More Bad Judges

10950859361151CDPMichigan’s District Court Judge Ken Post is at it again. You may remember him as the judge who found junior lawyer, Scott Millard, in contempt for protecting his client’s right not to incriminate himself. Millard became a folk-hero of sorts for standing up to Judge Post, even as the judge directed the court sheriff to remove him from the court and escort him to the cells. Judge Post was later disciplined and suspended from the bench for thirty days.

Judge Post’s latest stunt occurred when Philip Mallery, age 23, failed to appear for his scheduled court hearing on drug and traffic charges, although his lawyer was in attendance.

Judge Post telephoned the young man and left the following message:

“We’re waiting for you because you’re supposed to be here today, you missed a drug test yesterday, and it would appear as though you’re not coming today, so a bench warrant is being issued for your arrest. My strong suggestion is that you, uhhh, when you get this message you keep going because if I find you, it will not be pleasant. Have a good day.”

Mallery’s lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, whose law partner, Scott Millard ended up in jail, has now applied to have Judge Post recuse himself from his client’s case and has reported him to the Judicial Tenure Commission. Blanchard described Judge Post’s telephone call as “threatening” and queried why the jurist would take the action he did without knowing the reason for Mallery’s absence, speculating that his client could have been ill, in a traffic accident, or his wife could have died.

I’m looking forward to hearing Judge Post explain why he thought it appropriate to call an accused, rather than relaying a message through his lawyer, which is the usual practice.

However, Judge Post’s behaviour is trifling compared to the charges against Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs, who was suspended last week pending a decision from the Judicial Conduct Commission.

The allegations include:

1. Presiding over a gas and oil case despite his personal financial interest in the company and using information elicited in the case to make personal demands to the company;

2. Making numerous aggressive calls to the local police insisting they lay criminal trespass charges against members of the public who parked in his church’s parking lot;

3. During one of the phone calls to police, he allegedly said the next police officer who pulled him over would get a “bullet to the head.” When confronted with the statement, he allegedly said, “I’m elected by the people and not pieces of trash like you.” He also called the police department “a bunch of thieves”;

4. Calling local officials names such as “coke head, Dumbo Donovan, Fishface Jimmy, and Retarded Reed the little police chief”;

5. Using court letterhead to send personal letters to county officials;

6. Calling a lawyer who appeared before him “a prick and a coward”;and

7. Soliciting donations from lawyers who appeared in his courtroom for a local high school golf team.

My research indicates that American judges fall afoul of judicial ethics rules much more frequently than Canadian judges, a phenomenon probably related to the absence of elected judges in Canada.

In many American states, like Michigan and Kentucky, judges are democratically elected and accountable to voters, however, the election of judges is also subject to the “tyranny of the majority” and is open to corruption and the purchase of votes.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge’s Child Support Ruling Goes Viral

_DSC4179 - Version 2Life isn’t always fair, but Carnell Alexander expected that a judge in Michigan would right the wrong. As he described it:

“How can you start a case with a lie? The mom lied. The process server lied. Now I have to pay for it.”

In 1987 a young woman gave birth to a child. In order to get welfare funds from the government she was obliged to fill out a form indicating who the father of her child was. She named Carnell Alexander as her child’s father.

She then filed a court action alleging he was the father and sought child support.

A process server was hired to personally deliver the court documents to him, as was required by law.

A court hearing took place but Carnell Alexander wasn’t there. He was in jail serving time for a juvenile offence.

Later in the early 90’s Carnell was checked in a routine traffic stop and advised there was a warrant for his arrest. The police officer told him he was a “deadbeat dad”.

You can imagine his surprise…he had never received notice of the paternity hearing as he was behind bars at the time, and he swore he had no children.

He began searching for the woman who had named him as father so he could prove he was not, through DNA testing, but his efforts failed until 2013 when a paternity test was administered.

With his grade 8 education and no assets or income, he could not afford a lawyer, but each occasion he went to court he repeated the refrain that he was not the child’s father.

But the government wanted him to pay arrears of child support of $30,000, so he showed up in court on his own expecting that justice would prevail. Boy, was he wrong!

Judge Kathleen McCarthy said she was “outraged that Mr. Alexander for two and a half decades failed to take this matter seriously.”

She said that Mr. Alexander should have filed documents protesting paternity years ago and because he did not, he must pay the support.

Yes, even though he had no notice, was not the father, and the child’s biological father was in his life, he must pay.

Feeling helpless, Mr. Alexander went to Michigan radio station WXYZ who broadcast his story.

And yes, Judge McCarthy was outraged about that too saying:

“I am outraged at the media for the willful misrepresentations of the facts of this case. Casting this court in a negative light.”

Due to the media exposure Carnell Alexander now has a pro bono lawyer, Cherika Harris, who has vowed to continue the fight for him.

As for Judge McCarthy, it is not the radio station that has cast a negative light on her court. She did that all on her own.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ever Hear of “Divorce Trolling”? Me Neither.

10950859361151CDPApparently “divorce trolling” has gotten so bad in the State of Michigan that a new law has been proposed to outlaw the practice, a bill sponsored by Michigan Republican Senator Rick Jones.

You ask “what is divorce trolling?” Good question. According to Senator Jones:

“When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and the children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house or getting a personal protection order.”

The proposed law will make it unlawful for a person to intentionally contact an individual that the person knows to be a party to a divorce action filed with a court, or an immediate family member of that individual with a direct solicitation to provide  a legal service until the expiration of 14 days after the date the proof of service is filed with the Court.

A first violation of this law is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, but if you get caught a second time or more, you’re looking at possible imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000.

I can only guess that divorce lawyers in Michigan are desperately in search of clients. Here in Vancouver it takes weeks to get an appointment with a top lawyer and even then, they may not want your case.

The good senator, a former sheriff, wants to make sure that women and children who flee a violent relationship aren’t further bugged by lawyers during this emotional time. Hard to believe that legislators in Michigan have nothing better to do than enact unenforceable laws.

I can picture it now…a sleazy lawyer lounging in  a criminal courtroom, jotting down names of domestic violence victims so he/she can run to a telephone to offer legal services to their spouse? Ya think?

Judge Presides Over Child Support Hearing While Conducting an Affair with Litigant

DSC01152_2 (2)_2If you were the payor father in a child support hearing and you learned that the judge presiding over your case was having an affair with your child’s mother, how angry would you be? How about if you read an email from the judge to your ex, agreeing with her suggestion that you be sent to jail because you’re in arrears of child support?

“I figure if he hasn’t come current by his court date, he gets jail to pay. If he says he can’t bring me the $$, I’ll put him on a tether (electric monitoring) til he brings the receipt…or do “double time”.

You might think this kind of corruption comes from a judge in Russia or Zimbabwe, but you’d be wrong. Judge Wade McCree was, until recently, a judge in Wayne County Michigan, home to two million people, best known for Motown and Motor City, and of late, the 18 billion dollar debt and subsequent bankruptcy of the City of Detroit.

Judge McCree’s judicial career ended ignominiously this Spring when Michigan’s Supreme Court suspended him for six years, after finding his conduct affected not only the litigants involved, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system as a whole.

Initially Judge McCree pulled a “Weiner” by texting a partially nude photo of himself to a female deputy sheriff, and was under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Rather than minding his “p’s and q’s” while under scrutiny for that indiscretion, he began an affair with Geniene LaShay Mott, who was the complaining party in People v. King, a court proceeding involving the enforcement and collection of arrears of child support against Robert King, who was the father of one of Ms. Mott’s children. He was in arrears of support in the amount of $15,000.

Judge McCree’s offences included:

1. Conducting an affair with Ms. Mott while he was presiding over her child support hearing;
2. Engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Mott in his judicial chambers;
3. Allowing Ms. Mott to access the court house through a rear, private door and utilize the judicial parking lot;
4. Surreptitiously arranging for Ms. Mott’s cell phone to be delivered to her in court by a sheriff so she could call him during the hearing;
5. Texting Ms. Mott from the bench while presiding over other cases;
6. Accepting Ms. Mott’s suggestions as to how he should deal with her child’s father;
7. Giving money to Ms. Mott, as much as $6,000;
8. Lying to the Judicial Commission concerning the date that he ended his affair with Ms. Mott;

But there was even more. Judge McCree presided over People v. Tillman, reducing Mr. Tillman’s bond in another child support case. Tillman was a relative of Ms. Mott’s, a fact known to McCree. And when his affair with Ms. Mott cooled down he lodged a complaint with Wayne County’s Prosecuting Attorney, alleging that Ms. Mott was stalking him and extorting him by demanding $10,000 in exchange for terminating her pregnancy and not revealing the affair and pregnancy to Judge McCree’s wife. In fact, the alleged crimes never occurred.

While Judge McCree’s attorney argued “no harm, no foul”, the judicial panel, comprised of seven judges, disagreed, saying the judge was well aware that his conduct was egregiously inappropriate as evidenced by an email he sent to Ms. Mott:

“Second, you are the complaining witness on a case that is before me. Naturally if it got out that we were seeing each other before your baby daddy’s case closed, everybody would be in deep shit”.

As for the aggrieved Mr. King, he filed a lawsuit against Judge McCree alleging constitutional violations, including the right to equal protection under the law and the right to be treated fairly in legal processes. District Court Judge Avern Cohn ruled against Mr. King finding that Judge McCree’s decisions in King’s case were “judicial acts” covered by “judicial immunity”, a protection that applies even if a judge’s actions are negligent, incompetent, or malicious.

Unfortunately for Mr. King, this week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed Judge Cohn’s decision while declaring Judge McCree’s behavior “reprehensible”:

“Casual readers of this opinion…may erroneously conclude that…we are somehow endorsing Judge McCree’s conduct or going out of our way to protect one of our own…We do nothing of the sort.”

The Appeals Court also noted that “the best justice possible” was achieved by the Michigan Supreme Court when they suspended Judge McCree for six years.

Is this the end of Wade McCree’s judicial career? Only the people of Detroit can decide that, since Michigan State judges are elected, not appointed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Jailhouse Lawyers: Jerry Rosenberg

Jerry Rosenberg holds the record for the longest incarcerated inmate in the State of New York. He is also the first New York inmate to earn a law degree in prison.

Rosenberg spent 46 years in prison before he died in 2009 of natural causes. After his conviction for the murders of two police officers in New York, he had an appointment with the warden of Attica Prison to die in the electric chair.

He escaped death, however, when he discovered a legal loophole that compelled Governor Nelson Rockefeller to commute his sentence to life in prison. The law in New York State had recently been amended in the first moves towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Within four years of his imprisonment he attained a law degree from Blackstone School of Law, an accredited correspondence law program founded in 1890 in Detroit, Michigan. He was, of course, never admitted to the bar as a practicing lawyer, but that did not get in his way.

During the Attica prison riot of 1971, Rosenberg tried to restore peace and became chief legal advisor to the leaders of the uprising, which took 43 lives, including ten prison guards.

He also worked with famed lawyer civil rights lawyers William Kunstler and his partner Ron Kuby in defence of several Attica inmates charged with murder.

After the riots he was transferred to Sing Sing Prison, thirty miles from New York City, where he assisted thousands of inmates with their post-trial appeals and motions, often focusing on errors made by incompetent or indifferent trial counsel. He frequently succeeded in sentence appeal applications, with reductions from 3 to 10 years.

After the prison upheavals of the 70′s, Rosenberg was able to convince the authorities to establish small law libraries in prisons and thereafter, he operated as a law professor teaching inmates to learn the law for themselves. He encouraged inmates to use their “minds and words” and not bullets.

In 1981 Rosenberg was the first inmate allowed to formally act as counsel in court during a fellow-inmate’s court hearing. He appeared before Judge Albert Rosenblatt, who later became a jurist on the Court of Appeal of New York.

He was not able to free himself though, and was never granted parole, despite his applications every two years.

Jerry Rosenberg stole the lives of two fathers, husbands, and brothers when he committed double murder. Lawyer William Kunstler once remarked: “But for a cruel twist of fate, Jerry might well have become one of the country’s foremost criminal lawyers”.

In my view he did not fall victim to fate, he created the circumstances that suppressed his enormous potential. However, at the end of his life, there was no question that he contributed to the betterment of the lives of inmates across the United States.

Young Lawyer Thrown in Jail For Protecting His Client’s Rights

Michigan attorney, Scott Millard, had been practicing law for less than two months when he ran into Judge Kenneth Post earlier this month. Today, he is a folk-hero for standing up to an overbearing judge while representing his client on a bail application.

Millard’s client was seeking bail having been charged as a minor in possession of alcohol. During the hearing Judge Post asked Mr. Millard’s client when he had last used drugs. Millard believed it was not in his client’s best interests to answer that question and invoked the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution regarding self-incrimination. The following exchange took place next:

Lawyer: I’m his attorney your Honour.

Judge: I’m encouraged.

Judge: I’m not interested in what you think. Haven’t you gotten that yet?

Lawyer: I have gotten that and I…understand that, and your Honour, the Court fully, certainly has the right not to care what I say. How…

Judge: Thank you. Then be quiet.

Judge: When was the last time, the date that you last used controlled substances?

Lawyer: (attempts to interrupt)

Judge: One more word and I’m going to hold you in contempt.

Lawyer: (continues to fight for his client and invokes the Sixth Amendment regarding the right to have counsel)

Judge: (lawyer is cited for contempt and fined $100.)

Lawyer: (again attempts to interject)

Judge: Counsel, I’m holding you in contempt of court. Remand him to the jail.

Mr. Millard spent four hours in jail before his law firm colleagues brought the matter to a senior judge who released him. Judge Post had intended to hold Mr. Millard in jail throughout the weekend. A complaint has been made to the judicial council and Millard is reaping the positive publicity of his polite, but unrelenting attempts to represent his client.

Not surprisingly, fellow members of the bar in Michigan are applauding Millard’s stance and decrying Judge Post’s bullying behavior, for which he is apparently well-known.

For a lawyer who practiced for only two months, Scott Millard’s resolve is extraordinary.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang