valued at $100 million, he said. If it is not valuable, it is just gravel and worth significantly less, he said.  When the assessment is finished, Shumway said his clients could lose a lot of money if they cannot sell the property because of the lien. There have already been offers that stalled somewhat because of the clouded title, he said.  Shumway said the documents Anderson has filed in the case are not normal in civil cases, but part of a packet of documents that people have used. He said he does not believe the documents are legal because they do not follow due process.

'Everything in that document is against our Constitution,' he said.

The documents claim that a consensual contract is created when the defendant does not respond the correct way. In Anderson's complaint, he increased damages three different times -- with the initial complaint, after 90 days for 'non-payment'  and because of  'trespass and conversion'  when Shumway petitioned to remove the lien.

'No one would ever allow that,' he said.

Utah is a good-faith state, Shumway said, where a debtor can terminate an improper lien and a creditor can sue if the lien was valid. As a result of Shumway's suit to remove the lien, Anderson has now filed a document telling the court to take judicial notice that Shumway committed communications fraud.

'If this court does not take care of this rogue Utah attorney, Douglas J. Shumway, who is running rampant, pleading ignorance of the UCC laws, terminating legal UCC filings without consent, shake down and extortion for $100,000, this case will be brought to the federal level immediately,'  Anderson wrote in the filing.

Anderson also said that in 150 days the defendants have never answered the complaint and 'THEY ARE IN DEFAULT AND THEY KNOW IT.'

[Attorney] Shumway said he has filed for expedited responses to the complaints from judges in Utah and Iron counties, where they are filed. He said fighting the case in court could cost his clients more than $100,000.  'They're losing money on this, because every single thing costs money,' he said.

Civil litigation can get redundant, Shumway said, so he said he enjoys getting cases that are off the wall procedurally. He said it provides the firm with experiences that most attorneys never deal with. 'This case, no matter how strange or funny, makes us better at our jobs because you can't just go A to Z,' he said. 'Mr. Anderson is throwing numbers and smiley faces into my alphabet, and I appreciate that, even though in the end I think he will be sorely disappointed with the result.' 

When contacted, Anderson said this is a case that is not up for litigation. He said his views on the situation are clear in his filings. 'I'm not going to try this thing in the paper,'  he said [Perfect!].

If [Attorney] Shumway loses the lawsuit and Anderson is awarded $38 quadrillion, or perhaps 204 times that amount, Shumway said he is not sure how he will pay it. At any given time, about $24 trillion is in use around the world."
Boy, do I ever empathize with Mr. Shumway!   Notice, the plaintiff claims "default" where have we seen that idea before, longtime readers of Bad Lawyer?

The Tyrant Judge of Jackson, Mississippi

The Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports on the petty tyrant Hinds County (Jackson, Mississippi) Judge Houston Patton and the proposed slap on the wrist for his pattern of judicial misconduct. This is from reporter Jimmie E. Gates' Clarion Ledger story:

"Hinds County Judge Houston Patton (small pic, left--the only one I could find) doesn't dispute that he jailed two people for contempt in civil disputes. Nor does he deny that in one of those instances he discussed the case outside the courtroom and wrongfully issued a search warrant.

'I'm in the middle of my re-election campaign, and that is where my concentration is and that's all I need to say,'  Patton said Wednesday when reached by phone. The state's judicial watchdog group concluded Patton denied these individuals' due process rights and is recommending that the 74-year-old be publicly reprimanded and fined $1,000.  The recommendation from the state Commission on Judicial Performance comes as Patton, a county judge since 1990, also is fighting a federal lawsuit.

The state Supreme Court will determine what, if any, punishment Patton will receive. One of the cases that led to the commission's recommendation involves the jailing of a Jackson city councilman's brother in a civil case. Homer Tillman said Wednesday it came as a big surprise to him when he was arrested.

Patton issued a final judgment of $44,300.82 on March 31, 2009, against Tillman in a case brought by former Jackson Fire Chief Vernon Hughes and his wife, Constance, for problems with Tillman's work as a housing contractor.  On April 7, the couple filed to have Tillman held in contempt of court for failing to pay the judgment . . . and without notification, [Judge] Patton held Tillman in contempt, ordered his arrest [and jailed him.]

'He knew better than that,' Tillman said of Patton's actions. [ . . .]

Two other cases cited by the commission involve Billy Ralph Sullivan, a former Terry-area resident.

On Jan. 7, 2007, Joseph and Debra Gregory filed a complaint in Hinds County Court against Sullivan and his company, A & S Environmental, alleging Sullivan owed the them $21,875 for lease payments on a Daewoo track-hoe, attorney fees and other costs.  Sullivan filed his intention to dispute the allegation, but [Judge] Patton [ex parte] discussed [ . . . the matter] with the Gregorys, [then] entered orders [holding] Sullivan in contempt, the commission found. John Woodward and Vivian Wajda filed a[nother] complaint against Sullivan over a land easement and failure to complete a pond levee. The couple alleged they suffered lost income. The commission said [Judge] Patton wrongly held [Mr.] Sullivan in contempt, resulting in his incarceration in that case as well. The commission also concluded Patton wrongfully had a search warrant issued for Sullivan's son premises.

Sullivan couldn't be reached Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit against Patton stems from a 1997 incident in which Patton accused The federal lawsuit against Patton stems from a 1997 incident in which Patton accused James Jennings Jr. of Mendenhall and Jennings' attorney, J. Keith Shelton, of attempting to bribe him. Jennings and Shelton were indicted, but the charges later were dismissed.  The lawsuit accuses Patton of knowingly making false claims to authorities.
Patton has two opponents in the November general election."
Election of judges?  Good idea? 

The unspoken story of this Judge is about all the other cases not part of the judicial complaints where his temperament cost, time, money or liberty when justice and the rule of law indicated otherwise. 

I looked at Judge Patton's official biography at the Hinds County website.  Clearly this was a good and worthy lawyer.  At some point, Judge Patton's ego ran ahead of temperament, ethics, and judgment.  When this happened, he cost his constituents the rule of law, it's time for Judge Patton to retire--it's a shame his ego won't let him hear this message. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Does This Need to Be Said? Don't Date Inmates.

When you marry and, or date men who are incarcerated you are not insuring a high-quality dating experience.  This story from the Augusta Chronicle says something about misplaced decision making in the romance department, see if you agree:

"Athens-Clarke police are investigating a prisoner's claim that his wife forged his signature on a divorce decree and that she is seeing another prisoner at the Clarke County Jail.  His wife also forged his name to buy furniture and big-screen TVs for herself and her sister, said the prisoner, who has been locked up since May.  The woman's boyfriend has been at the jail since July 17."
Some women really know how to pick 'em.  Some don't.

"I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman!--uh, In the Courthouse"

The Des Moines Register has continuing coverage of the great Clovis Bowles, a lawyer who makes other lawyers cringe in disgust.  Here's the Register's account of the twists and turns in the disciplinary case pending against Bowles for sex with an emotionally disturbed criminal client:

"A Waterloo lawyer says allegations that he had sex with a client in an Iowa courthouse are 'completely baseless.' The Iowa Supreme Court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board alleges that Clovis M. Bowles, 56, had sexual relations with a 33-year-old female client on several occasions in 2007 and 2008.

Bowles was allegedly aware the client had a history of emotional problems and had hired him shortly after attempting suicide and checking herself into a psychiatric facility. The Grievance Commission of the Iowa Supreme Court is recommending that the court suspend Bowles’ law license for three years.  Bowles said Thursday he did have sex with his client, but the commission members erred when they implied that his client was performing oral sex on him in the Black Hawk County Courthouse’s law library when someone walked in and interrupted them.

'Those findings are completely baseless,'he said.

Bowles said he grabbed his client’s buttocks while ushering her into the law library where the conversation quickly veered from a legal proceeding that he was handling on her behalf to something that was sexual in nature. But, Bowles said, almost immediately someone walked into the law library. His client stood up and the two of them immediately left the library, he said. 'We weren’t in there more than 20 seconds,' he added.

The next day, Bowles allegedly represented the woman during a criminal court hearing.  Bowles said that at his recent disciplinary hearing, commission members asked him whether he and his client engaged in oral sex in the courthouse library.

'I asked them to define oral sex for me and they refused,' he said. 'So I denied it.'

Bowles said he fell in love with the woman shortly after she hired him as her attorney in August 2007. The two had sex in his office and, later, at her home, he said.  A few weeks later, the woman filed a formal ethics complaint against Bowles, outlining the dual nature of their relationship. Bowles contacted her a short time later and allegedly asked her how they could 'make this whole thing go away.'

Within days, the two were married. They divorced after just six weeks, with Bowles agreeing to pay her $200 per month in alimony.  Bowles said the couple divorced only because social workers were telling the woman she needed to demonstrate independence if she wanted to regain custody of her children. However, he said he also believes that the woman initially agreed to have sex with him as part of a conspiracy to blackmail him.

Bowles said he and the woman two have remained friendly although he has no plans to rekindle the romantic side of their relationship.

'She’s the greatest little cook in the world,' he said. 'But how many times do you urinate on an electric fence before you say, ‘God, this is not a good thing for me to do?’ '

The Grievance Commission’s recommendation is based in part on a finding that Bowles not only had sex with a client, but repeatedly lied about it to investigators when questioned. Bowles acknowledges both of those offenses, but says he regrets his actions. 'I had an affair with a client,' he said. 'And I lied when I denied it. I shouldn’t have, but I did.'"
There's just so much to be said about Clovis Bowles, but I'll leave it unsaid.  What I want to know is how it is that the Iowa Disciplinary authorities think a 3 year suspension will render this guy's character fit to represent Iowans in the future? 

Do not screw the client, dammit.

theDirty.com Hit with $11 Million Judgment for Saying Bengals Cheerleader/Highschool Teacher Had STDs

According to an AP report at AZCentral a Scottsdale, Arizona website called theDirty.com has been hit with an $11 million dollar judgement for libel and slander by running a Cheerleader's picture and suggesting that she had two venereal diseases.  Here's an excerpt from the story:

"A Scottsdale-based gossip website has been hit with an $11 million judgment for libel and slander after posting false accusations about a northern Kentucky teacher who sidelines as a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader.

The [default] judgment against Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, which runs the site Thedirty.com, came Thursday [in] a lawsuit brought by Sarah Jones, a high school teacher [and cheerleader] whose pictur[e] was posted . . . with an accusation she had been exposed to two venereal diseases.

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman added an annual interest rate of 0.25 percent to the $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.  An e-mail message sent to the operator of the website, Hooman Karamian, who uses the online name 'Nik Ritchie,' was not [returned.]"
By the way, the image (above) was taken directly from the website which is still up and running and which is still running the libelous story posted attributing the STD claims to an ex-boyfriend.  Nice.

Baptisms for the Dead, Back Injury Lawsuit

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that a Mormon fromer-law student is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints over a back injury he sustained while performing "Baptisms for the Dead," explanation at link.  This is from reporter Jason Bergreen's account:

A Las Vegas man is suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for medical expenses after he injured his back in 2007 performing baptisms for the dead.

In a civil suit filed in 3rd District Court on Wednesday, Daniel Dastrup claims he suffered a severe herniated disk in his lumbar spine after performing about 200 baptisms on Aug. 25, 2007. The then 25-year-old claims some of the young men and women he completely immersed in water in the name of the dead weighed as much as 250 pounds. [Mr. Dastrup allegeshe] asked to be relieved, an officiator at the LDS temple in Raleigh, N.C., where the baptisms were performed, told Dastrup to continue, the civil suit states. [ . . .]
[Mr. Dastrup] later learned [he had a] herniated disk and had to undergo two spinal surgeries, according to [his law]suit.

Dastrup claims the church breached its duty by 'not warning the plaintiffs that the repetitive motion required for performing baptisms for the dead could cause serious damage to a person’s back and by not allowing Mr. Dastrup to stop and be relieved when he and his replacement requested on multiple occasions that they be switched out.'

Dastrup, who also listed his wife as a plaintiff in the case, claims the injury has affected his relationship with her, and the pain has forced him to quit law school and change his lifestyle.
This is an interesting lawsuit.  Lots of questions arise, for instance: the accident happened in North Carolina, the plaintiff is a Nevadan, suing in Utah.  The injury occurred 3 year ago.  As a former law student, my head spins with "issue-spotting" follow up questions.  Why isn't this a North Carolina workers' compensation claim?  What "law" applies?  North Carolina?  Nevada?(unlikely) or Utah?  You get a sense from this fact pattern why law students lose their minds.

Police Brutality, No Excuse!

Reporter Gary Haraki at the Charleston Gazette reports on the local man who had his ass kicked by a local cop apparently because this alleged bad outlaw did not hear the officer order him to get off of the ATV he was riding.  Having had my ass kicked and pepper-sprayed by OurCounty Sheriff's deputies while I was in handcuffs for the crime of being a smart-mouthed lawyer at the local courthouse, I immediately empathized with 80-year old, Bob McComb.  Haraki's account follows:

"An 80-year-old man spent three days in the hospital after he was dragged off his ATV and slammed to the concrete by a Cedar Grove police officer, witnesses say.

On Tuesday, Robert McComb was riding ATVs with his friends, Darrell Cole and Bobby Palmer, and was heading back to his house after coming out of the woods when he was stopped by a Cedar Grove police cruiser.   The police officer pulled up beside McComb's ATV and stopped.   'I think Bob thought he was trying to let us by, so he kept going,' said Palmer, who was riding an ATV behind McComb. 'I thought the same thing.'

But when McComb kept driving, the officer in the cruiser, Johnny Walls, chased McComb down.

McComb was ahead of Palmer and Cole. When both men caught up to McComb and Walls, the officer was picking a bloody McComb off the ground.   Carrie Balser said she watched what happened to McComb in horror as she sat in her truck with her husband, Bruce.  She said Walls grabbed McComb, pulled him off of the side of the ATV and slammed him to the concrete face-first.  She said she and her husband got out of their truck when they realized it was McComb.  'What he [Walls] did was very horrific,'  she said. 'He [McComb] hit so hard face-first in the concrete.'

Carrie Balser said she tried to give a statement about what she saw to Cedar Grove police, but they refused to take it. She said she was told she had to give her statement to the chief - Johnny Walls. Palmer said that when Walls stood McComb up, blood was dripping down McComb's face from a gash on his forehead.  'The skin was torn off his right arm and he was shaking like a leaf,' Palmer said. 'Bob didn't deserve what that cop did to him.'

By that time, a crowd of people had gathered, Palmer said. He said that when he tried to approach Walls, the officer threatened to Taser him. Cole said Walls threatened to Taser anyone in the crowd who approached him.  Cole said Walls handcuffed McComb and when he tried to get him into the police vehicle, McComb had a hard time.

'He's not real agile; he doesn't move too fast. He had both knees replaced, the last one about six months ago,' Cole said. 'When I watch TV with him, he turns it up to 100 to hear it - he's hard of hearing. ... So this police officer is trying to get him in the car and [McComb's] talking loud: 'I told you I can't move my legs.'

Cole said he thinks that McComb's difficulty hearing might have led to Walls pulling him off the ATV because McComb might not have responded to the officer.

McComb was taken to the police station, then released to his friends. Walls told him he would get a summons in the mail stating the charges against him.  McComb was taken to the hospital by ambulance with his daughter, Karen McComb, at his side.

'The reality is that it's totally unacceptable,' Karen McComb said. 'There is no reason ever to brutalize an 80-year-old man. He wasn't drinking. He wasn't drugging.'  She said she had her father's blood tested for alcohol at the hospital, to have as proof later. The tests came back negative. Robert McComb suffered a moderate to severe concussion, in addition to scrapes and bruises to his head, arms, legs and back, she said.  'He can't lift his right arm at all, unless he uses his other hand to pull it up,'  [Ms. McComb] said.

Robert McComb said he can't recall anything of the incident. He said the last thing he remembers is riding his ATV with his friends.  'When I came to my senses, I was in the emergency room, it was 4:30 a.m. My daughter was standing beside me,' he said. 'My mind is clear now. I remember everything before it all happened, no problem. It's just the matter of those hours in between - I couldn't say what happened.'

On Friday, when McComb returned home to Cedar Grove from the hospital, a summons from Walls to Kanawha County Magistrate Court was waiting.  Robert McComb said he is charged with speeding, resisting arrest, obstructing an officer and fleeing an officer.

Cole said they were driving about 50 feet on a small side road that used to be a parking lot. He said there was a 'Do Not Enter' sign, but that it was how all the ATVs in the area access that part of town - the alternative was to drive on the main road.  'It's like he was singled out,' Cole said of McComb.  Cedar Grove residents held a candlelight vigil for McComb Saturday evening.

On Friday, a resident called the Gazette-Mail to talk about what happened to McComb.

'I won't give you my name, I'm a widow and I'll probably be hassled,'  she said. 'I think it's terrible that this little town, [it's] one of just a hundred little towns that has such poor police protection. We're just tired of all this. He [Walls] is really bad, and the other two [Cedar Grove officers] aren't much better.'  Walls had been with three departments before going to Cedar Grove in April 2008, according to state records. His career started in Chesapeake in 2003. He was with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department from August 2006 until January 2007. He worked at the Winfield Police Department from October 2007 to February 2008.

A message left for Walls at the Cedar Grove Police Department on Friday went unreturned.

McComb said he has been taking that road back to his house since he bought an ATV in 1999. 'I think it's a cheap act from the police officer,' McComb said. 'I think he's not very professional, and he shouldn't be on the police force, as far as I'm concerned.'"
West Virginia is wild and wonderful as advertised.  It has this strange law enforcement system that crops up again and again at the local news websites, local cops with appalling disciplinary or criminal violence end up getting hired and rehired in small town or villages.  You see this perilous pattern in places other than West Virginia but it is strikingly the case in the great mountain state. 

Here's hoping the McComb family sue the town of Cedar Grove out of existence.

False Light Defamation

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal defamation suit that should encourage Shirley Sherrod, the recently fired USDA employee who was a victim of so-called conservative journalists who pieced together "clips" of a speech she delivered to the NAACP, that made it appear that this African American federal public servant discriminated against white farmers in programming that Sherrod administered.  The concept of "false light" is that persons can defame you my manipulating and massaging video and audio to create a "false light" for the purposes of what was precisely done to Mrs. Sherrod, cost her, her job. 

"The case given attorneys for Mrs. Sherrod encouragement involves an ABC/20-20 story about a televangelist reported by right-wing correspondent, John Stossel (pic).  Here's reporter, Bob Egelko's story forthe San Francisco Chronicle story:  A federal appeals court reinstated a slander suit Tuesday against ABC-TV by a Southern California televangelist who was misleadingly shown on '20/20' as bragging about his wealth.

The ruling could come into play in another national media controversy - this one involving a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was fired after a blogger posted a video that appeared to show her making racist remarks that in fact were taken out of context. The Rev. Frederick Price (pic, left) sued ABC and its then-correspondent, John Stossel, over the news program's use of a film clip of one of his sermons in a March 2007 program.   It showed him telling his congregation, 'I live in a 25-room mansion. I have my own $6 million yacht,' a private jet, a helicopter and seven luxury cars.

Stossel introduced the clip by saying Price boasts of his riches, and followed it with a discussion with a watchdog about ministers who hide their church's finances.   In fact, however - as ABC acknowledged in a subsequent apology and retraction - Price was speaking not about himself, but about a hypothetical person who was materially wealthy and spiritually unfulfilled.

Price is the founder and pastor of the Crenshaw Christian Center/Ever Increasing Faith Ministry, which claims 22,000 members and preaches the 'prosperity gospel' of financial reward to believers. He owns a $4.6 million house and a Rolls-Royce and travels the world in a church-owned jet, the appeals court said.

A federal judge dismissed his defamation suit, saying the film clip was 'substantially true' because Price is wealthy and has spoken about it elsewhere. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said an out-of-context quotation that distorts the speaker's meaning can be libelous.  The Supreme Court has established that the accuracy of a quotation is determined by 'loyalty to the speaker's intended meaning,' the appeals court said.

'The video quotation of Price's statement materially changed the meaning of Price's words,' and he is entitled to try to prove that the film clip was a knowingly false presentation that hurt his reputation, Judge Mary Schroeder said in the 3-0 ruling.

The decision was issued the same day Shirley Sherrod turned down an offer to return to the USDA, which fired her from a job in Georgia in July after video excerpts of one of her speeches circulated on the Internet.

The video depicted Sherrod as a racist who refused to help a white farmer, but it was actually taken out of context from a talk to the NAACP in which she discussed her past and the need to move beyond race. Sherrod says she is considering a defamation suit against Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who posted the video. If Sherrod sues, 'this decision should make her very happy,' said Price's lawyer, Andrew Glassman.

Despite ABC's apology to Price, he said, the minister suffered substantial harm to his reputation from a distorted telecast that was seen by millions.  Jeffrey Schneider, ABC's senior vice president for news, said the network is confident that it will ultimately prevail in the lawsuit."
I've been working on a matter at my W-2 job, where a large area employer followed it's disabled custodian around, filming her for 3 calendar years.  Possibly hundreds of hours of video were obtained, and yet only 4 hours of surveillance were turned over to her attorneys, and of the 4 hours of video, the employer's investigator massaged together a "17 minute edit: with jump cuts to make it appear that this genuinely crippled woman is "able-bodied."  It's actually a pretty amazing Soviet-style manipulation of images intended to screw her out of her benefits; and, for the moment, it worked.

The attorneys at my day job are pursuing a "false light" defamation claim which has only recently been recognized, here, in OurState. The defendants are expected to argue that since they screwed her in a "workers' compensation administrative proceeding" their defamation of her was "privileged."  Ah, yes, the old affirmative defense of privilege to commit intentional harm.  It's actually pretty astonishing how often this argument has sway in OurState.