Saturday, August 31, 2013

Law Students: Spot Judicial Misconduct? Keep That to Yourself

In the first federal lawsuit I ever filed, I discovered documentary evidence that a federal judge was a landlord to his former law firm while simultaneously hearing cases brought before him by his former law partners. This meant the judge had a financial interest in the outcome of these cases, since he was collecting rent from counsel in his courtroom.

I reported this to the judge in question by way of a recusal motion.

1. The Fifth Circuit supervising judges did nothing to address the factual basis of my complaint. Did they look at law firm financial records, or the judge's financial records? Of course. 
2. The judge in question failed to recuse himself from a matter focused on his financial interest (as required by the judicial conduct rules). 
Instead of following the judicial complaint rules - or being made to follow these rules by supervising judges - the judge who was the target of my complaint, bankrupted my solo practice, with $15,000 in fines, and then ordered me off the case - leaving my clients without counsel. 
3. Vindictive, indifferent state court judges in three jurisdictions (Louisiana, Hawaii, Maryland) placed me in a disciplinary procedural vortex which, by rule, cannot look into judicial misconduct - and then threw me out of the legal profession for making "allegations" which they themselves never addressed, and declined to forward to a US attorney.  
The Fifth Circuit Judicial Council remained silently on the sidelines while I was prosecuted for a matter in which they had declined to conduct even the most superficial inquiry.

Was my judge a landlord of lawyers with business in his court? I say, yes according to documentary evidence filed in the office of the Louisiana Secretary of State. The rest of the judges say, we don't care and are not going to look into that but we will surely punish you for making that "allegation." You are just too stupidly honest to be a lawyer.

In practice, the prettily-written judicial complaint rules belie the fact that these rules offer zero protection for a whistle-blowing attorney. 

In retrospect, I could have and should have done what 500,000 other lawyers do - kept quiet about the private financial arrangements federal judges have with attorneys and attorney associations. These lawyers and their associations have found ways to put money into the pockets of the judges in whose courts these lawyers appear.

In my experience, attorney disciplinary procedures are a pantomime of a fair, transparent and honest proceeding. 

My request to Disciplinary Council that my complaints about the judge be investigated before I lost my law license were simply ignored. (If you do not cooperate with the august Disciplinary Council, you can face a separate charge of 'non-cooperation' but the DC is not required to cooperate with you.)

Controlled by judges, attorney disciplinary procedures are used (three times, against me) to punish a lawyer who foolishly expects supervising judges to shine a light on an "allegation" of serious complaint  of financial misconduct by a brother judge.