Native American

Native American

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's NOT a Rhetorical Question

Parents often ask me, in one form or another, why our family court system is so broken.  How can the judges, attorneys, therapists, police officers, etc., who are supposed to protect children fail so miserably?  How can “they” deny due process, violate the First Amendment, ignore the rule of law, and inflict so much pain and suffering on families in the name of justice and get away with it, every day, right here, in the greatest country on earth?

All over the world, people suffer this and worse, I'm sorry to say. Look at Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, Nigeria, to name just a few.  “Injustice” doesn’t begin to capture the reality of those places.  You think because you’re Americans and you live in the "greatest country on earth" that you are guaranteed "liberty and justice."  You entrust your freedoms to others; put yellow-ribbon stickers on your cars; share warm and fuzzy memes on Facebook; choose your elected officials based on a two-second analysis of which bears a "D" or an "R" after their name, and go about living your very privileged lives, secure in your conviction that you have done your part in being a “good” American.

As long as the news is about someone else being arrested, convicted, jailed or having their children removed by the state, you’re just fine trusting that the system works; just fine believing whatever the media tells you to believe; right on board with not rocking the boat; and A-OK with obediently – and blindly – submitting to authority and power.  You sneer at those who don’t play by those rules and feel smug when they wind up jailed, with broken bones, or dead.  You teach your children to follow your lead and support MORE LAWS that would demand that everyone teach the same. 

Until, that is, it happens to you, and then you think, “I’m special,” and “my circumstances are special.”  And you just know that as soon as all those other freedom-loving, brave Americans (like you) find out about the injustice being done TO YOU, they will jump to your rescue and protest against this insult to the principles that all those yellow ribbons and feel-good memes were meant to protect.
 
Except, as you soon discover, there aren't a lot of freedom-loving, brave Americans (like you) to be found that aren't too busy living their very privileged lives to be bothered to do more than post on Facebook or affix a pretty symbol to their car.  Not many who are free anyway, or still alive, or whose bones have sufficiently healed, who can be bothered with the sacrifices and inconveniences that actually being free and ensuring justice for all -  like we all pledge to do - demand.  

So how can “they” – the judges and police officers, etc. - inflict so much injustice, right out in the broad light of day – in plain sight of all those “freedom” loving Americans?  The answer is obvious. Because they can.  Because there’s no one (left) to stop them. Because “we” let them, every day.

The problem is not "them." "They" ARE us. WE are the problem.
We who don’t question beyond what “sounds” right to us;
We who want good government to play like a sports match: root, root, root for the home team because being part of the WINNING team is all that matters and how we win and what we do afterwards doesn’t matter either, so long as we’re declared the winner;
We who are enamored of power and those who wield it and will wield it the same if we’re ever given the opportunity because we want THE POWER, and not the obligations that come with it;
We who don’t care how wealth is accumulated so long as we can be wealthy too because THOSE are the only American principle that really matter anymore: Land of the wealthy and home of the wanna-be wealthy – at all cost, at any price.

Think I’m wrong? Think I’m not talking about YOU?  Then consider this: the next time you hear or sing the national anthem, remember, it ends with a question. Have you always considered it as a rhetorical one? Or do you recognize it for what it really is: a reminder of the vigilance that freedom demands? Because if you think that red, white and blue stars and stripes whipping in the wind are evidence of freedom; that because you are free to sing a song, freedom reigns from sea to shining sea, that playing by the rules that others made for you is “freedom,” then you might want to consider moving to North Korea. You’ll fit right in.  

For the rest of you who actually believe you love this country and the ideals it stands for, then it’s way past time to start walking the talk in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Here are my top four walks:  

  •       Support a federal constitutional amendment to end absolute immunity for judges and prosecutors.
  •       Organize local Court Watch programs and demand transparency in ALL proceedings.  
  •       Find, support and elect individuals to state and federal legislatures who are committed to repealing, rather than enacting, legislation, especially legislation that favors certain classes, such as attorneys, legislators, judges and executives. 
  •      TEACH your children how to think critically and for themselves and that it is un-American and un-patriotic to ever blindly trust anyone who wields the power to decide what you're NOT free to do. 
Join me ... 


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Starving for Justice - All I want for breakfast, lunch or dinner in October, is JUSTICE.

It's October, and that means it's Domestic Violence Awareness month so to commemorate it, I am going on a hunger strike.  The only nourishment I will take for the entire month of October is JUSTICE because I'm starved for it.  And I'm not the only one; there are millions of us out there who are starving for justice. They are the victims of domestic violence, the protective parents, and the victims of social services who turned to the courts seeking justice, and are starving for it still. Unlike most, if not all of them, though, I am in a privileged position to do two things that most people can't: I can speak out about the travesties that are taking place in our courts every day; and I can literally starve for justice.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month, throughout October lots of non-profits, governmental agencies and celebrities will make extra efforts to urge anyone trapped in violent and dangerous relationships to leave their abusers and find safe haven amongst the many organizations dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence.  All of those promises of assistance, however, are based on the assumption that there is a justice system ready and waiting to help victims when they find the courage to leave; that there are attorneys and judges who understand the tremendous hurdles - and real dangers - that victims face when they try to escape, and will be standing by, ready and waiting to assist and protect them. 
And that's a lie.  And it's a cruel lie that every year lures desperate victims into a trap which is often far worse than the one they were attempting to escape. 
There is no such justice system out there.  The justice system that these victims who heed the messages of hope and help will find will treat them with contempt, suspicion, disregard and ridicule.  And if the victim fleeing is a woman with children, she will quickly find herself trapped in a nightmare so brutal, so cruel, so unimaginable in the greatest country on earth, dedicated to liberty and justice for all, that she will begin to doubt her own sanity.  A woman with children attempting to escape an abusive relationship will more likely than not find that she has walked into a trap where the only outcome will be the loss of custody of her children, either to the abuser himself, or to the State. In other words, right now, if you're a woman with children in a violent relationship, and you want to protect your children, you're better off staying with that abuser.  Because at least you'll be around - until he kills you, or the State takes your children from both of you because you failed to leave with them - as if you could.  
But it isn't just the traditional victims of domestic violence the courts are failing.  Any parent who finds him or herself in the horrific situation where a child reports sexual abuse by the other parent; where one or both parents disagree with a child's diagnosis and seek a second medical opinion; or a parent who doesn't smile wide enough at a social service agent standing at their door,  will also experience a system of judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, and various other "professionals"  so corrupt; so depraved, so licentious that it is no wonder that those who have experience it unflinchingly consider the family courts and various child protective agencies to be the largest child trafficking organizations in the world and easily the most rampant perpetrators of domestic violence in this country.  
I used to be an attorney and I have seen this system first hand. I lost my license fighting against it, and I am not the only one.  I spoke out then, at the cost of my license, and I speak out now, for all the parents who cannot speak themselves because the courts hold their children hostage, and I speak for all the children who are voiceless in a system that treats them as commodities to be used as an excuse for billable hours and then awarded as prizes to the favored parent or the highest bidder. 
And I'm asking all of you out there, who are already fighting this fight or simply care about children and the necessity of an honorable and independent judiciary to our nation and the purpose of justice, to JOIN ME in this petition. If you're a parent who can't sign for fear of reprisal, have a friend sign. Have all your friends sign.  Have a stranger sign. And share your stories here - your organizations, your websites, the docket numbers, the news stories. Post them to this petition.  And then we will submit it to the US Attorney General to demand action. Investigations; Spotlights; Congressional hearings; REFORM.  
JOIN ME in my vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the independence and integrity of the Family and Juvenile courts, and in telling that system, that, 
In the greatest country on earth, rooted in the principles of the rule of law and  "justice for all", WE are starved for justice, and by signing below, WE are voting "NO CONFIDENCE" in the integrity and independence of the Family and Juvenile courts through out the U.S. 
WE are the mothers, fathers, spouses, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and advocates, and concerned citizens of the USA, who are voting "NO CONFIDENCE" in the licentious, lawless system that acts under the color of law, but completely outside the law, to arbitrarily and capriciously decide the fate of children who have been brought before these tribunals for protection, and instead, are sentenced to die or suffer unimaginably at the hands of predatory parents or complete strangers by judges who are free to act with malice and in excess of their LEGAL authority with complete impunity.  Stump v. Sparkman, 435 US 349  (1978). 
The doctrine of judicial immunity it represents a cancer within our system that is eating away at our democracy. It violates the Separation of Powers doctrine by removing almost all checks and balances from the third branch of government, and as a result, the judiciary is acting without regard for the law; for the people it is sworn to serve, or the rights of the citizens of this country who lend it their authority.  
Please go to my change.org petition to sign and register your vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the integrity and independence of the judiciary, so we can send a powerful message to the U.S.Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, that all of us are STARVED FOR JUSTICE. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Roadmap to Disbarment

It should be obvious by now that if someone is determined NOT to know the truth, then it doesn’t matter how much truth is put in front of her or him, the truth will be ignored. 


But for anyone interested in facts underlying my journey to disbarment, here they are.

The underlying events dealt with allegations of abuse of two small children which gave rise to a custody case in Mississippi, an intra-family adoption case in Louisiana, and a petition seeking emergency relief, also filed in Louisiana. On July 20, 2011, Chancellor Deborah Gambrell, the Mississippi judge presiding over the custody case in Mississippi, issued an illegal order affecting custody and visitation of the children. The order was issued without prior notice to mom, and it was done in the judge's chambers so there was no record of what was said. Those two factors alone make is absolutely null, according to the U.S. Constitution and Mississippi law.

The order allowed dad to have supervised (by his mother who never believed that the girls had been abused) visitation in his home beginning on that Friday, just two days away, and then unsupervised visits in three weeks.  The trial to address whether or not dad's rights should be terminated because of the abuse was also set, coincidentally about a month away, on August 16.

According to an email from mom's attorney, Gambrell allowed the Guardian ad Litem (the children's "attorney") to discuss the details of the case, and to give second hand information - otherwise known as hearsay - about the merits of mom's claims, that were set for hearing in a few weeks. Essentially, Gambrell held a trial in her chambers without mom present, took testimony that was not recorded, but was intended to influence her opinion against mom, and then issued a judgment that was unfavorable to mom, all without mom present or able to respond, and without a record so mom could not even know what was said so she could address it later, and couldn't get a record of it to show to the appeals court.

The email also suggests that Gambrell issued the order to punish mom for allowing her new husband to seek to adopt her girls in Louisiana.  Although her attorney references "an appeal In Louisiana" there was no appeal pending at that time, just the adoption brought by mom's husband.

Judge Dawn Amacker, in Louisiana had stayed this adoption in March pending the Mississippi proceedings,  but, there is no provision in the law that would allow her to do that.  Instead, the law,  La. Ch.C. art. 1253 says, in part, that the court shall hear the petition for intrafamily adoption within sixty days if there is no opposition or within ninety days if there is opposition. The court may extend this time for up to sixty days for good cause.  At the time of the July 20, 2011 hearing, the adoption had been stayed, indefinitely by Judge Amacker. By staying the adoption, Judge Amacker was able to prevent us from putting on our evidence of abuse. That was the first time she wouldn't allow evidence.

When the oldest girl heard that she would have to go back to her father's house - someplace she hadn't been for nearly three years and the place where she reported having been abused by her dad - she expressed her fear, trepidation, and confusion in a journal.  She gave the journal to her grandmother and asked her to take it to the judge.  She also wanted to speak with the judge and tell her how frightened and confused she was.

Her grandmother took copies of the journal to the Guardian ad Litem and the police because the father's indictment for child molestation, according to her understanding, was still open. Mom also brought a copy to her attorney in Mississippi and to me.  Mom asked her attorney to oppose the illegal Mississippi order and to take it to the Mississippi appeals court, but he refused.

When mom's attorney refused to fight the order, and in light of the oldest girls' distress as reflected in the journal, I drafted a pleading in Louisiana, asking the Louisiana courts to exercise emergency jurisdiction - something the law allows them to do in specific circumstances.  I also sought relief for mom under other areas of law.

This pleading was very fact specific.  Pleas for the courts to exercise emergency jurisdiction or give relief from domestic violence are always very fact specific. In other words, you have to be very specific about the reasons why you believe the court can, and should, intervene.  If you put appropriate facts in your pleading, then the court has to give you a hearing to prove what you said.  That's what "due process" means.  If you can prove it, the judge still doesn't have to give you relief, but if she doesn't, you can then seek an appeal because all of your evidence goes into the record.  Without a hearing to put on evidence, you cannot create a record and you  have nothing to appeal.

We filed the pleading on August 4, 2011. In our pleading, we asked the Court to give us an immediate hearing, but if she declined to do so, we were entitled to a hearing within a brief period of time, no more than 15 days.  Judge Dawn Amacker refused to give us an immediate hearing, and then, on August 5, 2011, she denied ALL relief without giving us a hearing at all , and dismissed ALL of our claims. Even though she clearly had subject matter jurisdiction over mom's effort to be protected and to protect her children under Louisiana domestic violence statutes, Judge Amacker denied relief under that statute as well under the guise that she lacked subject matter jurisdiction.  She also denied relief - including the issue of whether or not she could exercise emergency jurisdiction - without taking any evidence.

How, exactly, can a judge deny all relief and pretend they are not biased when they make up their minds before they ever hear a shred of evidence?  

I next sought relief from the appellate court, which also denied relief. Once the appellate court refused to provide relief, I submitted a writ application to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the court of last resort. While the application was pending, I helped my client draft and circulate online petitions, published on two different sites, urging Judges Amacker and Gambrell to “look at the evidence and apply the law” before making a decision.

Approximately 400 people ultimately signed the petition(s) and apparently many also called the judges’ offices to tell them they were concerned about the case. At some point, someone (not me) faxed the petition letter with signatures to both judges’ offices.
Ultimately, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied our application and thus, declined to hear the case.

Somewhere in this period, Amacker contacted Gambrell to tell her about the online petitions, and to encourage her to file a complaint against me.  Although Amacker denies this, and insists  that she called Gambrell only because she was concerned for Gambrell’s safety (Amacker deposition, pp. 25, 33-34), Gambrell was repeatedly asked during her deposition to state the reasons Amacker gave for contacting her, and Gambrell never once mentioned that Amacker expressed concern for her safety during her deposition. (See Gambrell depo, pp. 9-11, 17-19, 21-23, 45-48).  According to Judge Gambrell, Amacker called her to direct her to the online petition, and then encouraged and helped her to file the complaint against me:
DUCOTE: So after you talked to Judge Amacker that one time on the phone where she called you and told you that there was this petition online, did you take any action?
GAMBRELL: Yes, sir.
DUCOTE: What were the first things you did after talking to Judge Amacker?
GAMBRELL: After I pulled up that online petition thing, I think I called the judge back and asked her was this permissible by Louisiana lawyers to do this type of thing, because here, it would not be.
DUCOTE: What did she say?
GAMBRELL: I think she indicated to me that she didn’t think it was permissible, but the only way I would know whether it was permissible or not would be to file a complaint with the Louisiana lawyers [sic] disciplinary board.
(Gambrell deposition, pp. 24-25)
And then:
DUCOTE: Now, you did file the complaint with the Louisiana Disciplinary Counsel [sic] on September 19 or you dated it September 15, 2011, did you not? Do you have that document in front of you?
GAMBRELL: Uh-huh (affirmative response).
DUCOTE: And I note on there that you cc’d Judge Amacker on that. Why did you do that?
GAMBRELL: Because I’d asked her about what the procedure was, and I cc’d her so I’d know if I had done the proper procedure …
Gambrell filed the complaint against me on September 15, 2011, and cced Judge Amacker on it.  I received notice from the ODC, with the complaint attached, shortly thereafter, and replied in mid October.  What I wasn’t aware of, and wouldn’t find out for more than two years, was that on October 11, 2011, Amacker initiated contact with the ODC and followed up with a letter of the same date.
Judge Amacker admitted that she initiated contact with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but expressly denies that she did so to file a complaint against me. (Amacker’s deposition, p. 23):
MR. DUCOTE: Well, Judge Amacker, do you have any knowledge of — let me back up. Have you had communications with the office of Disciplinary counsel about Mrs. McCool?
AMACKER: Yes.
DUCOTE: Did you contact the office of Disciplinary Council first or did they contact you first?
AMACKER: I contacted them first.
DUCOTE: Did you contact them to file a complaint against Mrs. McCool?
AMACKER: No, I did not.
DUCOTE: For what purpose did you contact the office of Disciplinary counsel [sic] about Mrs. McCool?
AMACKER: I was aware that a complaint has been filed by Judge Gambrell in Mississippi and similar conduct had occurred directed to me and also to the Louisiana supreme court. As a judge and an attorney in this state, I have — as I stated earlier – an absolute obligation with this type of conduct to report it to the ODC because there was a prior complaint filed. I was requested just to send in my information, whatever that might be, to them and that’ s what happened.
Pursuant to Judicial Canon 2(B), a judge shall not initiate the communication of information in any court or disciplinary proceeding, but may provide such information for the record in response to a formal request by a court or disciplinary agency official. Thus, Judge Amacker’s admission that she initiated contact with the ODC to provide information about an existing disciplinary proceeding would appear to be a clear violation of the canon. 
I continued to appear in Amacker’s court representing clients during this period, unaware of her activity with the ODC.  I kept telling myself that I was imagining that she was being especially hostile toward me and unreasonable toward my clients.  I gave her much more credit than I should have.
On March 27, 2012, I appeared in Amacker’s court on a client’s case and was nearly arrested before the day was over.  Amacker’s demeanor and conduct toward me – and rulings in the case – were outrageous.  It was so bad that I expressed my concern about her conduct toward me in a complaint I filed against another attorney (my first) because of what went on in Amacker’s court that day. I didn’t find out for two more years, but the very next day, Amacker initiated contact with the ODC yet again, and sent another derogatory letter about me.

I was so concerned by her conduct toward me, in March of 2012,  I wrote a letter to her, expressing my concerns, and in my formal complaint against opposing counsel, I also expressed my concern about Judge Amacker's conduct toward me to the ODC about the same time.  Unbeknownst to me, the ODC was exchanging information with Amacker about me at this same time - within days of it - and yet, they didn't raise a warning flag; they didn't intervene; they didn't protect the public from Judge Amacker's bias.  I might not have known what was going on, but the ODC sure did. And yet, it did nothing.  And I strongly suspect that they dismissed my complaint against the attorney - another shining example of how "sacred" the profession is - because Amacker intervened without my knowledge.  
About a month later, I received a second letter from the ODC, ostensibly related to Gambrell’s original complaint. Without the benefit of Amacker’s March 27, letter, it was impossible for me to know that the ODC was responding to her complaints, not Gambrell’s, but I mentioned my concerns in my response:
I find your request that I respond to Judge Amacker’characterization of what happened, which is not reflected by the record, troubling. I finit even more disturbing that, rather than responding to accusations made by Judge Gambrell, whose conduct from the bench is unquestionably inappropriate, I am responding to accusations made by Judge Amacker. 
The ODC never responded to my concerns, nor was I ever notified that Amacker had filed a complaint, even though she was voluntarily providing information to the ODC that had nothing to do with Judge Gambrell’s complaint.  As the record of the formal charges will show, the ODC maintains to date that Judge Amacker did not file a complaint against me, though her known communications to the ODC were more numerous than Judge Gambrell’s, and give rise to a significant portion of the formal charges brought against me.  Frankly, I don’t know how the ODC is not embarrassed by how it has been represented in these proceedings.  The failure to fully disclose Judge Amacker’s participation in the complaint, especially in light of Canon 2(B) would seem a clear violation by its own prosecutor of Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(f):
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … Knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable Rules of Judicial Conduct or other law …
And beyond that, it just smells bad. Why weren’t Amacker’s communications treated as a complaint? Why wasn’t I notified from the outset of her participation?  Why all the subterfuge?
In any case, the second letter from the ODC, along with Amacker’s conduct toward me in court, prompted me to file motions to recuse her in the two cases most obviously impacted by her now obvious bias toward me, Keister and Maurer.  Maurer was the case that involved the online petition, which Amacker had continued to preside over during this period while she was surreptitiously feeding derogatory information about me to the ODC.
Judges must recuse themselves in very specific circumstances.  La. CCP. art. 151(A):
 (1)  Is a witness in the cause;
(2)  Has been employed or consulted as an attorney in the cause or has previously been associated with an attorney during the latter’s employment in the cause, and the judge participated in representation in the cause;
(3)  Is the spouse of a party, or of an attorney employed in the cause or the judge’s parent, child, or immediate family member is a party or attorney employed in the cause; or
(4)  Is biased, prejudiced, or interested in the cause or its outcome or biased or prejudiced toward or against the parties or the parties’ attorneys or any witness to such an extent that he would be unable to conduct fair and impartial proceedings.
Note number 4.  Items 1-3 are objective, and usually readily apparent.  Not so item no. 4.  That one is subjective and up to the judge to decide. This is why it is very hard to get a judge removed from a case for bias. If the judge denies the bias, it is nearly impossible to prove the bias. In this case, based primarily on the letter from the ODC, I thought I had a pretty good shot at getting Amacker recused from my cases but initially, there certainly was no guarantee.  This put me in a really awkward position.  The conflict wasn’t with my clients, it was with me, but the bias was still affecting them.  I had to give them a choice: 1) Stay in Amacker’s court with me as their attorney and likely lose; 2) fire me and hire a different attorney; 3) file a motion to recuse her and pray we’re successful because if we’re not, boy will we have really pissed her off then.
Both Maurer and Keister opted to try to recuse her so I filed separate motions in each case almost simultaneously, and surprisingly, Amacker admitted her bias and voluntarily recused herself.  Now, this is one of those things I’ve been accused of making “blatantly false statements” about.  In these first two motions, I described the facts I believed evidenced her bias, as I was required to do by law, and then attached an order that provided Amacker’s two options under the rules: 1) voluntarily recuse herself; or 2) decline to recuse herself and set the matter before another judge for a hearing.  In both instances, she lined through option number 2, and hand wrote into option number 1 additional language indicating that she was “voluntarily” recusing herself because she was a potential witness in the disciplinary proceeding pending against me, out of an abundance of caution, and to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
In law, if you allege something in a pleading, and the other party doesn’t deny it, the allegation is considered admitted.  Amacker didn’t deny anything that I alleged in my pleadings to recuse her.  She took the time to line out option 2 and hand-write her reasons to recuse on the order, which included an admission that she was a potential witness in the disciplinary proceedings pending against me, but didn’t deny, or line through, a single allegation in the pleading.  In my legal mind, that’s an admission.
I also thought it was obvious that she had an obligation to go ahead and, on her own motion, recuse herself from all of my cases. Inexplicably, she didn’t.  This forced me to have the same awkward discussion with another client, and then yet another a few weeks later, about the three options: keep me, fire me, or recuse her.  Both clients opted for recusal.  In both instances, Amacker’s refusal to recuse herself on her own motion forced my clients to bear the burden of recusing her.  In both instances, I put in my motion that she had “expressly admitted extreme bias” against me in prior instances, and the same reasons for her recusal applied in the instant case.  In each instance, Amacker opted to recuse herself, lined out option 2, and made her handwritten note in option 1, giving her express reasons for recusing herself, but did  not object or deny any of the allegations I included in the motion. Admission. Admission.
Excellent outcomes in both of those cases, by the way, once we got them out of Amacker’s court.  A complete 180 in one and, I think, the difference between life and death in the other.  Judge Devereux, in both instances, listened to the children and completely changed the direction the case had been going in based on what the children said, something Amacker had refused to do and still never does.
But I digress. Fast forward about 6 months and I file yet another motion to recuse Amacker from a case.  This time, for the first time, she does not voluntarily recuse herself.  This time, she chooses option 2, and sets the matter for hearing before another judge.  Nothing has changed in the ensuing 6 months.  The complaint is still pending against me; she has made no effort to clear the air between us. There is no rational explanation for her sudden refusal to voluntarily recuse, and I was dumbfounded.
It was only after the formal charges were brought against me almost a year later that I was able to discover that after I filed the motion to recuse her on January 3, 2013, Amacker initiated another letter to the ODC, on January 22, 2013, complaining (but not filing a complaint) that I was making false statements in my motions to recuse her.  Keep in mind that I don’t know about this letter at the time, and that she’s a judge, who has the means and the authority to haul me into her court at any time to answer to her charge that I’m making false statements in motions I’m filing in her court.  Yet she doesn’t resort to her considerable power to immediately put a stop to my shenanigans, but essentially whines about it to the ODC, without cluing me in at all.
My client, in this instance, did not want to deal with the delay and hassle that the recusal was causing and opted to hire another attorney. Completely understandable, but this episode was the last straw for me, and I filed a complaint against Amacker with the Judicial Commission, Office of Special Counsel.  By the way, according to Amacker and the ODC, I am not allowed to say the word “complaint” in relation to Amacker. Period.  It’s the “Cee U Next Tuesday” word for the legal community.  So stand by for another complaint to be filed against me.  In any case, the Office of Special Counsel ultimately dismissed my complaint against Amacker, along with another I filed just this year based on her failure to recuse from my cases as it is now firmly established she has an obligation to do. 
In case the Supreme Court is listening, it is very very hard to take these oversight bodies seriously when they are so willing to ignore blatant failures of judges to abide by the law, or discipline attorneys for behaving like bullies, even refuse to demand their own prosecutors abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct, but will pursue me and my license for standing up for a client and demanding that judges look at evidence and apply the law before they make a decision. Very very hard.
I filed my first complaint against Amacker in April 2013.  I posted the substance of it in my bolg, “False and Misleading.” Less than a month later, on May 21, 2013, the ODC sent me another letter ostensibly in relation to Gambrell’s complaint from a year and a half before, but in fact incorporating Amacker’s complaints – that aren’t complaints – from her correspondence to the ODC back on January 22, 2013.  Just a few days later, I received 14 or so signed orders from Amacker voluntarily recusing herself, on her own motion (sua sponte) from any case in her court in which I was attorney of record.  The timing of all of this – her (secret) letter to the ODC on January 22, my complaint in April, followed very closely by a letter from the ODC in May, essentially countering my complaint against Amacker, followed by Amacker’s sua sponte recusals from ALL of my cases just a few days later – stinks. It has the feel of a set up. At least to me.
Because of the smelliness factor, I responded to the ODC’s letter by – politely – demanding that it disclose to me the extent to which Amacker was involved in the complaint proceedings.  The ODC never responded to that letter and the next correspondence from it was notice of the Formal Charges which came, stinkily enough, within a week of my formal announcement that I would run for Amacker’s seat.
One of the great ironies of these proceedings is that I was repeatedly accused of making “false and misleading” statements that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, yet the formal written charges against me were rife with false and misleading statements, and the Supreme Court's decision get's even less right, and makes up quite a bit more. 
I am baffled as to how anyone could reasonably conclude that, in light of what Amacker had admitted to doing,and what Gambrell has described she did, what the ODC Prosecutor did, and considering all of these facts, which are still not all of the facts, it was my conduct and my character that the Committee believes poses a threat to the administration of justice.  How can that recommendation be taken seriously by anyone who genuinely cares about justice?

In deciding that I had violated the Rules so egregiously that it was necessary to disbar me to protect the public from me - discipline is not supposed to be punishment - the LASCT failed to address so much truly disturbing conduct of the judges and the ODC attorneys that I can only assume that the point all along was to punish me.  The rendition of the facts incorporated into decision to justify disbarment is so far removed from what actually happened, and what is actually in the record, that I barely recognize it as the same case, and I was there.

The decision to disbar me is a travesty but not for me.  It's wrong, it's unfair, and it forces me to rethink my future, but it's not a travesty in my life. The travesty is in the practice of law and the increasing emphasis on deferring to judges rather than representing clients; in the erosion of our constitution by judges who have ensured that there are no meaningful checks on their power, no matter their authority; on the ability of people in this country to access justice, even when they can hire an attorney and get into court because there is no justice to be found in the courtroom. The travesty is in the gradual restructuring the 1st Amendment so that people increasingly believe that if a judge, or a police officer for that matter, tells them to shut up, they MUST shut up.

You don't have to care about me to care about this case. You just have to care about this country and your own freedoms.

"The germ of destruction of our nation is in the power of the judiciary, an irresponsible body - working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall render powerless the checks of one branch over the other, and will come as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated."  Thomas Jefferson.

More Facts; Fewer F#(K Y@Us.

That was the advice my friend and attorney, Richard Ducote, gave me when I sat down to write this application for rehearing to the Louisiana Supreme Court.  That proved even more challenging than I imagined, so it's not my best legal work, but the ultimate product, I think, gets my point across with only a couple of "kiss my @ss"es.   
Not that I think it's going to make an iota of difference.  If the Court was ever interested in the facts, or the law, it could not have published that tortured, contrived, largely fictional analysis underlying their opinion that I should be disbarred. (In Re McCool, 2015-DB-0284 (La 06/30/2015)).  And not that I care what the individual - ahem - justices think.  Knoll called the U.S. Supreme Court justices "attorneys in black robes" a half dozen times or so in her outraged concurrence in Costanza v. Caldwell, 14-2090 (La. 7/7/15) and pretty much accused them of wiping their collective asses with our Constitution, but found my speech, that was less a criticism than it was a demand for justice, an intolerable breach of ethics and an affront to the "sacred profession" of law.  States' rights aside, apparently Knoll and the rest of the Court (except for Justice Hughes, who took no part in the decision) are kind of selective in which rights are sacrosanct and which - for instance free speech a la the 1st Amendment -aren't. 
I can't help but wonder - are they really that out of touch with their own hubris that they don't recognize the utter hypocrisy they're spewing?  Did they collectively claw their way to the pinnacle of the justice system in Louisiana because their understanding of "justice" is too threatening and arbitrary to risk standing on the other side of the bench?  Are they a pack of sociopaths who actually think that depriving me of a law license teaches me some kind of lesson: Don't fuck with us or we'll ... kick you out of our club? Or are they just stupid?

Given those choices, I'm going to give them all the benefit of the doubt and conclude, just stupid. 

Beasties Behind the Curtain

I've come to the not-so-un-obvious conclusion that we, as a nation, are all concerned with the wrong terrorists. It's not ISIS, or ISIL or radical Islam in general that is the preeminent threat to our freedom and security - it's judges, and attorneys who aspire to be liked by judges.

How many people really understand that you can't do anything to a judge (legally) no matter what they do to you or your family?  Until you've seen it, lived it, fought it and lost your kids in it, most Americans cannot wrap their heads around the very simple fact that any judge anywhere can take everything from you - your job, your home, your life - even your kids, and do it maliciously and without any regard for the law, and you have absolutely no recourse.  It's called judicial immunity.  Look it up. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978).  

It's our fault, you know.  Well, not mine really. I've seen the little beasties behind the curtain; the sociopaths wearing the robes, the terrorists in plain sight.  I've seen it and read about it, and still get desperate calls about it every day. I discarded my veil sometime ago.   

But there are plenty enough of you out there who still fall for it. Good people; hard -working people; law-abiding people, who look up to judges and hang on every word they say; who feel honored if you can call a judge "friend;" get tongue tied and giddy if one deems to notice you, and believe every word they say because they said it.  You'll kick some 1st Amendment exercising flag burner's ass and feel all proud of yourself, but not feel one iota of shame for standing before a judge, hat in hand, asking nicely for your rights.

And I'm going to be really harsh here but, it is in no way even remotely American to be deferential to power.  Respectful, yes - but obedient?  Since when is obedience, particularly blind, deaf and dumb obedience, a sign of respect?  Because it's not.  It's a sign of submission, and last time I checked, our national anthem doesn't end on the refrain, "home of the meek and land of the obedient."  

But maybe it should.  Because every day, good people; hard-working people; law-abiding people   step into court and, like lambs to the slaughter, meek and obedient, lay their heads on the chopping block, always believing that the fine person wearing that impressive black robe will not drop that hatchet on their neck because they're a good person; a good parent; they're hard-working, law abiding and, don't forget, a fierce defender of a piece of fabric with stars and stripes.  Just don't ask any of them to defend anyone's rights, much less their own, without getting permission first.

I can't figure out who I'm more disgusted with: the mechanical, uninspired drones who sacrificed their integrity and dignity so they can keep a piece of paper that says they're an attorney, and maybe one day a judge ... or at least a judge's pet ... or the rest of you, who can't wrap your head around the fact that judges are just average people, with a lot of power, who can do whatever they want with it, and there is absolutely no one left to rein them in  because you, the people can't be bothered to stand up and be the Americans who are actually worthy of the great country the Founders entrusted you with.

This opinion by the Louisiana Supreme Court is based on pure fiction and is so bloated with hypocrisy and self-serving reasoning that it should smell like old road-kill and make about as much sense as sweaters in July.   In order to justify disbarring me, they had to ignore, distort and just make up the "facts." It's not hard to check the facts - they're all in the record - but it does require a desire to know the facts, which are inconvenient in my case if the whole objective is to merely disbar me.

What makes it so easy for them is that these judges know that they can say whatever they want - they could say I was responsible for Jimmy Hoffa's death and disappearance; I was Charles Manson in disguise; Hitler back from the dead; born a poor black child in rural Mississippi.  It doesn't matter how ridiculous or absurd, they know that once they declare it, all you robe worshipers are just going to say, "There she goes, that white lady that was born a poor black child ... " And in those rare instances when someone does question them - or accuse them of admitting bias - Oh my! - so what?  Even if they're caught in their own lies, they'd have to punish themselves because no one else can do it.  And that will be when you'll need that sweater in July - at least by the current Court in Louisiana.

They took my license - big deal.  I'm still standing, taller and prouder than ever.  They took my license, but they didn't get my integrity and I'd close that deal every day, twice a day.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Justice is process, NOT outcome


"And when a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws, is abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is, according to their own views of what it ought to mean. When such a method of interpretation of the Constitution obtains, in place of a republican Government, with limited and defined powers, we have a Government which is merely an exponent of the will of Congress; or what, in my opinion, would not be preferable, an exponent of the individual political opinions of the members of this court."  Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393 (1857) Justice Curtis, dissenting at p. 621.

I am finally getting around to reading the US Supreme Court's decision finding that states cannot bar same sex marriages.  Although I personally have no opposition to same sex marriage, I find myself in the rare position of being in agreement with Justices Scalia (and Roberts and Thomas), in their dissent.  It is not the outcome that we should ever focus on in judicial decisions, but the process by which the Court obtained that outcome.  The majority's reasoning, no matter how well intentioned,  undermines the principles of democracy and States' rights that are fundamental to the fabric of this nation.  Worse, it sets a precedent at the highest level of our justice system that judicial advocacy is a legitimate part of the process.   This decision strikes a blow to all of us, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, not because it's "wrong" but because the decision was obtained through a process that has never been - and can never be - part of our democratic process.

Justice Roberts:  The need for restraint in administering the strong medicine of substantive due process is a lesson this Court has learned the hard way. The Court first applied substantive due process to strike down a statute in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393 (1857). There the Court invalidated the Missouri Compromise on the ground that legislation restricting the institution of slavery violated the implied rights of slaveholders. The Court relied on its own conception of liberty and property in doing so. It asserted that "an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property, merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular Territory of the United States . . . could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law." Id., at 450. In a dissent that has outlasted the majority opinion, Justice Curtis explained that when the "fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws [are] abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control" the Constitution's meaning, "we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government of individual men, who for the time being have power to declare what the Constitution is, according to their own views of what it ought to mean."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A bitter pill I'm proud to swallow.

Just for clarification, my license has not been suspended ... yet. If it is suspended, I will likely never be able to have it reinstated because I will never agree that it isn't my job, as an attorney and a US citizen, to call out a judge who ignores the law; who abuses her authority and who denies due process to litigants and that it isn't my sworn duty to call attention to those transgressions to the public, which is the last and only remaining check on judicial authority.
This Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board disagrees with me and now the Louisiana Supreme Court will ultimately decide, but it's obvious from the LADB's recommendation that it and I have completely different notions of what is honorable and ethical and what an attorney's duty is to the profession and who it serves.
The thing I keep coming back to is, why do I care? Why even fight? If You, the People, don't care, why should I? This country is, on paper anyway, a democracy and I believe in the democratic process. Clearly, my idea of what it means to be honorable and to serve my clients is not the majority view within the profession, if the LADB's opinion is representative. If this is the system you all want, then the democratic process says you can have it.
It's not like losing my license at this point is going to be some huge financial blow. I never made enough money to live on as an attorney because I did so much pro bono work. I just wanted to help people. If I have to choose between helping people and keeping my license then the license is meaningless.
Do I sound bitter? I am, a little, but not because of my license, or the accusations, or even the fight itself. I'm proud of my conduct. I'm proud of the fight. Whatever the outcome, I will be no less proud of what I've done because in doing it, I was true to the oath I took, to uphold the law and to advocate for justice for my clients.
I've lost so much respect for the Bar that my license just looks like blackmail to me anymore. I'm ashamed of the profession and what the LADB has done in its name, and what it has allowed to go on in its name, in plain view, while it turns a blind eye. I am embarrassed to tell people I'm an attorney because the LADB's opinion legitimizes so much of what people despise about attorneys and judges. To keep that license, according to the LADB, I have to become what I despise. That's not any kind of choice at all, and I have no problems choosing to keep my convictions. I'm proud, not bitter, to make that choice.
I'm bitter because the justice system that I believe in - the one that actually involves justice - is about to get ground under the heel of the status quo that you all seem to never stop complaining about - and none of you can be bothered to care, though no doubt, it won't stop any of you from complaining incessantly about how broken it is.
I am besieged daily by requests to sign petitions and to protest any number of goings-on in this parish and beyond, from fracking to term limits to saving the whales, wild horses, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants - I could go on all day - and am constantly sought out by people who want the benefit of my legal training - for free - which I still give whenever I can.
As important as all of those things are, no one, other than me and those closest to me, seem even a little bit worried about what it means if the Louisiana Supreme Court sees fit to take my license. No one seems outraged by the LADB's recommendations, analysis, or blatant misrepresentation of the facts which support their conclusions and recommendations. No one is even a little bit concerned about the inherent validation by the LADB of this legal system that you all constantly complain about.
That makes me bitter. Not a pretty truth, but truth nonetheless.
At this point, keep my license, lose my license, personally, it hardly seems to matter. It's just a piece of paper and with it or without it, I'm the same person with the same convictions. But if the Supreme Court agrees that what I did in representing my client is sanctionable, then you're damn right it matters to the legal system.
So, can I get a little help here, or what?