Saturday, February 11, 2012

The D.A. Stole His Life, Justices Took His Money -

July 2, 2011

The D.A. Stole His Life, Justices Took His Money

In an important prosecutorial-misconduct case this term, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority threw out a $14 million jury award for a New Orleans man who was imprisoned for 18 years, including 14 on death row, for a robbery and a murder he did not commit. One month before John Thompson’s scheduled execution, a private investigator discovered that prosecutors had hidden evidence that exonerated him.
After his release, Mr. Thompson won a civil lawsuit against the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office, which had been led by Harry F. Connick, for its gross indifference to the incompetence of the prosecutors who violated his constitutional rights.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the 5-to-4 majority in Connick v. Thompson, said the D.A.’s office was not liable for failing to train its lawyers about their duty under the Constitution to turn over evidence favorable to the accused.
The lawyers had kept secret more than a dozen pieces of favorable evidence over 15 years, destroying some. 

[. . .]

Innocence Project New Orleans found that in 9 of 36 death penalty convictions while Mr. Connick was chief prosecutor, his office suppressed exculpatory evidence. 

[. . .] 
Failure to turn over evidence is a chronic problem. Its consequences are magnified by the government’s advantage over the inexperienced and inept defense lawyers who are often assigned to indigent defendants. Many of these violations are exposed. Many other instances may never be uncovered.
[. . .] 

With this ruling, the court made it even more likely that innocent people will be railroaded by untrained prosecutors — with the terrible prospect of their being put to death for crimes they did not commit.


Windows On the World: The City in My Mind

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the New Year, Watch Those Piggies Fly

The New York Times reported on Dec 31, 2011 (Chief Justice Defends Peers’ Hearing Case on Health Law by ) that, under federal law, judges must recuse themselves under certain circumstances. 

From the Times article:

Federal law requires that judges disqualify themselves when they have a financial interest in a case, have given advice or expressed an opinion “concerning the merits of the particular case” or when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 

In my experience, this 'law' is not prosecuted by U.S. attorneys. Nor do supervising federal judges enforce such strictures upon the judges they supervise.

I have been disbarred in Louisiana and two other states for insisting that my judge recuse himself or be recused from my clients' matter after I reported to other judges:

- the judge accepted overseas travel from a lawyers' organization
-the judge ignored the procedural rules of his own court so as to benefit - into the high hundreds of thousands of dollars - the president of this same group
- there is a document filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State, which shows that the judge's former law firm was paying him rent while bringing matters into his court

I brought these matters before the Judicial Council of the federal Fifth Circuit, who did nothing. Nothing, except deny my complaint and send me and my clients back into the court of this gifted judge.

My complaint to the Judicial Council (the Circuit Judges) was made in confidence, as the judicial complaint rules require. All this meant was that I was outed by the judge about whom I complained. (See below.)

I made my Judicial Council complaints in compliance with ethical standards then applicable to me, which mandate that a lawyer "shall" report the misconduct of a judge, when this conduct becomes known.

What happened? Nothing at all happened to the judge but the consequences were devastating to me.

The judge - in violation of the judicial complaint rules - identified me in a formal decision as a confidential judicial complainant. This meant, of course, that my clients' matter before this judge was wrecked. All opposing counsel had to do was wait for the judge to finish me off, since my effectiveness before this judge had been nullified by the judge himself. (He ordered that his clerk accept no more pleadings from me, including a motion for a stay of further sanctions against me. I was to be gagged before my execution.)

The judge fined me a total of $15,000 - a sum which bankrupted my solo legal practice. 

The judge also instructed me to withdraw from representation of my clients and apologize to him - under threat of further fines. I did so. 

My destruction as a lawyer was complete. Almost.

Two years after I had withdrawn from the lawsuit and discontinued my law business, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, through its employees in the office of the disciplinary counsel, prosecuted me for having filed a confidential complaint with the Judicial Council.

To guarantee my conviction, the prosecution was conducted before a three-person committee, whose chair was a member of the organization that had gifted the judge in the first place.

My underlying complaints about the judge were never investigated. They were never referred to a US attorney, as I had pleaded be done. I was convicted of abuse of the federal judiciary, by insisting that my clients receive a hearing before a judge who was not on the take.

I will never get my law licence back, in Louisiana or in Hawaii or Maryland - the three jurisdictions whose highest judges prefer to destroy the career of an office of their own court rather than embarrass a federal judge by asking him uncomfortable questions.

I will never be a lawyer again because I first must "apologize" to the Louisiana Supreme Court for my misconduct. I will not apologize for insisting that my clients are assured of appearing before an honest judge. It is disgraceful that these justices (quite a misnomer) require an apology for my having made allegations against a judicial colleague of theirs long after their own refusal to investigate my complaints. 

I have done nothing which requires an apology, but I do have many regrets. Here is the litany:

I regret that I ever thought federal judges were held to ethical standards that were actually enforced by someone.

I regret that a lawyer who brings documented evidence of a federal judge's misconduct before supervising judges can expect not protection but the destruction of his client's case and of his own career.

I regret that my clients - dozens of incarcerated women who were being abused and sexually assaulted by prison guards - were too poor to do what was expected of them: pay-to-play in federal court.

I regret that the attorney oath I took in New Orleans, promising to follow high ethical standards myself, was merely for show, that no judge actually expected me to turn in a judge for misconduct, as I swore I would do.

I regret that no one on the highest court in Louisiana actually expected me to report a federal judge for taking gifts and doing favors in return, and that this court, instead, would punish me in the most personally destructive manner that they could devise.

I regret that the Louisiana Supreme Court conducted a Disciplinary Counsel charade instead of an actual investigation into my documented complaints of federal judicial misconduct.

I regret that the judicial lemmings on the Supreme Court of Hawaii and the Maryland Court of Appeals think so little of themselves as independent jurists that they were willing to destroy the legal career of an officer of their own court rather than publish the uncomfortable truth about the misbehavior of a be-robed miscreant on the federal bench.

I regret the prevalence of the notion that pigs don't fly. I know that some pigs do fly, the ones in judicial robes - so long as someone else is paying for the piggy's flight. 

I regret that the book I have written about this mess, MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT, is not permitted to be advertised to members of the Louisiana State Bar Association.